Crispin Glover, American Psycho?
By Nick Haramis
The poster for It Is Fine! Everything is Fine., left.
On the eve of Halloween, the West Village bustles with paper bag princesses and ironic Amy Winehouse doppelgï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ngers, while Crispin Glover, dressed in his trademark black suit, sits perched atop a stool in IFC‘s empty eatery. David Lynch‘s Eraserhead stares us down from an adjacent wall, and Glover’s latest film, It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. emanates from the speakers of a nearby laptop. All things considered, the scene is quite festive.
In town to promote his second film in what will be a trilogy, the star of the upcoming Beowulf beams with pride as he discusses It Is Fine!, a project he’s been working on for the past twelve years. It centers on Steven C. Stewart‘s Paul Baker’Stewart also wrote the screenplay’a man with crippling cerebral palsy (and a hair fetish), who fancies himself a homicidal Lothario. Not unlike Lars Von Trier‘s The Idiots, It Is Fine! straddles the gap between exploitation and prodding social commentary. The discomfort felt from watching the film is subsumed, however, by the reality that Stewart is behind each scene, each inaudible line, and each perversion.
Below, Glover reminisces about his turbulent past (Dave Letterman, anyone?), “handicap rights,” and the importance of full-on penetration.
BLACKBOOK: Why did this film resonate with you?
CRISPIN GLOVER: I liked that Steve wanted to be a bad guy. I thought that was really interesting, because’the word that he used was “handicapped,“ so I’ll use that word’he really didn’t like that the handicapped always had to be presented as perfect, nice people. I mean, he was a nice person, but his mind went to different places. He didn’t always have the happiest of thoughts, and I admired that. Also, I think of myself as somebody who struggles. It’s not always easy in this culture to get across what it is I’m interested in. So when I first read this thing, I could relate to his struggle. Before he died, I thought, “I won’t be that sad.” But when it happened, I was surprised by how sad I was and it was then I realized how much he’d affected my life.
Film still from It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., left.
BB: Was Stewart able to see the film before he died?
CG: No, we just finished now and Steve died in 2001. One sad day, I got a telephone call and he basically asked my permission to take himself off life support. He wanted to make sure that we had enough footage. And I know that if I had said “No, you can’t die,“ he would have gotten the operation that was needed and he would have stayed alive. His cerebral palsy was not degenerative but he was choking on his own saliva and one of his lungs had collapsed.
BB: Has this film been met with much resistance?
CG: What Is It? was a film that really explored taboo areas. These films are reactions to corporate entities who excise anything that could possibly make an audience uncomfortable. I think that’s a very damaging thing to the culture. It’s important for an audience member to sit back, look at the screen, and wonder, “Is this right, what I’m watching? Is it wrong? Should I be here?” What Is It? addresses a lot of specific taboo areas that you’re not supposed to go into. If people want to attack that film, that’s fine, and there has been a certain amount of attack. With this film, all attacks are wrong. This is this guy’s story. I shouldn’t say it’s wrong, because I understand graphic sexuality isn’t for everybody, but I’m very passionate about this particular film. It’s a very nuanced exploration into a certain kind of pathos. I really do feel like this will probably be the best film I will have had anything to do with in my career.
BB: Was it hard to justify adding the sex scenes?
CG: I didn’t add those scenes. In fact, I even subtracted scenes that were written by Steve. He was very specific about two things in his screenplay: the description of hair and the graphic sex. Every sex scene in the film was described extremely graphically. I didn’t have a problem morally or conceptually with that, but I did have concerns about the actuality of getting good actresses who were comfortable with those scenes.
BB: Was that difficult?
CG: No, because I knew I would be able to get at least one actress who was comfortable with it. I would have felt wrong about not showing any graphic sexuality because part of what’s interesting about the film is the documentation of this man going through this experience’actually, it’s happening right now. [Points to a laptop at the other end of the bar, playing the sex scene.] Listen, this is the climax. Wait, this is it! That’s it, right there! [Returns to the conversation, composed.] If he hadn’t gone through that experience and written about it, the film would not be as potent as it is, because it would not be a true documentation of his fantasies.
Film still from It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., above.
BB: There’s Steven the writer, and then there’s his character Paul Baker, but listening to you talk about the film, I get the impression that you’re conflating the two.
CG: There’s a melding, yeah. That’s part of what’s interesting. This is a documentation of Steven C. Stewart enacting a fantasy. Paul Baker is in some part of Steve’s mind. One of the last titles of the film explains that on his deathbed Steve willed his portion of the proceeds to one of the actresses with whom he had fallen in love. That really happened. If another actor with cerebral palsy had been cast, this wouldn’t have worked. That’s why it’s not a film about cerebral palsy, but rather a man with a hair fetish.
BB: I can understand wanting to make his character seem flawed and human, but was it necessary to make him downright evil?
CG: Early on, David [Brothers, the film’s co-director] asked Steve, “Do you really want to be this bad guy?” And he said, “Why can’t I be a bad guy?” To him, it was a handicap right that wasn’t being explored.
BB: Are you satisfied by your mainstream work?
CG: I do get satisfaction from it, particularly since funding this film with the money I made from the first Charlie’s Angels. It’s a great calling card for me, and I am, after all, making my living as an actor. What’s that classic thing? Don’t quit your day job. With Beowulf, for example’there’s the poster of Angelina Jolie right there, across the street’I was able to purchase property in the Czech Republic with horse stables next to a chateau. I’m turning the horse stables into a sound stage to continue making my own movies, and this is not an inexpensive venture. So, I got paid well for Beowulf, and as a bonus, I get to play Grendel in the oldest existing piece of English-language epic poetry. BB: Do you play up your eccentricities for interviews?
CG: I first did publicity for River’s Edge in 1986, at the height of the “Brat Pack,” and I felt like that label was a trap. My original concept was never to do any publicity for anything at all. But then River’s Edge came around, and it became apparent that I should help promote the film. My apartment at the time was painted black, and the living room had an art installation look, and I knew that by inviting people into the house I would distinguish myself from all of them.
I play certain kinds of roles, and I’ve done things that continue to circulate on YouTube, like my appearance on David Letterman. But it’s not like I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote, “I’m going to cultivate an eccentric image of myself.” There are a lot of inaccuracies in the press about me. Yes, I’m absolutely passionate about things that are unusual and cause thought. I wear a suit and a tie and I speak straightforwardly, but that doesn’t mean the art itself won’t get into unusual territory. By and large, when it’s emanating from me, it probably will.
For more information on Crispin Glover and It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., visit www.CrispinGlover.com.