Crispin Hellion Glover is all of the above, an actor, director and screenwriter, musician and author. Glover is most known for playing the role of George McFly in “Back to the Future”, and the “Creepy Thin Man” in the “Charlie’s Angels” series. Crispin is currently on tour with his most personal and favorite films “What Is It?” and “It is Fine. Everything is Fine!”. He recently starred in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Hot Tub Time Machine”. Movie Mikes was able to talk to Crispin and he spoke to us about his amazing career and shows his real passion for film and making movies.
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Mike Gencarelli: How did you get the role of George McFly playing Michael J. Fox’s father in “Back to the Future”?
Crispin Glover: When I first got the role, Michael J. Fox was not cast in the movie yet. I was one of the first people cast in the film. I auditioned for a movie, which had nothing to do with “Back to the Future” and the director had liked me. I didn’t end up being in the film but he introduced me to Steven Spielberg. After I had a meeting with Steven Spielberg, Steven setup a meeting for me with Robert Zemeckis. Then I ended up auditioning for “Back to the Future” and got the part. When I auditioned I did not know that there was the older role. I was told after I got the part that it would include the older character. It was a good opportunity.
Mike Gencarelli: Did you enjoy being part of the film “Back to the Future”?
Crispin Glover: It was a long time ago. Michael J. Fox wasn’t the original person cast for the role. Eric Stolz was originally cast to play the character. I shot most of my scenes with Eric Stolz and then he was replaced with Michael J. Fox. I understand how well the film is liked and people have very fond feelings of the film. For me I was more concerned about being replaced since an actor was fired already, but it was a really good role to be playing for me.
Mike Gencarelli: In “Charlie’s Angels” series, whose choice was it to make the Creepy Thin Man not speak?
Crispin Glover: The character originally had lines but the lines were very expositional. They really wanted to hear my thoughts, so I told them I thought it would be a better silent antagonist. They enthusiastically stood up and said “Exactly, that’s great! That is exactly how we are going to do this”.
MG: You remade horror classics, “Willard” and “The Wizard of Gore”, were you a fan of these films?
CG: No, I had actually seen neither of the films previous to being a part of the productions. First I read the screenplays and looked at the characters. I watched each of the films and I looked to see if there was anything I could gleam from the actor that would be pertinent to the screenplays. In both cases I thought that the screenplays and characters were significantly different from one another.
MG: Was the motion capture difficult to perform while playing Grendel in “Beowulf”?
CG: No. The particular type of motion capture that Robert Zemeckis uses is in a certain way less distracting than shooting a normal film. Every actor is in 100% close up and in a wide shot both at the same time. Every actor is giving 100% in every take which makes for a very good for performance. The way the film is done is you’re in a sound stage with each of the actors you are acting with. People do not realize that you are physically there performing the character. Everything the character does is actually what you do. I was there with Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins.
MG: Tell us about your films “What Is It?” and “It’s Fine! Everything is Fine”?
CG: The first is called “What Is It”. Most of the actors in the film have down-syndrome. The film is not about down-syndrome at all. It is my psychological reaction to the constraints that have happened within the last three years or so within corporately funded and distributed film making. Anything that can truly make audience members uncomfortable has been exorcised or the film will not be corporately funded and distributed. I think that is very damaging because it is when the audience members sit back in their chairs and look up at the screen and say “Is this right what I am watching?” “Is this wrong what I am watching?”, “Should I be here?”, “Should the filmmaker have done this?”, “What is it” and that is the title of the film. This is when education happens when people are asking questions. The second film is called “It’s Fine! Everything is Fine.” It was written by an actor who is in the film. His name is Steven C. Stewart. He was born with a severe case of cerebral palsy. He was very difficult to understand and when his mother died in his early twenties he was put into a nursing home. The people that were taking care of him would called him an MR or mental retard. He was of normal intelligence, and the emotional turmoil he went through during that decade, I can’t even begin to imagine. When he got out of the nursing home, he wrote this screenplay. I read it around 1987 and as soon as I read it, I knew that this was something I would have to produce. I put Steve into part one in order to make his film a second part of the trilogy. He wrote his screenplay of course not to be a part of a trilogy but I realized that there were certain thematic elements that were explored that it would make sense as a trilogy. “What Is It” originally started out as a short film and ended up as a feature film. When I was expanding it I realized I could put Steve into the film and then make his film into the sequel. I shot his scenes in ‘96 or ’97. I then went on to other projects and then in 2000 one of his lungs collapsed and he got pneumonia. Then it became apparent that if we didn’t do something soon, we may never get the chance at all. This was around the time that I got the first “Charlie’s Angels” film and the money I made from that film I could put straight into making Steven C. Stewart’s film and that is exactly what happened. Within a month after we finished shooting, Steve died. I was very glad we were able to get the film made. There is something in the film itself, there is an intangible quality. Once you’ve seen the film it is very clear what is being expressed, but it is a little bit difficult to put in words. Steve had a difficult time being understood through words but he communicated something very strongly through this film. It is extremely important to me. It is the thing I am most proud of out of anything I have done in my whole career.
MG: Where can we see these films?
CG: I tour with my films when it works organically with my film schedule. In the beginning of June, I am going to have a series of shows at the IFC Center in NYC. Go on to crispinglover.com and sign up for the newsletter and it will email them and let them know where I will be traveling with the film. Before the show, I perform a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books. When I first started publishing the books in the 80’s, they are very heavily illustrated and I was always told that I should have a book reading. It didn’t really make sense because they are so heavily illustrated that if you do not see the illustrations it wouldn’t work. I knew I would have to have a slide show of the books, which is exactly what I did for the show.
MG: Do you plan on releasing them on DVD?
CG: I do not have plans for it right now.
MG: Any idea when you are going to make the final film in the trilogy “It is Mine”?
CG: It is not the next film I am going to make. “What Is It?” and “It’s Fine! Everything is Fine” were relatively complex productions. I need to make a similar production first before I start “It is Mine” which will be a complicated production.
MG: Tell us about your role as The Knave of Hearts in this years “Alice in Wonderland”? What was the best part about working on that film?
CG: It was a very different technology than “Beowulf” even though there is a motion capture element that is used for my body. There are moments in Alice in Wonderland where the motions continued in far shots and it is more animated. The technique is very similar to “Beowulf” where motions are my motions even though I was up on very high stilts. It makes the motion I had as a real actor different than what I would be if I was wearing stilts. People forget that it wasn’t all CGI, I was there on stilts. I had a great time working on this film though. I have known Johnny Depp and Tim Burton for many years now and it is just great working with them.
MG: Your character’s running joke steals the film “Hot Tub Time Machine”, did you enjoy playing the role of Phil?
CG: Yeah, I had a very good time on this film as well. The cast was very nice and a funny group of people. The director, Steve Pink was up for a very organic approach to working with the scenes. The way that it was approached was a very good thing. I had fun making this film.
MG: 2010 has been a busy year for you and it’s only April, tell us what projects you have lined for the future?
CG: There is an online short project out now called “Drunk History”, about someone that gets very intoxicated and then tells a portion of history. John C. Reilly and I play the actors in the portion of the history. John plays Nikola Tesla and I play Thomas Edison. It is very well done. I am in another feature called “Mr. Nice” which will come out later this year. The next film I am planning to make is a film with my father. He and I have never acted together before. I am still working on the screenplay but I am heading out to the Czech Republic hoping to start building sets soon.
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Check out below to get a sample of Crispin’s tour and also watch Crispin’s short “Drunk History”