American actor, director and writer Crispin Hellion
Glover, the headline act at next month's Dunedin Fringe
Festival, prefers to use his roles in Hollywood blockbusters
as a launching pad for more experimental films, writes Shane
Over the years, Crispin Hellion Glover has played some
interesting characters, from George McFly in Back to the
Future and Thin Man in Charlie's Angels to a monster
(Grendal) in Beowulf.
Yet none of those films come close to being as strange as his
own efforts as an auteur.
Take Glover's first release as a director, WHAT IS IT?
(2005), which features a cast largely comprised of actors
with Down's Syndrome, even though the film is not about
Down's Syndrome. Rather it is about, ''the adventures of a
young man whose principal interests are snails, salt, a pipe
and how to get home as tormented by an hubristic racist inner
Glover is bringing WHAT IS IT? and its 2007 sequel, It Is
Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE, to the Dunedin Fringe Festival next
month (March 16-17) as well as the Incredibly Strange Film
Festival in Auckland soon after.
The films are only one part of the Fringe package; they will
be preceded by the ''Big Slide Show'', a concept Glover has
been taking to audiences around the globe since 1992.
''The live aspects of the shows are not to be
underestimated,'' Glover explains earlier this week via
answers to a series of emailed questions.
For his ''Big Slide Show'', Glover will perform a one-hour
dramatic narration of eight different books he has published.
''The books are taken from older books from the 1800s. They
have been changed into different books from what they
originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original
drawings and reworked images and photographs.
''I started making my books in 1983 for my own enjoyment
without the concept of publishing them. I had always written
and drawn and the books came as an accidental outgrowth of
''Sometimes people see thematic correlations between the
content of my books and the content of the films.
''I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of
vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was the main form of
entertainment for most of the history of the United States.
It has only relatively recently stopped being the main source
of entertainment, but that does not mean this live element
mixed with other media is no longer viable.''
Glover takes no small element of pride in the fact he goes to
great lengths (sometimes many hours) to answer questions from
audience members in regards both his slide shows and his
''It is enjoyable to travel and visit places, to meet people,
perform the shows and have an interaction with the audiences
and discussions about the films afterwards. The forum after
the show is also not to be under-estimated as it is a very
important part of the show for the audience.
''In this economy it seems like touring with the live show
and showing the films with a book signing is a good basic
safety net for recouping the money I have invested in the
As a teenager in Los Angeles, Glover took whatever work he
could, ''including TV commercials''; at the age of 20, he
landed a role in the 1985 Michael J. Fox blockbuster Back to
the Future, which led to a leading role in River's Edge the
following year and, in 2000, the first Charlie's Angels
movie. About that time he began to finance his own films with
the proceeds of his successful work.
''After Back to the Future came out and was such a commercial
success, I felt a certain obligation towards finding material
that somehow reflected my psychological interests.''
Glover acknowledges that his more experimental sojourns would
probably not have made it to the big screen had he not been
involved in such mainstream movies. He also says it has been
a delicate balancing act juggling commercial success with
''Charlie's Angels did very well financially and was good for
my acting career. I started getting better roles that also
paid better and I could continue using that money to finance
my films that I am so truly passionate about.
''I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the
films that I act in and look at acting as a craft that I am
helping other film-makers to accomplish what it is that they
want to do.
''Usually, film-makers have hired me because there is
something they have felt would be interesting to accomplish
with using me in their film and usually I can try to do
something interesting as an actor,'' Glover explains.
''If, for some reason, the director is not truly interested
in doing something with the character that I personally find
interesting, then I can console myself that the money I am
making can help to fund my own films, ones that I am so truly
passionate about. Usually, however, I feel as though I am
able to get something across as an actor that I feel good
about. It has worked out well.
''Unfortunately, I see the corporately-funded-and-distributed
film industry currently as having a hugely propagandising
effect on the US population at large ... The key thing to
understand about what happens in corporately-funded
film-making is that it is not dictated by what the audience
wants but what corporate entities want the audience to see.''
See him, hear him
Crispin Hellion Glover brings his ''Big Slide Show and
Films'' to the Dunedin Fringe Festival (Red Lecture Theatre,
Dunedin, 7pm, R18) on March 16-17.
There are two different slide shows performed each night
followed by a feature film. Glover presents his film It is
Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE on March 16 and WHAT IS IT? the