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Everything is Fine.

Anna Stave and Steven C. Stewart in It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. (Photo: David Brothers)

Crispin Glover brings his new film and his slide show to town on Wednesday

There are very few movies in which he appears that aren’t better because Crispin Glover is in them. Even the otherwise awful Epic Movie is worth seeing for his parody of Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. And most of his performances, in a career that stretches back to the early 1980s, have been much odder than that: I doubt that anyone has ever sat through the end credits of a film, seen Glover’s name in the cast list, and asked, “What character was he?”

If his performance as Marty McFly’s father George in the original Back to the Future caught the attention of the moviegoing public, his decision to sue Steven Spielberg and the other producers of the film’s sequels for unauthorized use of his image seemed like a guaranteed way to end a lucrative career just as it was beginning. But Glover has clearly never been interested in a conventional career. Hollywood may have been frightened even more by his infamous 1987 David Letterman appearance, where he was expected to promote The River’s Edge but instead came out came out as his bizarre character from the film Rubin and Ed and aimed a platform-shoed karate kick at the head of the host. But he has worked steadily in independent films and eccentric character roles, including the “Thin Man” in the two Charlie’s Angels movies and most recently as one-armed Phil in Hot Tub Time Machine.

Since the early 1990s, Glover has been pursuing other interests. Through his production company Volcanic Eruptions he has published a series of books which he has reworked from old Victorian books with illustrations and new text. And he has been making his own films, at his own pace. The first, What is It?, was in production for nearly a decade. The second, It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. was a bit faster, getting from production to screens in seven years.

Fans and the experimentally minded can explore both of Glover’s passions when he brings “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show Part 2” to the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center this week. Though it’s his first appearance in Buffalo, he has been performing the show since 1992. (I saw an earlier version of it in Toronto in 1996, and it was every bit as funny, unique, and weird as you would expect.) The evening consists of the slide show, a screening of It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., a Q&A, and a book signing. Glover is famous for answering questions at length and for taking time to speak to all of his fans, so be prepared for a long evening.

I recently conducted an email interview with Glover, beginning as he was in Eastern Europe.

Crispin Glover. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)

AV: So what are you doing in the Czech Republic?

Glover: I had visited all the countries that my great grandparents came from. Germany, Sweden, England, and Czech. I always intended to at some point in my life purchase property in Europe. I was looking to buy property in the US to utilize for building sets [for] making my own films. A film producer I was working on a screenplay with in Prague mentioned that he knew a Czech realtor that specialized in chateaus that were going for a very good price. As soon as he mentioned this I knew it was something I would do. I saw three chateaus that were for sale. The one I own was built in the 1600s. It is a Czech national historical monument and it fit all the practical needs for setting up my own place to build sets, plus it has fascinating historical and aesthetic qualities. The former horse stables for the property have been converted to stages and are ready to build sets inside.

AV: I saw your show in Toronto in 1996. Aside from the new film, how will the performance we see in Buffalo be different? Has it grown or changed over the years?

Glover: For “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show” I perform a one-hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. The books are taken from old books from the 1800s that have been changed into different books from what they originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings and reworked images and photographs.

When I first started publishing the books in 1987 people said I should have book readings. But the books are heavily illustrated, and the illustrations help tell the story so the only way for the books to make sense was to have visually representations of the images. It took a while [to develop] but in 1992 I started performing as illustrations from the books are projected behind me.

I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was the main form of entertainment for most of the history of the US. It has only relatively recently stopped being the main source of entertainment, but that does not mean this live element mixed with other media is no longer viable. In fact it is apparent that it is sorely missed.

Because I tour showing two different films it is important to have two different slide shows. There is a substantial difference in the two shows and I am still making changes to the second shows as I perform them. I have recently added a new book that was made specifically for live performance to “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show Part 2” and I am very pleased with the audience reaction to it so far. [Note: this is the show he will perform in Buffalo.]

AV: Your father is Bruce Glover, an actor and acting teacher who is seldom the “star” of a film but is often one of the best remembered things about it. (He was the memorable Bond villain Mr. Wint in Diamonds Are Forever and Duffy in Chinatown, and appeared in the locally made Buffalo Bushido.) Do you remember him giving you any advice, either about the craft of acting of the business of it?

Glover: My father has taught acting since before I was born. I never formally studied acting with my father. I studied full time with other teachers between the ages of 15 and 20. There is no question that I of course heard things about acting being discussed from a young age. I witnessed how the business worked, as opposed to getting sit-down advice or being told about it. I realized at a young age, about 11 or 12, that it would be a good business for me to get in to. I was not placed in to the business by my parents’ interest. I requested to meet with a specific agent at age 13 and they were supportive of that.

AV: Will you ever make your films available on DVD or the internet, or will they only ever be seen in your live presentations?

Glover: At this point I do not have plans for that. I am aware that this can limit the amount of viewers for the films which is of course a conflict. I especially want It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. to get a much larger audience. I feel is very important to have Q and A forum after the film. The films are made in the spirit of when I was a teenager attending the various revival theaters that were so popular in Los Angeles in the 1980s before home theater business competition forced most 35 mm venues to close. There is no question that a different concentration from the audience goes into viewing a 35-millimeter film print properly projected.

AV: In your appearances, do you take into consideration the audience’s expectations based on the kind of characters you play in films? Does your performance vary with audience reactions?

Glover: Being live performances, “The Big Slide Shows” of course vary from night to night in various ways. I originally made the books starting in the 1980s without the intention of performing them for an audience so they were not made with any expectations of any audience.

I definitely have been aware of utilizing the fact that I am known from work in the corporate media I have done in the last 25 years or so. This is something I rely on for when I go on tour with my films. It lets me go to various places and have the local media cover the fact that I will be performing.

AV: It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. was written by Steven C. Stewart, a man born with a severe case of cerebral palsy who was locked up in a nursing home for ten years after his mother died even though he was of normal intelligence. He also stars in the movie. How did you meet him?

Glover: Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating—the beautiful story and the naiveté, including his fascination of women with long hair and the graphic violence and sexuality and the revealing truth of his psyche, were all combined. Steve had written his screenplay in the late 1970s. I read it in 1987 and as soon as I had read it I knew I had to produce the film. There was a specific marriage proposal scene that was the scene I remember reading that made me say, “I have to produce this film.”

I specifically started funding my own films with the money I make from the films I act in when Steven C. Stewart’s lung collapsed in the year 2000. This was around the same time [of] the first Charlie’s Angels film. I realized that I could put the money I made from that straight into the Steven C. Stewart film. That is exactly what happened. I finished acting in Charlie’s Angels and then went to Salt Lake City, where Steven C. Stewart lived. I met with Steve and David Brothers, with whom I co-directed the film. I went back to LA and acted in a lower-budget film for about five weeks while David started building the sets. Then I went straight back to Salt Lake, and we completed shooting the film within about six months in three separate, smaller productions. And Steve died within a month after we finished shooting the film. Cerebral palsy is not degenerative but Steve was 62 when we shot the film. One of his lungs had collapsed because he had started choking on his own saliva and he got pneumonia.

David Brothers and I both were intent on bringing forth what Steve had written. Because Steve wrote it as a fantasy David and I wanted to make certain that we supported it in the most opulent way, to look close to a corporately funded and distributed film but to maintain the emotional cathartic elements that were apparent in Steve’s original script. Probably ultimately what is the most important thing that is accomplished in the final film is that it does absolutely posses the emotional cathartic element that Steve had in his original screenplay.

I am relieved to have gotten this film finally completed because ever since I read the screenplay in 1987 I knew I had to produce the film and also produce it correctly. I would not have felt right about myself if I had not gotten Steve’s film made, I would have felt that I had done something wrong and that I had actually done a bad thing if I had not gotten it made. So I am greatly relieved to have completed it, especially since I am very pleased with how well the film has turned out. 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.

AV: I see that you have a voice credit for the recent Back to the Future video game. You also worked with Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis on Beowulf. Does this mean that some fences were mended after your famous lawsuit, or that weeds have grown over them?

Glover: My voice was simply used from the original film for the Japanese video game you are referring to. To clarify to readers what the difference in the situation you are referring to and what the producers did in the second film that was illegal is as follows: There was never an agreement reached for me to appear in the Back to the Future sequels. The producers hired another actor and put a false nose, chin, and cheekbones on him in order to make him up to look like me, then interspliced a very small amount of footage of me from the original film in order to fool audiences in to believing it was me. Had they only used clips of me from the original film, there would have been nothing illegal about that. They owned the footage from the original film. What they did not own was myself and/or my face. Essentially what the lawsuit was about was copyright infringement. Because of my lawsuit there are laws in the Screen Actors Guild that make it so no producers, directors, or actors are ever able to do this again. I am proud of that.

AV: This will be your first visit to Buffalo. What expectations/preconceptions do you have of this city?

Glover: I expect Buffalo to have interesting older architecture and be interesting to look at. I am looking forward to being there.

AV: One of your first acting experiences was in a stage production of The Sound of Music with Florence Henderson. Who did you play?

Glover: I played Friedrich Von Trapp, the eldest son in the Von Trapp family.

AV: At this point in your career as an actor, you have a reputation for having a reputation. Is that a hindrance to getting jobs, or a boon, or is it inconsequential, of more interest to Internet chat room posters than casting agents?

Glover: “A reputation for having a reputation” is probably a very good way of putting it. So many things that are written or said are absolutely inaccurate. For my personal shows it probably enhances curiousness from audience members, which is a good thing. One can always speculate on how something affects one’s life, badly or favorably, but it is probably best to concentrate on doing what one is interested in. I am very interested in continuing to make my own films and I am having a great time doing that and showing them to audiences that are interested in them.

AV: Does your mother call you Crispin, Cris, or Crispy?

Glover: My mother always calls me Crispin.

You can learn more about Crispin Hellion Glover’s performances and see video clips at Advance tickets for his Wednesday, December 15 show are available at the Market Arcade box office. Out-of-towners can call the theater to reserve seats at (716) 855-3022. Admission is restricted to 18 and over. Show time is 7pm. Parking is available in the Washington Street lot (fee refundable at the theater concession stand).

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