He was the gawky dad in Back to the Future, but Crispin Glover is an actor, writer, and director who has carved out an even stranger reality for himself. Lorne Jackson spoke to him ahead of his one man Midland show.
Crispin Glover has appeared in numerous Hollywood movies, though he could never be labelled a conventional star.
He’s no Depp, Pitt or Clooney.
Often appearing gangly and gormless on screen, the iconic performer he resembles the most is Big Bird from Sesame Street. Though, admittedly, Glover has fewer feathers than the overgrown chick from the kid’s TV show.
Plus he has the sort of dramatic range that Big Bird could only dream of exploring.
With Glover, you never know quite what to expect – goofball can turn grotesque in an instant.
He comfortably worked himself into the role of Michael J Fox’s dopish dad in the 80’s teen flick, Back To The Future.
Then slithered his way across the screen as the eponymous anti-hero in Willard, a horror flick about a rat-obsessed social misfit.
He was also a sinister villain in the big-screen version of Charlie’s Angels, reprising the role in a sequel.
His idiosyncratic acting talents were put to good use most recently in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, where he played the Knave of Hearts.
But the 47-year-old won’t be celebrating his skills as a thespian when he appears at Wolverhampton’s Light House next week.
He’ll be in town to showcase his other talents.
You see, Glover is a bit of a Renaissance Man. He writes novels, directs movies and performs his own songs.
All for the sake of art. Though his art is the kind that divides opinion.
Crispin doesn’t merely look a little... unusual. His mind also meanders down very different paths from those well-trammelled avenues trudged by the hack-herd of Hollywood.
His visionary output makes the latest David Lynch flick seem about as experimental as a Hallmark afternoon movie.
Glover has directed films starring mentally and physically disabled actors.
He also had a leading role in one of the wackiest – and most discussed – chat show incidents of all time.
And let’s not forget the gloriously silly songs he warbles or the beautifully bonkers books he writes...
For his show at the Light House, Glover will be reading from those books and showing It Is Fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE! a film he directed.
It’s a self-financed piece, written by Steven C. Stewart, a man with cerebral palsy, who also appears in it.
Stewart died soon after filming finished.
Glover says he’s enormously proud of the work, funded using his Charlie’s Angels wages.
It’s also a topical subject.
This week the Speaker of the House of Commons came under pressure to lecture MPs about their behaviour after new Tory MP, Paul Maynard, was openly mocked for having cerebral palsy.
“Everything Is Fine will probably be the best film I ever have anything to do with in my entire career,” says Glover.
He also believes that if he hadn’t helped bring Steven C Stewart’s vision to the big screen, he would have regretted it all his life.
“Steve had been locked in a nursing home for about ten years, after his mother died.” says Glover.
“He had been born with a severe case of cerebral palsy, and he was very difficult to understand.
“People that were caring for him in the nursing home would derisively call him an MR, which was short for mental retard.
“This isn’t a nice thing to say to anyone, but Steve was of normal intelligence.
“When he did get out he wrote his screenplay. It’s written as a murder detective thriller. Even so, the truths of Steve’s own existence come through much more clearly than if he had written it as a standard autobiography.”
A previous film directed by Glover, ‘What Is It?’ starred actors with Down’s syndrome, though the characters they played in the movie weren’t actually meant to suffer from the condition.
“The actors with Down’s syndrome were all great to work with,” says Glover. “The most important thing about working with an actor is if they have enthusiasm.
“And every cast member – whether they had Down’s syndrome or not – brought something extra to their performance.”
Glover certainly can’t be accused of lacking enthusiasm. He is committed to his craft. Sometimes too committed...
In the 1980s he appeared on the popular American chat show, Late Night With David Letterman.
He turned up in the persona of Rubin, a rather demented character he had recently been playing in a movie.
Wearing platform heels and a wig, Glover spouted gibberish then tried to karate kick Letterman.
It’s not clear whether the chat show host was warned beforehand about the “performance”, though he looks uncomfortable through out.
Crispin still refuses to talk about the incident, even though it has become a You Tube sensation.
Another hit on You Tube is the video for a song he recorded called Clowny Clown Clown about a man’s love-hate relationship with a... well... clown.
Clowny Clown Clown appeared on Glover’s album The Big Problem Does Not Equal The Solution, The Solution Equals Let It Be.
The record also includes the track I’ll Never Say Never To Always written by Charles Manson. Glover sings it in a quavery falsetto.
The fiction he writes is just as intriguing as the music. A technique he often uses is to take old books that are out of copyright, then add illustrations and words – sometimes scoring out entire sentences and paragraphs – to make a fresh narrative.
For example, his book, Rat Catching, was constructed from an 1896 volume, Studies in the Art of Rat Catching.
He’s a huge fan of fine writing – even the stuff he doesn’t appropriate for his own use. Now he’s looking forward to visiting the Midlands, home of the greatest writer of them all.
“I do like studying Shakespeare,” he says. “If I can squeeze in the time while I’m here, I’d really love to visit Stratford.”
* Crispin Glover will be at the Light House Cinema on Thursday 17 February at 8pm.
* Tickets cost: £15 (over 18s only). For more info visit http://crispinglover.com. For further information contact Light House on: 01902 716055