Please explain what just happened.
I searched through my email to see which interviews I needed to do for my upcoming tour that features Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show, Parts 1 & 2 and the films What is It? and It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. And I decided that The Nervous Breakdown was next.
What is your earliest memory?
Manhattan. I might remember seeing out of a baby buggy. I definitely remember the snow and trees of Riverside Park and the apartment where my parents and I lived. Watching my father get shot to death on a television show called Rat Patrol when I knew he was in Los Angeles “shooting” something. Imagine the pain and confusion of that! I even remember a Christmas party in a posh New York apartment, the women’s dresses and hairstyles and how everything looked like a period film.
If you weren’t an actor and a filmmaker and an author and a publisher, what other profession would you choose?
I began acting professionally at the age of thirteen, so I never really thought about anything else. Well, I did want to be a geologist once. I had this idea that I would find geodes and fascinating geological rocks and rock formations. But then reality intruded. I realized it was the 1970s, and I would probably end up working for a multinational oil corporation looking for buried black gold. That didn’t seem as interesting to me. I still have great interest in the Earth’s crust, however. In fact, my publishing company is called “Volcanic Eruptions.”
Describe a typical work day.
My work changes a lot, so my work days change as well.
Much of my work involves travel. I try to check and respond to email on the plane or train. I try not to have my shows on the same day I travel, as I like to be well rested for performances.
I often spend entire days and nights at home editing my films, or working on my books. You can often find me on location, acting in someone’s film. I maintain a healthy regimen of diet and exercise when I’m filming, even when we work into the wee hours of the morning. When I shoot my own films, there is an incredible amount of work like production coordination, equipment organization, and of course being on-set, actually shooting, working with actors and managing the technical aspects of filmmaking.
I’m setting up property in the Czech Republic to continue shooting my films there. Workers are onsite everyday constructing sets in the stages I have made from horse stables, not to mention the upkeep and renovation of the chateau itself.
And then there are the days when I perform live shows and screen the films. 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. These reconfigured books from the nineteenth century include original illustrations and reworked photographs.
When I first started publishing these books in 1988, a lot of folks requested readings. But because the books are so heavily illustrated, it made sense to create a slide show. In 1992, I began performing what I now call Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show Part 1, and while the content of that show has not changed, the performance has become more dramatic as opposed to a simple reading.
To me this kind of performance echoes the work of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was a primary form of entertainment in the U.S. for a long time. Its popularity has declined markedly in the modern era, but I feel the idea of live performance mixed with other media is sorely missed. I try to leverage the public’s awareness of my work with corporate media to bring attention to my live shows and films. Being a public figure helps draw attention to a type of art that otherwise might not get covered by the press.
Distributing my films in this way is certainly not traditional in the contemporary world of motion pictures, but again, it does echo vaudeville-era film distribution. I encourage other filmmakers to utilize aspects of what I’m doing. I’m very suspicious of a business model that involves working with corporations.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
“Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Propaganda by Edward Bernays as soon as possible.”
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
Beethoven’s entire body of work.
What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
The mysteries of the universe.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
-Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
-Propaganda, by Edward Bernays
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
It sounds like a terrible nightmare to live one moment over and over again. I like progressing through time as we normally perceive that we do.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
Kevin Bacon acted in Friday the 13th Part 1 in 1980. Crispin Glover acted in Friday the 13th Part 4 in 1984.
What makes you feel most guilty?
I am not a particularly guilty person.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
I derive inspiration from art, films, and music. I also enjoy working with actors in other films and drawing inspiration from them.
Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind the feature films What Is It? and It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.
I’m very careful to make it clear that What Is It? is not a film about Down’s Syndrome, but rather my reaction to the corporate restraints that have arisen during the last twenty to thirty years of filmmaking. Specifically, anything that might make an audience uncomfortable is routinely excised to ensure that the film will be corporately funded or distributed. I think this damages our culture, because the moment when an audience member looks up at the screen and wonders “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?” is an important moment, and that’s why I chose What Is It? as the title of my first film.
I think it’s important to examine taboos in our culture, to ask why something is taboo, and to ask these questions in popular media, where they can be properly addressed. We’re denying cultural education when we refuse to publicly acknowledge and examine the taboo. It renders us collectively stupid. What Is It? is a direct reaction to the contents this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE was written by Steven C. Stewart, who also stars in the film. I first read the screenplay in 1987 and realized it shared certain thematic elements with What Is It? Steve was locked in a nursing home for about ten years after his mother died. Born with a severe case of cerebral palsy, his speech was very difficult to understand, and the caregivers in his nursing home would refer to him as “M.R.,” which was short for “Mental Retard.” This is not a nice thing to say to anyone, and especially Steve, since his intelligence was not affected by his condition. When he finally managed to get out of the home, he wrote the screenplay. On the surface his film is a detective thriller, but in reality it’s an autobiography of sorts, one in which the reality of his life emerges quite clearly. Unfortunately Steve died within a month after we finished shooting the film, and never saw the finished product. He was 62.
I’m relieved the film was finally completed, as it is a great legacy to Steve’s life. It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! is probably the finest film I’ll ever be associated with.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
Do what you really want to do.
List your favorite in the following categories: Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor
Comedian: Andy Kaufman.
Musician: Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Actor: There are too many actors I admire to choose a single favorite, but some performances I studied as a teenager include:
-Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden
-Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
-Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Wise Blood
-Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider
-Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now
-James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
It really is less about an unlimited budget and more about the determination to get the next project done regardless of the budget.
What do you want to know?
The mystery of the universe.
What would you like your last words to be?
I would rather not know what my last words would be.
Please explain what will happen.
Crispin Hellion’s Big Slide Show Part 1 or Crispin Hellion’s Big Slide Show Part 2, including the feature films What Is It? or It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. Followed by Q&A and a book signing.
January 6/7 — Nashville TN at The Belcourt Theatre
January 13/14 — Chicago IL at The Music Box Theatre
January 17/18 — Columbus OhH Grandview Theatre
January 20 — Penn State University PA State Theatre
January 25/26 — Buffalo NY Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre
January 27/28 — Ottawa Canada Mayfair Theatre
More information can be found at CrispinGlover.com.