Actor Crispin Glover is by far one of the most interesting, multi-talented, controversial, polarizing and fascinating actors of his generation. He began his career with high profile roles in films like My Tutor and Teachers but it was his turn as George McFly in Robert Zemeckis' Back To The Future that shot him to stardom. He followed that up with one great performance after another in classic films like At Close Range, River's Edge, Wild At Heart, The Doors and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. However the actor's career took a surreal turn in the mid-'80s to early '90s when he sued the producers of Back To The Future for replacing him in the sequels with a combination of old footage from the first film and an actor wearing prosthetics who was hidden in the shadows in order to fool the audience, an incident that still bothers Glover to this day. That compounded with his now infamous appearance on Late Night With David Letterman, when the actor went on the talk show in platform shoes, a wig and performed a karate kick, an appearance that Glover will still "neither confirm nor deny" that he made, left the actor with a reputation for the bizarre.
The eccentric yet beloved actor discusses his distinguished and bizarre career as well as his passion for self-financing and directing his own movies
Glover went on to become quite an accomplished filmmaker and with his salaries from Willard and Charlie's Angels self-financed personal projects including his directorial debut, What Is It? and it's sequel, It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!, two films that both feature cast members with Down syndrome. Recently Glover returned to mainstream films by reuniting with Robert Zemeckis for '2007s motion capture film Beowulf as well as working with Tim Burton on the hit film Alice in Wonderland and the new '80s comedy-spoof Hot Tub Time Machine, which stars John Cusack and opens on March 26th. Recently, while out promoting Hot Tub Time Machine, we had the honor of sitting down with Crispin Glover and discussing an array of subjects with the talented actor/director. He spoke candidly with us about the films he's directed, finishing that trilogy, what he'll direct next, the studio he is building in the Czech Republic, reuniting with Robert Zemeckis, revisiting Back To The Future and the Letterman incident. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, what can you tell us about the proposed third film of your "It?" trilogy of movies, "It Is Mine?" Are you still working on that film and what stage of production is it in right now?
Crispin Glover:It Is Mine the screenplay was written a long time ago but it won't be the next film that I make. I own property in the Czech Republic, which I purchased about six-years ago. It's an old Château that was built in the '1600s and next to it are horse stables that I'm making into a small sound stage. It's just made it now so that I can start building sets there but I'm working on a screenplay, which is not It Is Mine, that will be the next movie that I produce or fund myself and direct. This is something that will be with my father and myself. He is an actor and he and I have never acted together before but this won't be part of the "It" trilogy and it will have a very different feeling.
I'll come back to It Is Mine at a later date. One thing that I realized after completing both What Is It? and It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!, is that they were very complex productions. I set out to make very simple productions but nothing about either of those productions was simple, they were complex. The Czech Republic is a different culture; a different language and I need to work myself back up to making more complex productions. I need to make some genuinely simple productions that will still be visually compelling and have a cinematic spectacle quality. But now I genuinely understand from script up what I need to do to make a truly simple production and that's what I'm working on.
Can you tell us the title of the film that you're doing with your father?
Crispin Glover: Right now it's untitled and I'm careful about it now because if you mention anything anymore people will put it on the IMDB without my permission and it will have inaccurate information. IMDB has all kinds of things that are inaccurate, which is very frustrating. I've tried to get things corrected particularly about my lawsuit with Back To The Future, which how they reported it on IMDB was very inaccurate.
But you are looking forward to getting back to "This Is Mine" and finishing the "It?" trilogy at some point, right?
Crispin Glover: That's actually a very complicated production. More complex then both What Is It? and It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!, combined so its okay if there is no rush or need to get to it. I can take sometime and build. Essentially the sound stage ... you know, what I'm planning to do is actually more expensive to shoot on sets. It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!, the second film I made was all shot on sets and I put basically all the money that I made on Charlie's Angels right into the sets. I mean there were other expenses as well but I liked the look of that very much. Yet if you can reuse sets then it becomes less expensive. This is the plan that on some levels I'm kind of thinking of several different productions while I'm writing one production so that I know I'd be able to utilize elements of one set and resurface it or use it in a different way so that it would have a different look in another production and not be as expensive. Then it can actually be cost savings but not until you've done multiple productions. So in the long run what I'm doing is inexpensive, in the short run it is extremely expensive because I bought this large property, it's in another country, I've had to refurbish things so it's been quite a lot of work. But in the long run it will be very worth it.
Can you talk about why you don't want the "it?" films to be released on DVD or Blu-Ray?
Crispin Glover: Well there are numerous reasons. It doesn't mean all films that I would ever make, in fact probably the film that I am wanting to make with my father, which would be outside of this trilogy of movies, this would be the first film that I would be open to a more traditional kind of distribution. There are a number of reasons why I don't want the films out digitally. For one thing, particularly with What Is It?, on some levels I'm protective of the content. The content does deal with taboo elements and there are actors with Down syndrome in the film so I don't really want the film spread across the internet in inappropriate ways or ways that I hadn't intended. When I tour around with What Is It?, I have a question and answer period after it. The film deals with taboo subject matter and it goes into territory that people can get upset about. When I go and do the Q an A with the film I feel like there can be a better understanding of what my purposes are in the film. I'm protective of it. I'm protective of the people in the film and in particular protective of the film. I didn't make the film to make a lot of money, I made the film because there were things that I was interested in doing and thinking about and all I have been interested in is recouping on it. Yes, I want people to see it but there are many years for me to be able to do that. Maybe at some point it will make sense for it to be available in a certain way.
But I plan to be touring with both What Is It?, and It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!, for many years and I have already been touring with it for many years. I already have something booked for spring. I've been slower in the last year because I've been quite busy and I needed to rest as well. I put in a lot of time and effort and it is actually quite exhausting to tour like that. Then I worked on Alice in Wonderland, I worked on Hot Tub Time Machine and after I did Hot Tub Time Machine I was able to take a little bit of time where I didn't travel. Because since 2005 I've really been traveling and I haven't spent time in a single city for more than two or three weeks at a time over the past five years and that gets to you. So last summer I just kind of sat in Los Angeles at my house. I built a quay pond and streams in my backyard, I just kind of sat and looked at it and did some gardening. I didn't travel anywhere and I needed to do that.
What was it like reuniting with Robert Zemeckis on "Beowulf," after all these years? Was there any bad blood left over between the two of you from the "Back To The Future" lawsuit or is that all in the past now?
Crispin Glover: Yeah, he and I never discussed anything about that. I just went in but I thought about that when I heard there was interest for me. What they wanted me to do was to audition and come in on video so I just submitted a DVD of myself reading the part. What I kind of think that actually was, was more of a question of is there a problem with this? But I did think about it because there had been this thing. The way I was deciding to work in films was by financing my own films, which was helpful for me. So I looked at the situation and this was a great part for me based on a classic piece of literature with a tremendous cast and a well-respected director who I did actually have a good working relationship with basically when we were working together on Back To The Future. I realized that I would be paid well of course so I thought, well of course this is something I should want to do. So I submitted the DVD, they wanted me to come in to meet and I think read again, which we discussed. He came into a room and we just talked about the role. I was happy that he was considering it for me. We didn't talk anything about Back To The Future and we never did. I looked in the "How to be a Gentlemen Book" and it said don't bring up bad subjects so there was no purpose to it and I had a very good working relationship with him.
He's working on a "Yellow Submarine" motion capture film now and there've even been rumors of him wanting to do a motion capture "Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2" or even some sort of a motion capture revisit of "Back To The Future," is working on any of those motion capture projects with him of any interest to you?
Crispin Glover: I would very gladly work with Robert Zemeckis again. I liked the motion capture element. Technically it was interesting because on some levels it's the least distracting of any of the technologies. When you're in standard capture sometimes you have a master shot but often you're playing with somebody who is off camera and you are on camera, vice versa. In this motion capture technology every actor that you are acting with is 100% in close up and you're in a 100% close up, so everybody is 100% on every single take, which is great. There is no interference, you have an arena of cameras surrounding you so there are actually very good technical elements that are good for the acting.
The one frustrating element about that specific technology is that people do not recognize that you are actually doing that performance. They feel like it's animated because it does have an animated quality. I like my performance in Beowulf. I like that whole film. I think that's a good movie. I think it was very well written and well realized. But there is something about that recognition of you doing it that is a nice thing. In Alice in Wonderland the motion capture technology is only used for my body so they could elongate it in the way that I am elongated for that film. But obviously my head is very recognizable but I see like weird things written where people say, "Oh it's just Crispin Glover's head," which is not accurate. Every motion that my character does was me but it's been extruded digitally.
So you would be open to a motion capture revisiting or version of "Back To The Future" if that was something that Zemeckis decided to do?
Crispin Glover: There are troubles with me for that particular franchise because of the legal elements that happened in that. Unfortunately there is still confusion about the way they rendered the character in the second film, by taking another actor and putting that actor into make up in order to make them look like me, and then inter-splicing just a very small amount of footage of me from the first film to fool audiences into believing that it was me. There are still people that believe that that's me and I don't like that. That isn't me, that is a different actor and if I had played the role, I would have played it differently. I don't like mixing people up like that. I don't like lies and that was a lie! It's lying to the audiences and to my detriment. I still don't like that so if I were to partake in something that was another version of the film I would somehow be compounding that element. It's unfortunate because I like the first movie and it's not that I don't want to work but I certainly would be put in kind of a conundrum if something like that were to happen.
My feeling is that I doubt that it is something Robert Zemeckis wants to do. I think there are a lot of people that are interested in something like that but my inclination is that the franchise is probably owned by Universal/Amblin Entertainment and it would be more likely that if there was ever something, either another sequel or a remake or re-boot or what ever they are calling it, that it would be more likely that it would be something that the corporations that own the property would just do with different people all together. When I talked to Robert Zemeckis about the things that he was interested in doing he sounded like he was interested in using the technology in revisiting classics that had been made in other technologies. I can understand his enthusiasm about that. He never said anything to me about Back To The Future but maybe in the mutual element where neither of us really wanted to bring up sore subjects ... but I kind of doubt that though. I doubt that that is something ... it would seem unlikely to me that that would be something he'd want to do.
But working with him again on "Yellow Submarine" or another motion capture project is something you'd consider doing if asked?
Crispin Glover: I would, sure. I mean yeah, I almost feel bad answering that question because it's so theoretical and I really think it's an unlikely thing. But working with Robert Zemeckis was a good experience and I think he is a very good and excellent director. Both of the performances that I did with him I'm proud of. I like the character that I played in Back To The Future and I liked the character that I played in Beowulf, Grendel, so that's two for two so I can't really complain about those actual experiences.
Finally, it's been over 20 years and people still admire and talk about your "performance art" appearance on "Late Night With David Letterman" in 1987. In fact, your name was invoked a lot last year when Joaquin Phoenix made his own "Performance art" appearance on Letterman's show. Did you happen to have a chance to see his appearance and if so, what did you think and what is your opinion on your own appearance's legacy?
Crispin Glover: Well see I'm very careful not to have words put into my mouth about it. I purposefully, when asked about the Letterman thing I always say that I neither confirm nor deny whether I had appeared on that show. I think its good to leave it that way. Joaquin Phoenix is ... I've never met Joaquin Phoenix, I know his work and he's done very good performances so I don't know what his life or his interests are. To me it's a very separate kind of thing. I understand why people are talking about it in those ways but I don't have a comment on it one way or another. But what I will say is that I appreciate that it is something, where it comes from I won't really say what I think but what ever the case is, I think its valuable in this culture to have things in the media that cause questions. Now why the questions come up from the appearance that I neither confirm nor deny on Late Night With David Letterman or the appearance that Joaquin Phoenix made, or supposedly made, I don't know if he's made a comment about that? I don't know if he confirms or denies it or not? I don't know if there was a similar element or not? I genuinely don't know? But like I say, I can neither confirm nor deny that I was on the show so it's a mute point. But what I do think is important is that there are things that people think about and have questions about. There is a fun in that and to make to many answers about it I feel spoils the fun.
We'll keep you posted on all of Glover's upcoming film projects as more information becomes available and you can go to www.crispinglover.com to find out about his spring tour. The actor can currently be seen in the films Alice in Wonderland, in theaters now and Hot Tub Time Machine, which opens everywhere on March 26th.