"Cinema's king of weird also writes surreal, disturbing books. Down in his cellar he talked stalkers, child geniuses and rat catching".
Crispin Hellion Glover is one of the most capricious cinema actors of all time. This fact is proved by such diverse performances as speed freak Layne in River's Edge, deranged cousin Dell in Wild At Heart, and the non-speaking uber-villian The Thin Man, in Charlie's Angels.
Acting aside, he has single-handedly penned, financed, produced, directed, and is in the final editing phase of the aptly titled movie, What Is It?, a labour of love which will prove beyond all doubt what a unique individual he truly is. Why? Because it stars a cast of Down's syndrome actors, an elderly muscular dystrophy patient, snails, Glover, and the voice of Fairuza Balk – and promises to be stunningly original and magical.
We cornered Crispin in conversation having just wrapped playing the lead in a remake of the 1971 classic rodent-revenge movie, Willard.
Is it a fact that you share a birthday with Adolf Hitler?
That's correct, April 20. (laughs).
How was your childhood?
I went to a small private school, called Mirman's School, from first until ninth grade. It was a school for intelligent children that embraced people who excelled at certain subjects. We had tests that showed where you ranked in the nation, so you could see that you were testing well above normals scores. There's an almost elite feeling that you grow up with when you're like that.
The name Crispin Glover has become synonymous with strangeness.
People want me to be the crazy guy who's got all these diseased eyeballs sitting around but it's just not the truth. I look on the internet and I can tell there's a pretty general acceptance that Crispin Glover's this insane, certifiable nut. From looking at what's written about me, it seems as though I'd be somebody who should be in a mental instituation as opposed to just a fellow working person with unique interests. I've never really wanted to fight an image at all. But it gets to a point where it just becomes so untrue that it's like, come on, there's got to be some kind of realisation that I have to have some functionality as a human being. So I feel like I've got to speak up about it a bit.
You must attract some seriously obsessive fans because of this media-
created crazy persona.
I used to live in the top of a building right off Hollywood Boulevard. At one point, I came back from New York having just done a television show, and there were two girls at my door. One of them said she'd broken into my apartment and taken a leather jacket, a Polaroid of myself, a Xeroxed pages from Rat Catching (Glover's first self-published book), and some underwear. These girls didn't scare me. I thought it was kind of funny and I invited them in to talk for a minute. I was being friendly but one girl kept getting hostile, and I could tell her friend was embarassed, because I wasn't doing anything unfriendly or uninviting. I told her I wanted the leather jacket and the Polaroid and the Xeroxed page of Rat Catching back, but that she could keep the underwear. The way she'd broken into my house was truly death-defying. She'd crawled across a very thin ledge from a fire escape and in through a window. If one fell from this, it would be certain death. Then I realised that she'd been calling for a long time. So I didn't answer my phone for years because of her.
You've played some intense characters in films, but one of the
zaniest has to be the role of Rubin in Rubin and Ed.
Right before I did Back to the Future, I was up for an audition for a movie playing a character who was supposed to have been locked away since the 70's, and he was stuck in that era. I got this look together for it, which was a wig, these huge platform shoes, some bell-bottom pants, a short-sleeved polyester shirt and some kind of 60's bifocal glasses. But then I got Back to the Future and never went to the audition.
I was seeing a girl at the time and we lived in the same apartment building. It was normal for both of us to have our doors unlocked, so I got this outfit on that I'd put together and walked into her apartment and she was sitting in her bedroom. I walked past her into the bathroom without saying anything. She didn't recognize me, she had no idea who this weird person was walking into her apartment. A little while later, Trent Harris came to my apartment building and I went down and greeted him like that. He didn't recognize me either. Trent thought it was a great look and started writing it into a screenplay idea.
You have produced a series of beautifully surreal books, what
inspired you to do so?
I made the first book when I was 18. I was going to an acting class next to an art bookstore. Somebody had taken the binding of a book from the 1800's, then taken various photographs and drawing and pasted them into the book. I looked through it and I liked the idea, so I set out to do the same thing. I'd always drawn and written stories, but the book I saw didn't have stories in it, it just had art. So I started to do that page by page, then I noticed that I'd left some of the words in the art and it started to naturally form a story. That one was called Billow And the Rock. Over a period of five to eight years, I made between 15 and 20 books. Rat Catching is a study in the art of rat catching plus something extra. In Oak Mot, all the action takes place on the virgin American prarie around the year 1868. It's a tale of epic proportions involving pride and prejudice. Concrete Inspection is a family story where a mother is looking for something and finds it. What It Is, And How It Is Done is a man's life as told in reverse.
What attracted you to the role of Willard?
He's a much more emotional and sad kind of person than I've played before.
How was it working with the rats?
I have a scene at my mother's funeral. I have to put a rat into the coffin, sothere's a lot of real emotion that I had to go through while working with this animal. I was glad that these rats, every take, did exactly what they were supposed to do perfectly. Because the rat scurries for its food, you can teach it to do very specific movements. There were about four or five different rats playing the same rat character, and each one would do something specific. I really liked working with them.
Is it true that you're doing a version of Michael Jackson's "Ben" for
the film's soundtrack?
Oh yeah, I am doing a demonstration tape for New Line right now. It's pending their approval. I keep my fingers crossed it will work out. I think it will be you never know.