"BE SURE TO FOLLOW his guidelines carefully. I don't wish to sound patronizing, but I think he's the type of person that requires strict adherence to his rules." Such was the message I received from Tom Ranieri of Cinema 21 before being put in touch with Crispin Glover. No surprises there—Glover has made a career of following his own bizarre rules and asking others to play along. As for interviews, he insists on doing them like a short-answer exam: I send him an email full of questions, and then accept whatever he sends back to me.
Crispin Glover is known both for acting in big movies (Back to the Future, Charlie's Angels) and his role as one of Hollywood's eccentrics—his 30-year career often seems like an extended form of performance art. Most recently, Glover has taken to touring with two features he has directed, beginning each screening with his highly entertaining Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show ("a one-hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books," explains Cinema 21's website) and ending with an audience Q&A.
Like these Q&As, the email I eventually received from Glover is both illuminating and maddeningly vague. Glover goes far enough to describe his off-the-wall nightmare of a film What Is It? as a "psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in filmmaking"—which sorta says a lot without answering for much. (Why, for instance, is Shirley Temple naked in front of a swastika?)
When I ask Glover what artists he feels a kinship with, the list of provocateurs he gives me—Joe Coleman, Adam Parfey, Werner Herzog—leaves no doubt that audience frustration is hardwired into what he's doing. No, I don't know what to think of the fact that he directed It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., a psychosexual thriller written by and starring a man with severe cerebral palsy—but, as long as I find myself willing to play by Glover's rules, I'm pretty glad that he did.
For a transcript of the Mercury's email interview with Crispin Glover, go here.