SANTA MONICA, California — Crispin Glover is one weird dude. Once one of Hollywood's hottest young stars, it was his role as George McFly in the blockbuster classic "Back to the Future" that sent him spiraling toward obscurity or pushed him to stubbornly embrace his inner artist (depending on who you ask).
Did he really sue Hollywood power players Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis? Was that really him kicking David Letterman in the face? Why is he singing about clowny clown clowns on YouTube and making movies starring people who have Down syndrome?
On the verge of a busy year that will have Glover playing the newest Willy Wonka in next week's "Epic Movie," releasing another directorial effort up at Sundance and reuniting with Zemeckis for the November blockbuster "Beowulf," we caught up with the closest thing Hollywood has to a punk-rock movie star. Because yes, Crispin Glover is a weird dude — but that's why we love him.
"Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter" (1984)
"I've seen clips of it on YouTube, but I haven't seen my dance in that movie since I was 19. What I was actually dancing to was not the music they have in the movie (hair-metal band Lion's "Love Is a Lie") but "Back in Black" by AC/DC. So if somebody online wants to put together what I was actually dancing to, [it might look better]."
"Back to the Future" (1985)
"That film was the first film that enabled me on any level to have a choosing of projects. The first film I chose to do after 'Back to the Future' had been released was 'The River's Edge.' ... I was working on ['At Close Range'] on the day 'Back to the Future' had the world premiere, so I wasn't able to go to that. I saw it at a regular movie theater, [Los Angeles'] the Cineramadome, and that was the only time I've ever seen it. ... I haven't watched 'Back to the Future' since."
"River's Edge" (1986)
"Personally, there are three [of my] films I like on the whole as films. ... 'The Orkly Kid,' which was a short film I made at [the American Film Institute] when I was 19, 'River's Edge,' which I think is an excellent movie, and 'What Is It?,' which I made. ... There was a reshowing of 'River's Edge' at one point in time, and [writer Neal Jimenez] said to the audience, 'When I first saw "River's Edge," I thought Crispin had ruined the film. But now, I feel like he ultimately made the film.' "
"The Late Show With David Letterman" (1987)
"There's a very well-known clip on the 'David Letterman' show that people always bring up [in which a seemingly drugged-out Glover freaks out while being interviewed by the host]. ... Certain clips are on YouTube, including my preview for 'What Is It?,' the 'David Letterman' appearance, the dance from 'Friday the 13th' and other things, including the video from my record album in the 1980s for 'Clowny Clown Clown.' ... I don't confirm or deny whether I was on ['Letterman'], or whether this was another person. ... That look is very similar to the person, being me, in the film 'Rubin & Ed.' It's the same shoes, pants, but that 'David Letterman' episode was shot in 1987 promoting 'River's Edge,' and 'Rubin & Ed' was released in 1991. There was a long gap between the time of those things. ... I like mystery. ... If one looks at the dates, [there are clues]. Actually, if one looks closely at YouTube, there's something even more recent on that. People should explore."
"Back to the Future Part II" (1989)
"Sometimes people get confused and think I was in the sequel, but I wasn't. They had taken a very small amount of footage from me from the first film and interspliced it with another actor who they had [fitted] with a false nose, chin and checkbones. There was a lawsuit about this, and because of my lawsuit there are now laws in the Screen Actors Guild that make it so that producers are no longer [allowed to do that]. ... I've never watched the third ['Future'] at all. ... I had to watch the second part because of the legal questions it had, so I watched it for that point of view. I don't want to go into too many details, but that was not an easy thing to watch. There was an agenda. To offer somebody far less than anybody else, and then have another actor put into prosthetics to look like that actor? That had to be planned out in advance. And that is the truth of it."
"Wild at Heart" (1990)
"[David] Lynch is a very specific director. ... There's one scene I like a lot and people often quote, where I have sandwiches in front of me and my mother comes in and says, 'Dell, what are you doing?,' and I smash the sandwiches and say, 'I'm making my lunch!' David Lynch had that very timed out; there was a very specific way [to do it]."
"The Doors" (1991)
"The reason I was in that film was because I met Andy Warhol at Madonna and Sean Penn's wedding. That must have been '86. ... I stood back and watched how he moved and how he held himself, and I thought he would be a really interesting character to play at some point. ... [My performance] was the first time that somebody in a film was able to portray him. I got my agents to request a meeting with Oliver Stone. I had lines taken out, which is what I also did in 'Charlie's Angels.' Sometimes it's better to say less things than more."
"Charlie's Angels" (2000)
"I like my work in 'Charlie's Angels.' I like that character [Thin Man]. ... I utilized the money I made from the first 'Charlie's Angels' film to shoot [the second movie in his directorial series] 'Everything Is Fine!' That's one of the reasons I acted in 'Charlie's Angels,' because I knew that the money I made from that I could specifically utilize to finance 'Everything Is Fine!' "
"What Is It?" (2005) and "It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine!" (2007)
"It's bad that, at this point in time, anything that can possibly make an audience member truly uncomfortable — to where an audience member sits back, looks up at the screen and wonders, 'Is this right? Is this right that this filmmaker has done this?' — is frowned upon. ... Those moments are when an audience is truly having an educational experience.
" 'What Is It?' is the first film in what will be a trilogy. ... Most of the actors in the film have Down syndrome, but the film isn't about Down syndrome at all. [It's about] the adventures of a young man, his principal interests being snails, salt, a pipe and how to get home.
"The second film in the series, which I'll be releasing in November later this year, is called 'It Is Fine!' and it was written and stars one of the actors in 'What Is It?' His name was Steven C. Stewart, who had a severe case of cerebral palsy; he was 62 years old and had written this screenplay many years before, but he had been locked in a nursing home. ... The film is a reaction to that on some levels, but ultimately it is an autobiographical, fantastical retelling of his point of view. ... Steven died within a month after we finished the film."
"Epic Movie" (2007)
"I am not [spoofing Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka]. ... I have worked with him in two different films — 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' and 'Dead Man' — and I wasn't thinking of it that way at all. I did not see the Johnny Depp/ Tim Burton 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' [when I took the role]; I had only seen 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' with Gene Wilder."
"It'll be coming out this year, and it was the first time I'd worked with [director] Robert Zemeckis since that first 'Back to the Future' film. ... I found out that there was interest in me for the film, and I had to sit back and think. [The lawsuit] was a fairly severe thing for me, and it was wrong. ... It is now very clear in legal terms that it was not the right thing that was done at that time. ... I thought about it and thought this would be a good thing to do. It would be good for funding my own films, it'll be a hugely distributed film with a lot of advertising behind it. ... Angelina Jolie plays my mother, Anthony Hopkins plays my father and Ray Winstone plays Beowulf. I had a great working relationship with them all, and ultimately I had a great working relationship with Robert Zemeckis as well."
On seeing Zemeckis again:
"I'd read a book entitled 'How to Be a Gentleman.' It's a good book, and I'd recommend to everybody in the world to read it. In the book, it says, 'Don't bring up sore subjects,' and neither Robert Zemeckis or I brought it up once the whole time we were working. I think that was the right thing to do."
On perceptions and rumors concerning his weird behavior:
"It's a shame, because it isn't always the case. ... People interpret things I have done in the media and characters I have portrayed with being an actual person. On one hand it's a compliment, because it means that there is a true effect, but on the other hand it's a shame, because I am a professional. It would be nice if people understood a little better that I am not this insane, crazy person."
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