A chat with Hollywood iconoclast Crispin Glover turned into a breathless account of one man's admiration for his idol, German 'bad boy' auteur Werner Herzog.
Having just wrapped his tour of Australia, many of those who viewed his one-man show/screening sessions will be intrigued by the world-view of a certain Crispin Hellion Glover. To say that he is ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘eccentric’, even ‘slightly loopy’, is an understatement.
But he is also a passionate artist and advocate of free artistic expression, a standpoint that has not only put him occasionally offside with Hollywood power-players (he bailed on Back to the Future II over issues of ‘character integrity’ with Robert Zemeckis) but also seen him align himself with other unique talents in global cinema. One such influence was the great Werner Herzog (pictured, right).
Given the opportunity to interview Glover prior to his arrival in Perth for the first leg of his performance trip, I raised our shared passion for the films of Werner Herzog. Specifically, I posed the question “Herzog has said that ‘Dreams and nightmares do not follow the rules of political correctness. Is that also relevant to your films?” In particular, I commented upon the similarities his films What Is It? and It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE share with the German director’s Even Dwarfs Started Small.
It was as if Glover’s subconscious floodgates had been opened with this most innocuous of questions. In full, here is his response (the remainder of the interview can be read at SBS Film):
“I had toured with my Big Slide Show (a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books he has authored - Ed.) and a rough cut of the film. Norm Hill had organized my show in Seattle. I spoke with him about my interest in Herzog’s work. I had also met Herzog in 1990 at the Venice Film Festival because the publicist for the film he was there with was the same publicist for a Jersey Skolimowski film I had acted in that was only released in Poland and France (30 Door Key, aka Ferryduke, 1991 – Ed.) I had told the publicist how much I admired Herzog’s films and he arranged a dinner that was just me and Herzog and the publicist and a woman the publicist knew. Herzog was very easy to talk to and it was a great dinner. Years later Norm Hill was producing the DVD of Herzog’s films for Anchor Bay and he invited me to do a number of commentaries for the DVDs with himself and Herzog and I chose to do Fata Morgana and Even Dwarfs Started Small because those two had influence on What is it? in different ways. It is something I am very proud of in my career to have done. Years later in 2005, when I premiered What is it? at Sundance, coincidentally Herzog was premiering Grizzly Man and I went and saw his premiere and he came and saw What is it? and was incredibly supportive and has been very kind. I am very grateful to him for that. I am also very grateful to David Lynch who, years before I made What is it?, had agreed to executive produce It Is Mine (the as-yet-unproduced final film in Glover’s trilogies - Ed). This ended up leading to me making What is It? I have seen Herzog at various functions and at my house and even at the airport over the years and it always a great pleasure to speak with him and get tidbits of insight in to how he thinks about filmmaking.
As soon as I got my driver’s license when I was 16 in 1980 I attended screenings at revival theatres that were quite popular in LA before VHS competition cleared many of them away. Many of these revival theatres no longer exist such as, one of my favourites, the beautiful Fox Venice with a wide cinemascope screen on Lincoln Blvd. The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts. Films played such as Ken Russel’s The Devils, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown, Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Cassanova, John Cassavete’s A Woman Under the Influence, Orson Wells’ F is for Fake and Citizen Kane, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sunset Blvd, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, Todd Browning’s Freaks, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre Wrath of God, Even Dwarves Started Small and Fata Morgana. I was a regular attendee of David Lynch’s Eraserhead (pictured, above) at midnight on Fridays at the Nuart. I studied actors giving performances like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider, Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, Charles Laughton in The Hunchaback of Notre Dame Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Wise Blood, Peter Lorre in M Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh and Klaus Kinski in Aguirre Wrath of God. These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor.
By 1982, at age 18, I began to act in feature films. At this time I believed contemporary film’s main purpose was to question suspect things in our culture. I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages. Sometimes I have felt scorned and isolated; other times I felt accepted and admired. Then, at one point, in the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18".