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Interview magazine: Interview with Crispin Glover

Interview by Adam Parfrey

From the March, 1992 issue of Interview magazine, pages 111-112, 127:

You don't just saunter up to Crispin Glover's apartment - you negotiate a hellish thirteen story climb up an old Hollywood landmark's stairwell. Elegant in smoking jacket, Glover admits you into a dark, candlelit penthouse furnished with plush fainting co uches, rugs from Istanbul, a large, black, asteroidlike sculpture hanging precipitously from the ceiling, and red velvet draperies framing the dizzying view. Small winged creatures whiz by the windows. "Bats," says Glover. "They're here every night about nine o'clock."

Energetically off-center performances as the Methedrine-charged suburban lout in River's Edge and as George McFly in Back to the Future brought Glover instant cult status. It seemed natural that he should appear briefly and indelibly as Cousin Dell, the Krafft-Ebing mutant who places cockroaches in his pants, in David Lynch's Wild at Heart, and fulfill an ambition to play Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone's The Doors. His notorious appearance on Letterman as a platform-shoed, wig-wearing karate-kicking weirdo was, Glover acknowledges, the prototype for Rubin Farr, the narcissistic homebody in Trent Harris's hilarious Rubin and Ed, slated for release this month.

Glover's "discomforting aesthetic" is written all over his roles as pathetic wanna-be writer Joseph Kremple, in Jane Spencer's soon-to-be-released Little Noises, and the leftist Mientus in the Jerzy Skolimowski film 30 Door Key, based on Witold Gombrowicz's modern absurdist classic, Ferdydurke. Eccentric and handsomely printed books for Glover's Volcanic Eruptions company - titles include Rat Catching, Concrete Inspection, and Oak Mot, - reveal his penchan t for reworking antique tomes into sweetly deranged stories. He reads from Oak Mot and covers a Charies Manson song for his 1989 Barnes and Barnes-produced record, THE BIG PROBLEM does not = The Solution. The Solution = LET IT BE.

ADAM PARFREY: You went to Poland for 30 Door Key after filming Rubin and Ed in Utah?

CRISPIN GLOVER: Went straight there, yes.

AP:Did you find any similarities between the Mormons and the Polish?

CG: [laughs] No. Mormons on the whole are, I must say, pretty nice. A smile is not a natural thing to do for a Pole; at any time tempers were ready to rise. Even the dogs had to wear muzzles, except the really small ones. They'd come at you, and if the y weren't muzzled, they'd bite. They're not like dogs here. It's a whole different thing over there. Maybe they weren't accustomed to runners. Whenever I'd be running and see a dog, I'd have to stop and get around it before I could pick up speed again.

AP:You've worked with Trent Harris [writer-director of Rubin and Ed] before ...

CG: Yes, on Orkly Kid. About a guy in Idaho who dresses up like Olivia Newton-John and wants to get into show businees. Ultimately, it's my favorite performance. Trent had already done a video version of it with Sean Penn playing the part, and he was really good in it. He couldn't do the film version, and I was nervous replacing him. But I'm really happy with it.

AP:I ran into a fellow I knew in high school who ended up playing George McFly in the Back to the Future sequels. And he mentioned that Robert Zemeckis, the director, and Bob Gale, the co-writer, hung him upside down in this elaborate torture device from the movie and insisted on calling him Crispin, as if they were torturing you by proxy. Even Spielberg came to the set and joked to the actor who was hanging upside down, "Well, Crispin, are you happy now that you got your million dollars?" Yo u sued them, and got an out-of-court settlement.

CG: Yes, I sued them for the use of my likeness. They put prosthetics on the actor playing George McFly - put a false nose on him, false cheekbones - had him do impressions of my voice, had him generally act like me. What we agreed to say about the set tlement is that "we're mutually satisfied." And so I'm satisfied.

AP: Apparently they are, too.

CG: [laughs] I guess they are, too.

AP: I'm glad everyone's happy in Hollywood.

CG: Me, too.

AP: What do you want people to know about you?

CG: I'm still trying to figure that out. But the truth is that not much of it is that fascinating.

AP: But some of the stuff you say that's interesting you don't want me to print.

CG: Right. Because it's mean.

AP: And you're a nice guy?

CG: Yeah. [laughs] There are certain things that could make me look real bad. I talked to my psychiatrist about this today. I told him that even if I say something I consider benign, other people may think there's something weird about it. What would people think if I said I found Nazi's interesting?

AP: Or that you live by the macrobiotic code ...

CG: Actually, I don't want people to know that I eat macrobiotically. It's embarrassing. It makes me sound religious, like a cultist.

AP: On your first appearance on Letterman, , you came on like this nervous character, did some karate kicks near Letterman's face and he walked off the show. Most people thought you'd really lost it, very few realized that you were doing an ac t.

CG: It's interesting how people reacted to it.

AP: I guess it made people uncomfortable.

CG: Discomfort is a very good thing. I like that aesthetic.

AP: Some people don't know how to take your performances. They seem at once comic and pathetic. Do you intend to make the audience squirm?

CG: That's a good question to answer. Or is it?

AP: There are those who "understand" and those who don't.

CG: Yes, but there are those who understand how to build a carburetor and those who don't. It's a tribal thing.

AP: Who's a part of your tribe?

CG: My friends share my sense of humor. I think humor delineates who your friends really are. I worked on Little Noises with Rik Mayall, and he described to me a theory of humor. With pack animals, if there's a sick one in the bunch, the others wiIl growl at it and try to get rid of it. This translates to the comedian onstage. There are two types of comedians. One who says, "Everybody laugh at that person," and the braver comedian who makes them laugh or growl at himself. It brings people togeth er. The audience laughs at this sick thing: they become a part of this clan or tribe. And that's where you get your friends: you share a certain humor about the sick and the foolish.

AP: Have you ever broken the law?

CG: Once with a friend we stole this Plexiglas case from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art sculpture garden, at night. It was fun, I must admit. And traffic laws.

AP: Have you ever had incest?

CG: That's a good question. That's a good question. That's the best question I've ever been asked in an interview. The best answer I could possibly give is "no comment." [laughs]

AP: You enjoy frequenting strip clubs.

CG: The ecdysiast's art, the appreciation of the female form, the prurient music handpicked by the dancers contribute to an atmosphere I truly enjoy.

AP: There's nothing around your apartment that seems new. It's all opulent, kind of strange, Victorian-era stuff.

CG: There are certain people attracted to past eras. It's a kind of seclusion, isn't it? It's not inviting today's world into your own world. I've been wondering about the kind of tendency one must have to be attracted to things past. People's environm ents truly reflect who they are.

AP: But you're undergoing psychoanalysis. Isn't that a modern phenomenon?

CG: Freudian analysis came along in the late 1800s, so it really fits in with my aesthetic preferences. I like classical Freudian psychoanalysis, but I really dislike the aesthetic of these New Age therapies. They just seem like bastardized forms of Fr eudian thought and, as Freud wrote in Civilization and Its Discontents, a need for religion. Although I don't know how Freud came up with some of his theories ...

AP: I can't imagine you joining an Esalen encounter group and doing touchy-feely sessions.

CG: I wouldn't fare well in that. I like the image of lying down on the couch and having a doctor write down your thoughts.

AP: Do you have groupies?

CG: There are people who come to my apartment and leave notes. I will admit that it's something I'm rather proud of ... people who can relate to things that are not of the ... norm? I can't quite put it right.

AP: Empathy for what you project?

CG: Yeah, I guess that's right. When I was growing up I went to this private school. Felt very comfortable there. Never felt "outside" there at all. Being an outsider interested me more on this artistic level than ... there's a lot of terms for It. "Su bversive," "underground," and, I've heard someone put it, "the little darkies" - you know, the people who dress all in black. I wish there was a better term for it.

AP:Morbidity?

CG: No, that's not right. There are people of this nature who are not into morbidity. Doesn't that sound gay? It's hard to say. Unusual? Not the norm? People who can see the absurdity of that which is considered the norm.

AP: Do you go to Hollywood parties much?

CG: Sometimes. [laughs] They can be interesting.

AP: Whose and why?

CG: I don't like to name names. Actors are an interesting breed, as is anyone who wants attention. I went to the premiere party for Truth or Dare at a big Hollywood nightclub - lots of actors and press, lots of hors d'oeuvres and music. I was up on this balcony looking down. I saw this girl dancing this mechanical, rhythmic, trying-to-be-sexy dance. I thought, Who's that girl, have I seen that girl? Was It Winona Ryd er? No. But later I realized it was another successful actress. She kept dancing and people started gathering around and so she danced a little harder for them, got in the sexual groove of it. A few more people started watching her and it spurred her on t o dance with a little more heat in her movements. I began to get a little uncomfortable that I was standing there looking down and I went to get some food, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a big crowd gathering on the dance floor. I thought, Has this girl really got this big a crowd? And I looked again and she was dancing harder, but the big crowd wasn't looking at her but at Madonna, who had taken the floor with her dancers. The other girl was dancing harder yet, still trying to get the people to ke ep watching her. But they kept leaving. When just a few remained, her movements slowed down, and then they left and she was was dancing by herself, and moved slower and slower, and then eventually she gave up and went over to watch Madonna. [laughs]

AP: That made a real impression on you.

CG: It's kind of what I see actors as being. Not just actors - performers, writers, directors. I must admit I found something embarrassing about it. I do find it embarrassing to be an actor. This feeling of ... what is it? Trying to get people to look at you. Do you think that girl might read this and know it would refer to her?

AP: I'm sure she'd want to phone you up and thank you. [Glover laughs.]