Crispin Glover may be popularly known for playing inarticulate (or completely silent) characters, but he has a lot to say. He returns to Portland this week with his two movies, What Is It? (which stars actors with Down syndrome) and It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! (an autobiographical fantasy scripted by a writer with cerebral palsy). He also arrives loaded with Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show, a projection of chapters from the “profusely illustrated books” he reconstitutes from old volumes that have fallen out of copyright. When WW emailed Glover last week with a few questions, his responses were voluminous and spellbinding. We’ve published his full replies at wweek.com, but here are a couple thoughts from the outsider artist who moonlights as a blockbuster star.
WW: What have you learned about acting by directing actors with Down syndrome?
Glover: The actors with Down syndrome were all great to work with. Sometimes people ask me if the length of time it took for me to make What Is It? had to do with working with actors with Down syndrome.… What Is It? was shot in a total of 12 days which was spread over three years. Twelve days is a relatively short amount of shooting days for a feature film. The most important thing about working with an actor, whether they have Down syndrome or not, is if they have enthusiasm. Everyone I worked with on What Is It? had incredible enthusiasm, so they were all great to work with.
I think a lot of people are curious about what your films are saying. Is there a message, or are they simply an exploration of things you find interesting?
I am very careful to make it quite clear that What Is It? is not a film about Down syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the past 20 to 30 years in filmmaking. Specifically, anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. This is damaging to the culture, because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair, looks up at the screen and thinks to [him or herself], “Is this right, what I am watching? Is this wrong, what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?” And that is the title of the film. What is it that is taboo in the culture? What does it mean that taboo has been ubiquitously excised in this culture’s media? What does it mean to the culture when it does not properly process taboo in its media? It is a bad thing because when questions are not being asked, because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. For the culture to not be able to ask questions leads toward a noneducational experience, and that is what is happening in this culture. This stupefies this culture and that is, of course, a bad thing. So What Is It? is a direct reaction to the contents of this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
SEE HIM: Crispin Glover appears at Cinema 21 on Wednesday, Jan. 19 (with What Is It? and Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show Part 1), and Thursday, Jan. 20 (with It Is Fine. Everything is Fine and Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show Part 2).