In his more than 30-year career, Crispin Glover has become Renaissance man. An actor, screenwriter, director, musician and author – not to mention the guy who once aimed a kick at David Letterman’s head — Glover has done it all, developing a cult following for the many offbeat characters he has portrayed in films ranging from “Back To The Future” to “Charlie’s Angels.”
Glover will be at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers on Feb. 21 and 22, screening two unusual black comedies he produced and directed, “It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine” and “What Is It?” Glover will also conduct a reading of some of his books, which he will sign, and host a Q and A.
The multi talent has been inspired by a wide array of filmmakers from Werner Herzog to Roman Polanski to Wong Kar-Wei and Milos Forman. He remembers getting his driver’s license at 16 in 1980 and going around Los Angeles to revival theaters.
“The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts,” Glover says in an e-mail interview, citing movies like “Repulsion” and “The Apartment.”
He studied uncompromising performances like Jack Nicholson’s in “Five Easy Pieces,” Peter Lorre’s in “M” and Emil Jannings’ in “The Last Laugh.”
“These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor,” Glover says. “I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages. In the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18.”
“It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine” is based on the experiences of Steven C. Stewart, who suffered from cerebral palsy and wrote the script. Told from Stewart’s point of view, the film has been described as a fantastical, psychosexual experience. Glover funded it with money he made from “Charlie’s Angels.”
“Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating, and then the beautiful story and the naïvete, including his fascination with women with long hair, and the graphic violence and sexuality and the revealing truth of his psyche from the screenplay were all combined,” Glover says. “There was a specific marriage proposal scene that was the scene I remember reading that made me say, “I have to produce this film.’”
Stewart died a month after the film finished shooting and Glover is grateful he was able to tell his story.
“Steve has had great positive influence on my life and as much as I did like and enjoy Steve when he was alive, I realize even more how much he was important to me,” Glover said. “It may sound sappy, but if Steve were here today I would be very happy to tell him how much he ultimately positively has affected my life. I feel ‘It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine’ will probably be the best film I will have anything to do with in my entire career.”
“What Is It?” features a cast mostly made up of people with Down syndrome, though it is not about Down syndrome.
It is, Glover says, “my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in filmmaking. Anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. This is damaging to the culture.”
Clearly, “What Is It” is not for everyone. A reviewer in the Phoenix New Times said it was “possibly the most bizarre, uncompromising movie ever made by a major Hollywood name.”
Glover says he didn’t make the film for shock value:
“The way I sell the film is about the nature of the film’s ability to cause questions and conversation.”
Glover shot “What Is It” in 12 days spread over several years and then spent years completing it. He said working with Down syndrome actors was a great experience:
“The most important thing about working with an actor whether they have Down’s Syndrome or not is if they have enthusiasm. Everyone I worked with had incredible enthusiasm so they were all great to work with.”
Looking up Crispin Glover on Google or YouTube inevitably brings up his appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman.” Glover, in character from a movie “Rubin and Ed,” refuses to play ball throughout the interview and it ends with him aiming a kick near Letterman’s head. Glover continues to play coy when asked about the incident.
“I neither confirm nor deny that I made an appearance on ‘Late Night with David Letterman,’” he says. “My answers to questions about that query at my live shows are quite different than my response in corporate media and quite detailed. I like any form of art that brings questions from an audience.”
You heard the man.
For more information on Glover’s appearance, visit http://drafthouse.com/movies/crispin_glover_live_it_is_fine_everything_is_fine/nyc_area and
http://drafthouse.com/movies/crispin_glover_live_what_is_it/nyc_area. — Sam Barron