As part of the Over The Top Festival (April 30 to May 4), risk-taking screen actor and provocative filmmaker Crispin Hellion Glover presents the first and second parts of his cinematic “It” trilogy, What Is It? (May 2) and It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! (May 3), at the Royal (608 College). www.overthetopfest.com.
You have a reputation for eccentric behaviour. Is that something you’ve cultivated or a complete misconception?
I’ve never fought against the notion of being eccentric or having a taste for unusual things. But I’ve been touring these films I’ve made all over, I own property in Los Angeles and the Czech Republic, I publish my own books and I continue acting in other people’s films and have done about 40 of them – that doesn’t happen if you don’t have things together.
Why are you presenting your films at Over The Top, which is essentially a music festival?
I had no idea my film presentation was going to be part of a music festival. What’s it called? Over The Top? This is the first I’m hearing of it. I really just go wherever I’m invited. All of my money is tied up in my films so my reason for touring with them is to recoup some of my investment.
The presentation begins with an hour-long narration of my eight books, with slides because they’re heavily illustrated. Then I screen my films, followed by a 45-minute audience Q&A, and then I sign things people bring. About 750 people showed up for my presentation in Chicago recently, and I was there signing books until 4:30 in the morning.
Many Hollywood actors have a secret desire to be popular musicians. You released one album, Big Problem Does Not Equal The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be (Restless) back in 1989. Do you harbour any rock star fantasies?
No. In the mid-80s, Barnes & Barnes approached me with the idea of recording some songs with me. When we had a couple done, they suggested we make an album of it which became the Big Problem. I recorded most of another album, tentatively titled Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Love Recordings, which I should complete some day, but it’s not my main focus – that’s making films and publishing books. Music is really far, far, far down the list.
The boundary-testing films of Werner Herzog appear to have had a significant impact on your own movie-making expeditions. Which of his films have been most influential?
Werner Herzog’s films Even Dwarfs Started Small and Fata Morgana each had a specific influence on my film What Is It? for different reasons. With Fata Morgana, it has to do with the structural approach to the narrative, wherein the audience becomes a participant in how the story unfolds.
When I set out to write What Is It? and the task at hand was to promote the idea of having the majority of characters played by actors with Down syndrome, I wondered what other films involved a cast not typically represented in feature films. What came to mind was Even Dwarfs Started Small, for which Herzog employed an entire cast of people who were short. It’s important to clarify that What Is It? is not about Down syndrome; the film is my reaction to the corporate restrictions that have increased in the film community over the last 20 years.
Do you still collect things?
Well, not the weird stuff people might think, but I have a few cars. I’ve got a beautiful 1953 Bentley Park Ward Drophead Coupe R Type that I got on eBay for a very good price, and also a 1956 Bentley S1 Standard Coupe, a 1953 Jaguar XK120 Roadster, a 1966 Checker Marathon like the one used in Taxi Driver and a 1962 Studebaker Lark convertible which is very nice.
There are some intriguing parallels between your Thin Man character in Charlie's Angels and the role played by Steven C. Stewart in It Is Fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE! Did you take the role in Charlie's Angels just to find your own film or was there more to it than that?
To some degree, you've been typecast as the weirdo outsider. Do you feel that has severely limited the roles you're offered in Hollywood films?