Crispin Glover: Hollywood’s Favorite Eccentric

Crispin GloverWhile he’s rarely been cast as a leading man throughout his career, the somewhat odd and off-the-wall thespian known as Crispin Glover is proof positive that there’s no such thing as a small part. Additionally, the talented actor refreshingly makes it known that it’s possible to carve one’s own path in Hollywood without necessarily having to tow the line of the status quo (even though, it’s admittedly not a feat that’s commonplace). Many people may recall Glover first bursting into their consciousness as Michael J. Fox’s (initially) spineless father, George McFly, in the blockbuster hit Back To The Future, and for good reason. Complete with his unique and lilting voice, Glover almost steals the classic time-travel comedy as a frail man pestered by the town bully. After all, who hasn’t uttered the classic line, “Hey you! Get your damn hands off her!” more than a few times? (Incidentally, Glover single-handedly changed Screen Actors Guild laws when he sued producers for illegally using his likeness in the sequel and won). However, Glover has plenty of great roles on his resume and he needs to receive his due credit.

Probably almost no one will remember it, but Crispin made his big-screen debut in the somewhat tawdry My Tutor. It was a small part as one of the friends to Matt Lattanzi’s character, a young man who carries on a sexual relationship with his French tutor. It may not be the greatest film ever made, but they definitely don’t make sex comedies like this anymore. From there, Glover was lucky enough to be one of Jason Voorhees’ victims as loveless loser Jimmy Mortimer in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. After that, it was time for the aforementioned Back to the Future turn that put him on the map. It was then that his career really began to take off, and he landed one of his most famous and notorious roles in the tremendous River’s Edge. As the troubled and misguided Layne, Glover served as the tyrannical ringleader of a group of teens conspiring to keep the murder of one of their “friends” by another member of their clique a secret. It’s an absorbing and effective portrayal of lost and disaffected youth and Glover’s performance is exemplary.

It was during this time that Crispin began to earn a reputation as a bit of a strange character. That notion was probably forever cemented by an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman while doing promotion for River’s Edge. Glover looked to be completely off the rails in a wig and platform shoes while challenging Mr. Letterman to an arm-wrestling match and delivering a karate kick inches from his face. Unbeknownst to Letterman and his crew (and most likely the rest of the world at the time), Glover was really just doing an Andy Kaufman-esque shtick as a character he played in the very unpopular Rubin & Ed. However, there’s no such thing as bad press and it sealed Glover as an actor to keep an eye on.

Next, Crispin kept the bizarre train rolling with a minor but amazing performance as Laura Dern’s cousin Dell in director David Lynch’s immensely undervalued Wild At Heart. If there was anyone out there who didn’t believe Glover was an artist willing to take unconventional chances, there’s no way their opinion didn’t change once they saw him portrayed as a man who enjoyed having cockroaches in his underwear. Then came a string of fun supporting parts for the actor in solid films, including a turn as equally offbeat artist Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone’s take on The Doors, playing alongside Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and mixing it up with Woody Harrelson in Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt.

More mainstream attention came to Glover in 2000 for his role as the creepy Thin Man in the big-screen action adaptation of the popular ‘70s TV show, Charlie’s Angels. Lending more credence to Crispin’s brilliance, he convinced producers to drop all his dialogue from the film in order to make him appear more sinister. Regardless of how anyone feels about the film, it’s difficult to argue that he wasn’t right.

In fact, even in movies that are less than good, Glover often proves to be the best thing about them. The putrid Fast Sofa still sees the man offer a convincing co-starring performance as a distraught bird expert. Furthermore, it’s impossible not to chuckle (in a good way) at Glover during his interpretation of Montag the Magnificent in the disappointing re-imagining of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ cult classic The Wizard of Gore.

2003 landed Crispin a rare starring role in another horror remake, as he took on the lead in Willard, as the tortured soul who finds that his only friends are rats and that he can communicate with them. When things get bad, Willard uses his furry friends to exact his revenge. All of this is really only worth mentioning because of the music video Glover made for the film. Doing his own version of Michael Jackson’s song, Ben, our protagonist proceeds to serenade a rat… It has to be seen to be believed, and it’s impossible not to enjoy.

More recently, in 2005 Glover added director to his credentials with a film ten years in the making with What Is It? The effort, shot entirely with actors who have Down syndrome is a daring venture to state the least. While some may see this as controversial, one has to admire his moxie (even though this reviewer has never seen the film). What Is It? is actually the first entry in a supposed trilogy from Glover. The second project, It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! was completed in 2007 and was a loose retelling of the psycho-sexual life of the movie’s author Steven C. Stewart who was born with cerebral palsy (Incidentally, it also co-stars Crispin’s father Bruce). It’s believed that the final installment, It Is Mine is in the works. On the acting front, Glover can most recently be seen in Tim Burton’s 3D adaptation of Alice in Wonderland as Stayne, the Knave of Hearts, and in the comedy hit Hot Tub Time Machine. All this, of course, serves the idea that there’s plenty of room in Hollywood for talent who live life a little left of center.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    I saw Glover, his “Big Slide Show,” and the uber-bizarre “It is Fine. Everything Is Fine!” when he visited the Charles Theater in Baltimore recently. He seems to really enjoy talking to the audience and he didn’t shortchange fans for conversation if they waited in line to get something autographed (I bought his three books, he signed them all, and was eager to talk about if I liked his movie, why, and so on.)–so, adventurous fans of Glover should run, not walk, to his gigs anytime he’s nearby. Visit his official site to keep tabs on him! Looks like he’s coming to New York in May.