YOUR CAREER HAS MIXED HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTERS WITH SOME IDIOSYNCRATIC SMALLER FILMS. HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO DO? The first time I used discretion about choosing films was not till after Back to the Future came out in 1985. After that film came out and had made so much money I felt a certain obligation towards finding films that somehow reflected what my own psychological interests were. The first film I acted in after that was River's Edge.
I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the films that I act in and look at acting as a craft helping other filmmakers to accomplish what they want to do. Usually, filmmakers have hired me because there is something they felt would be interesting to accomplish with me in their film, and I can try to do something interesting as an actor. If for some reason the director is not interested in doing something that I personally find interesting with the character then I can console myself that the money I am making to be in their production can help fund my own films that I am truly passionate about. Usually, I feel as though I am able to get something across as an actor that I feel good about.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "BIG SLIDE SHOW" PERFORMANCE? For "Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show," I perform a one-hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. The books are taken from old books from the 1800's that have been changed to different books from what they originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings, reworked images, and photographs.
When I first started publishing the books in 1988, people said I should have book readings. But the way the illustrations are used within the books help tell the story, so the only way for the books to make sense was to have visual representations of the images. This is why I knew a slide show was necessary. The illustrations from the books are projected behind me as I perform the show.
The fact that I tour with the film helps the distribution element. I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of vaudeville performers.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS IN CREATINGWHAT IS IT? The film started production as a short film in 1996. It took 9.5 years from the first day of shooting on the short film to having a 35 mm print of the feature film. I wrote it as a short film originally to promote the viability of having a majority of the characters that do not necessarily have Down's Syndrome be played by actors with Down's Syndrome.
I am very careful to make clear that What Is It? is not a film about Down's Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last twenty to thirty 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 their self, "Is this right what I am watching? Is this wrong what? 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 from 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 when questions are not being asked because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. So What Is It? is a direct reaction to the contents of this culture's media.
, Crispin Glover, Brattle Theatre, Big Slide Show