Crispin Hellion Glover has been walking his own artistic path for years, combining mass-market acceptance - as the father and classmate of Michael J. Fox's character in "Back to the Future," or as the silent heavy in the two "Charlie's Angels" movies - with edgier, more idiosyncratic fare that tends to challenge his audience's sensibilities.
He'll be at the Charles Theatre tonight to present a movie he has produced, "It Is Fine. Everything is Fine," and an audiovisual program called "Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show." Next year, he'll return to the big screen as the Knave of Hearts in Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland."
We caught up with Glover recently as he was doing his morning run through New York's Central Park. In the course of a 20-minute discussion, he talked about what his audience can expect, where he finds his inspiration and source material, and how people regard him and his work.
It sounds like, with a show that lasts some 3 1/2 hours, you're really going to get the Crispin experience.
The evening will start with a one-hour dramatic narration of eight different books that I've made over the years. They're all books that I've taken from the 1800s and reworked, turned into different books from what they originally were. And they're heavily illustrated, [with] old photographs and illustrations that have been turned into different things from what they originally were. This is a book reading with extreme visual representation. I've been doing it since 1993, so the presentation, because I've done if for so long, has become more of a dramatic presentation.
These are 19th-century novels?
Not necessarily. The first book in the show is called "Concrete Inspection." That particular book, only the preface and the epilogue remains, everything else is from photographs that I found in a thrift store. The original book was not a novel at all, but was a book, as the title suggests, on how to inspect concrete. I'm sure it wasn't a particularly compelling thing to read.
What about the film?
It's a film I'm extremely proud of. It was written by Steven C. Stewart, who also is the main actor in the film. Steve had been born with a severe case of cerebral palsy, he was very difficult to understand. And when his mother died - he was in his early 20s, I believe - he was put into a nursing home. And the people who were taking care of him there would derisively call him an M.R., a mental retard, which is not a nice thing to say of anybody. But Steve was of normal intelligence, and he wanted to get out of this nursing home, but he couldn't. The emotional turmoil that he must have gone through ... I cannot even imagine.
But he did write this screenplay when he got out. I read the screenplay in 1987, and as soon I read it, I knew I would have to be the person who would produce this film.
He wrote it in the style of a 1970s TV murder-mystery movie of the week, where he was the bad guy. ... There's something about the dynamic of that kind of genre with the actual truths of his life. ... When I first read the screenplay, there was something that was being expressed that - it's very difficult for me to describe - and yet, when you see the film, it's crystal clear what it is.
What I'm most proud of is that it's in there, this sort of emotional cathartic element that happens. It's in the film, and that's something that could be lost if one isn't careful. But I'm pleased and relieved that it isn't.
There's a fascinating dichotomy in your public image. You're known as either one of the stars of "Back to the Future" or "Charlie's Angels," or from that David Letterman show where you seemed to almost kick his head off. Are you satisfied with that perception?
In day-to-day life, I get a lot of different kinds of recognition, for a lot of different things. I'm proud of all the various things that I have done. I feel good about how everything is going, particularly that I am able to make my own films and that I'm in a position to do all those things.
If you go Crispin Hellion Glover appears at 7:30 p.m. today at the Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St. Tickets are $20. Call 410-727-3456 or go to thecharles.com.