Throughout his lengthy career as an artist, actor, filmmaker and author, Crispin Hellion Glover has played by his own rules. Gaining widespread prominence through roles in films such as Back To The Future andCharlie’s Angels, Glover has honed a reciprocal, symbiotic bond between such mainstream roles and the films which he crafts himself – most notably the works collectively known as the It trilogy. It’s in this capacity which Glover tours the globe, presenting a nonstandard film distribution strategy which involves a live multimedia presentation of his books alongside screenings of the two completed films of the trilogy – What Is It?and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine.
“The fact that I tour with the film helps the distribution element,” Glover reasons. “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, and 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.
“The way I distribute my films is certainly not traditional in the contemporary sense of film distribution but perhaps is very traditional when looking further back at vaudeville era film distribution. If there are any filmmakers that are able to utilise aspects of what I am doing then that is good. It has taken many years to organically develop what I am doing now as far as my distribution goes.”
Starting production in the mid-‘90s, What Is It? finally saw a release in 2005, with It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! following soon after in 2007. Though the principal cast of What Is It have Down’s Syndrome, the characters they portray do not. As Glover explains, the decision was reactionary to the confines of the production of mainstream culture. “I am very careful to make it quite clear that What Is It? is not a film about Down’s Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in filmmaking – specifically anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed,” he states. “This is damaging to the culture because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair looks up at the screen and thinks to themself, ‘Is this right what I am watching? Is this wrong what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?’ and that is where the title for the film comes from. What is it that is taboo in the culture? What does it mean that taboo has been ubiquitously excised in this culture’s media? What does it mean to the culture when it does not properly process taboo in its media? It is a bad thing when questions are not being asked, because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. For the culture to not be able to ask questions leads towards a non educational experience and that is what is happening in this culture. This stupefies this culture and that is of course a bad thing. So What Is It? is a direct reaction to the contents of this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.”
Despite a perceived abhorrence for corporate-backed culture, Glover is able to rationalise his involvement with blockbuster cinema. “After Charlie’s Angels came out it did very well financially and was good for my acting career. I started getting better roles that also paid better and I could continue using that money to finance my films that I am so truly passionate about. I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the films that I act in and look at acting as a craft that I am helping other filmmakers to accomplish what it is that they want to do,” he reasons. “Usually, filmmakers have hired me because there is something they have felt would be interesting to accomplish with using me in their film and usually I can try to do something interesting as an actor. If for some reason the director is not truly interested in doing something that I personally find interesting with the character then I can console myself that with the money I am making to be in their production I can help to fund my own films that I am so truly passionate about. Usually though I feel as though I am able to get something across as an actor that I feel good about. It has worked out well. I look at acting as a craft that I learned at a relatively young age. I separate the craft of acting from the art of my own personal filmmaking. I am grateful to all the tremendous individuals I have had the opportunity to work with as an actor in the corporately funded and distributed film world.”
From his infamous Letterman appearance onwards, Glover has stood as one of the most beguiling and transfixing figures in entertainment. However, it’s far from a contrived projection of identity. “I do not try to and I never have tried to make a perception of being an outsider in the corporately funded and distributed film world. I don’t feel like an outsider in the corporately funded and distributed film world. I understand why there is the perception of me being an outsider but it is not a perception I am attempting to have,” he explains.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK