Crispin Glover


Crispin Glover enters his black room at Blake’s Hotel with two new purchases he’s bought from a taxidermist’s shop in the Portobello Road.

One is a miniature freak dog, stuffed of course. The other is a human foetus, pickled in a glass cube. It’s horrible.
“Weird, isn’t it ?” he grins. “I got them for $300, not bad for an entire human being, right ? They’ll go real well with my diseased eye collection.”

Glover is thin, baby-faced and seriously strange-looking. His laugh is a cackle, an eccentric scatter-brained giggle. His haircut is a long, medieval creation, instantly giving him the appearance of a knight, or crusader.

Today, he is wearing a black zoot-suit and a long green leather trenchcoat which he will not take off and a big pair of scruffy brown boots. He has a long, pointed nose, a high squeaky voice, and a manic gleam in his dazzling saucer-sized blue eyes. He seems to be excited by, or in awe of, almost everything that happens. He always seems to be twitching as he answers questions repeatedly with an excitable “Yeah, yeah, sure, fine, right yeah, sure.” Catweazle is the only comparison I could make. He is 22. He is the most extraordinary person I have met for a long time.

Crispin Glover’s last two roles could not have been more different: the first was as Michael J. Fox’s innocent and endearing father (past and present) in ‘Back To The Future’, and now he appears in ‘River’s Edge’, a bleak, disturbing portrayal of American nihilism as Layne, a young pill-popping psycho.

His full name is Crispin Hellion Glover, “an unusual name yes, especially in the States.”
His father, Bruce H Glover, is an actor and painter (most-seen as one of the homosexual murderers in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’) and his mother was an actress and dancer, though surprisingly he says “I didn’t think about becoming an actor until I was 12 or 13. I had no idols, no, although my parents both being actors obviously was an influence.”

He was brought up in Los Angeles, where he still lives.
“My apartment is painted black, that’s why I asked for this room. It’s soothing, black, yeah, definitely soothing.”

We start talking about ‘Back To The Future’.
“I’d already done nine films and I went up for a film called ‘The Legend of Billie Jean’ and didn’t get that, and the director said I should meet Spielberg, and he told Spielberg he should meet me. Then I met Robert Zamecus and read for the part three times, the last time in front of Spielberg, and got the role. It was rather simple, hahaha… It was very different from ‘River’s Edge’ which was a small budget ($1.7m) and shot in five weeks. ‘Back To The Future’ was six months with lots of re-casting and re-shooting. Of the two I prefer ‘River’s Edge’ style.”

His other films include one in which he plays a transvestite who dresses up as Olivia Newton-John, a film made by the American Film Institute, which he says is his own favourite. A part in ‘At Close Range’, later almost entirely edited out, changed his attitude towards his future films.

“Right. It was a good script and I thought my work in ‘At Close Range’ was good, so when it was edited that way, I thought a lot more carefully about what I wanted my next project to be. I chose ‘River’s Edge’ because of the quality of the script and the story. Also, being a smaller-budget film, I was more involved with the way the film would work. My preparation ? Well, I just read the script over and over, always thinking about it. That’s it really, not much improvisation. It’s mainly there in the script. I don’t turn into my character or anything. I didn’t feel crazy, no. That would be unhealthy, in fact you have to stay very clear. It’s very hard work. I’m not insane, hahaha.” He laughs – insanely.

So you didn’t take any amphetamines to see their effect, like Layne does ?
“No, no. I’ve never taken speed. That was all imagination. I haven’t taken any drugs. I’m glad you think it’s realistic, great, fine, good. You have to think about why the person is doing what he’s doing. That’s it. There’s always a point where you feel you know what’s in his mind. It could be the walk, yes, or anything like that. The speech patter helped a lot with Layne.”

Despite reviews that have hailed the film as a penetrating study of American amorality and the younger generation’s inarticulacy and the way television culture has desensitized them, Glover describes the film as “primarily a comedy. Definitely, a comedy, yeah.” (All those who see it as a ‘sick’ film should remember it’s a true story.)

“Well, it’s the story where a guy comes to school one day after he’s murdered his girlfriend and starts telling everybody about it. My character shows the body to all his friends, he wants to cover the murder up, out of a sort of loyalty. I think of it as a humorous film, truly. I think it’s funnier than ‘Back To The Future’. I find myself laughing a lot.”

I ask him about the aspect of ‘amorality’ and tell him American punk band Sonic Youth have said the film is “about exactly what America is.”

“A lot of people seem to read amorality into it. I wasn’t thinking about that when I read the script or making the film. I think it’s about people trying to work out what they’re feeling when something weird happens. If Sonic Youth think that, that’s good. If they think so, I think so too, hahaha. What’s good about the film is that it gives a lot of people different feelings. I think they’re all valid.”

Glover is particularly proud of being able to work with Dennis Hopper, who gives another brilliant performance as Feck, a more experienced psychopath who lives in a shack with a blow-up doll.
“It was a real honour to work with him. I would say he’s one of the nicest people I have ever met. Yeah.”

Any other questions – about politics, America, his own character – are diverted with talk of his interest in Art, particularly at the exhibition of his ‘adapted’ books and sculptured music-boxes at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions Centre.

He produces a small lump of tar-looking substance (a ready-made papier-mâché called cellu-clay) that has a rattlesnake’s tail stuck to it. He winds it up and the tail begins to move anti-clockwise to the tune of ‘Love Me Tender’. I cannot think of a single word to say to him about it.

He tells me he likes to read geology and science books. At present he is reading a book called ‘Basin and Range’ by John McVee.
“One of my favourite books. Have you read it ?”

He has his own book, ‘Concrete Inspections’, to be published by Literati Press next year, and is selling copies of a book called ‘Rat Catching’ which he has with him.

A truly extraordinary work, it is “the study of the art of rat-catching for the use of schools” which he has edited, re-written, ‘adapted’, adding strange diagrams, random words and disturbing Biblical-looking photographs. It is a very sinister tale about the art of rat-catching, like a very dark Kafka story or even ‘Diary of a Madman’. Glover has sent it to David Lynch, director of ‘Erasurehead’ and ‘Blue Velvet’ as a present, as it is definitely Lynch’s cup of tea.

He begins to recite some of it to me, in a disturbed, agitated manner.
“It was an ugly story. I’m glad to say the death of the sandpit man ended a miserable part of the children’s lives… Fancy yourself in this place. A lot of dark, crooked passages which you don’t know, only just wide enough to allow you to pass and to have to face a beast somewhat like yourself and as big that you know will attack you…”

“The ending,” Glover tells me, “is when you realise the narrator, the rat-catcher, is a little girl.”

When he laughs, the manic gleam in his eyes has never been never brighter.