Interview Date: 03/13/2010
Run Date: 03/24/2010
Our first meeting with Crispin Glover is in the hotel ski shop, of all places. He had just finished skiing a nearby resort, so immediately our experience with Crispin Glover the man is in stark contrast to our preconceived notions of Crispin Glover the character. He skis? He’s not performing acupuncture on himself, or teaching animals how to talk? No, sir. The real Crispin Glover is as far removed from the David Letterman freakout as you can imagine (something he addresses here). His answers were thoughtfully considered and extremely thorough, so much so t that the man made nine questions last 20 minutes. Definitely a first for this interviewer.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that one of the writers that participated in this roundtable interview asked him about his lawsuit with the producers of “Back to the Future.” What followed was seven minutes of interview heaven. But be advised: “Hot Tub Time Machine” plot points are discussed in detail, so let this serve as your official SPOILER ALERT.
Writer: What was it like to go back to the ‘80s?
Crispin Glover: It was fun! I had a good time doing this film. Everyone was nice and funny and enjoyable to be around, and Steve Pink, the director, liked getting into the organic sense of what was going on. It feels like people like the film; there’s a good humor to it and the characters are likable, and it has a good payoff for all the characters. I’m glad to be in it.
Bullz-Eye: Do you find that, because you’re in one of the most iconic films from that era, do you get a lot of offers for movies like this that you don’t do because they don’t have the right sensibility?
Glover: No, well…since about the year 2000, I’ve been funding my own films that I tour around with. They’re self-distributed and self-financed, and I’ve been funding the films and enabled myself to take time in recouping in this fashion. I also perform a live show when I show these films – people can find out where I’m going to be and which film on crispinglover.com – but the way that I choose to do films is very different from how I had chosen to do films in the ‘80s and ‘90s, where I was very selective about things, but to a point where, in retrospect, it wasn’t really that good for my acting career. After “Back to the Future” came out, and it was so financially successful, I felt a certain responsibility to finding films that somehow psychologically reflected what my interests were. And the first film I did after “Back to the Future” was released was “River’s Edge,” which is still a film I’m proud of. I like that film a lot. But subsequent of that, a lot of films didn’t really reflect what my psychological interests were, and I didn’t necessarily make that much money, and that wasn’t necessarily good for my acting career.
But in 2000, the second film that I made was written by this fellow that had this severe case of cerebral palsy. Which is not a degenerative disease, but one of his lungs had collapsed. I really wanted to make this film. I put him into Part I (2005’s “What Is It?”) in order to make his film (2007’s “It is Fine, Everything Is Fine!”) a sequel. And I knew that the money I made from the first “Charlie’s Angels” film, I could put straight into making that film. And that’s exactly what happened. And then that “Charlie’s Angels” film ended up making a lot of money, and that was very good for my acting career, and I was able to use that money for a movie that I’m extremely proud of. But I had a good time acting on “Charlie’s Angels.” I liked the character, and what’s happened since that time period, in changing what kind of films to act in, in order to make these films I can fund on my own, it’s made it so I’ve been in higher-profile films, and the characters have been much more interesting. So it’s been better on both levels, both for my personal filmmaking and for my career as an actor. So for the most part, when the film comes to me, as long as it is in my quote range, and I feel like I can do it – there are some parts that I feel like I just can’t make it work – but if I feel like I can make it work on some level, then I’ll do it. Sometimes I can make it work better than other times, but if I feel like the attempt is worthwhile, then I’ll do it. So it’s not like [there have been lots of offers I’ve turned down]…since the year 2000, most of the movies I’ve been offered, I’ve done. There are some I’ve turned down, but most I’ve accepted, and am glad to have done them.
Writer: When you first read the script for “Hot Tub,” obviously the film is a big homage to ‘80s movies, and time travel movies. Did any of that concern you about taking the role?
Glover: No, I wasn’t concerned about it. It was evident to me that there was a lot of similarity in that there was a time travel element. And I was fine with that. Like I said, I was glad to be working. I’m glad to be funding my own films, and this was a really enjoyable group of people to work with. I was very glad to be doing this.
Writer: What do you remember doing most in the ‘80s, outside of film projects? As a trend?
Glover: Well, I was 16 in 1980, so those years were coming-of-age, and I was very serious about acting, and working in the industry, and forging an identity. That’s what I think of when I remember that time period. I was also making my books, that are part of my show now. I’d made most of those in the ‘80s and some in the very early ‘90s, and that same energy transitioned into making my own films. The ‘80s do have a particular element to me. And I think well of them, but it’s also that time period – maybe it’s not true for everybody, but I kind of think it is – when someone is in their 20s, there is something about forging your identity, figuring out what it is that you want to do. Sometimes people don’t figure that out until they’re in their 30s, but for me, that’s what that period was about.
Writer: There is this great gag in the film where we’re waiting to see when you lose your arm. Tell us a little bit about that gag, and working it out with Steve Pink.
Glover: Most of it was in [the original script]. There was one [bit] that didn’t feel satisfactory that had to do with a tire being changed. There was something about that didn’t play quite well, and because they were still working on the screenplay while we were working on the film, there was an openness to figuring certain things out. The elevator idea came into play, and that was a good one that was both playable and visually interesting. Everybody agreed that that would be a good thing, and the studio said that they would be able to build the set for it, so that worked out. And there was another scene that wasn’t in the original script, and when I first met with John Cusack and his co-producer, I did feel that there should be a payoff for his character at the end. When they return [from 1986], there wasn’t a scene of him with both arms, and I thought that was an important element that they ending up working in. Other than that, all of the other scenes were pretty much there, but there was an openness to letting things find themselves organically, which was good and I think you can feel that in the film.
Writer: How did you get involved [in the project]?
Glover: I got a message from my agents that they were interested in me for this part. I got the script, and read it, and met up with John Cusack and his co-producer, had lunch with them. I had met him a couple of times over the years, and had nice, complimentary hellos. We didn’t know each other very well, but there was something about the timing, that it had to be shot on this date, it already had a release slot. So it was all configured, and yet they knew that there were things they needed to fix in the script, so there was an open element about changing things. That happened on the first “Charlie’s Angels” film, as well. The second one, there wasn’t much openness, but things changed a lot, and strangely, in the first “Charlie’s Angels” film, I had more influence on that character than I have had in any other film. For some reason, the circumstances in the way things worked out, I had a lot of influence on how that character ended up looking, and being…that doesn’t usually happen. But on some level, there was something similar [to “Hot Tub”]; it was a studio film, yet there was an openness to it. This one had to do more with improvisational elements, whereas “Charlie’s Angels,” because there was a lot of choreography, you have to be very structured. And yet, there were things that happened that, I’m surprised they came through. I don’t know if you saw it, but the hair pulling, all of that. The fact that I didn’t speak in it, and originally I had lines. The way I looked in it…I don’t know, it was strange how much I came into play in that film. In this film, there is a little bit of that, but it’s different at the same time. But there was definitely an organic quality. And there was just a good feeling, by and large, with everybody. I’m sure you’re meeting with them all, nice people, good sense of humor, and it was a pleasant film to work on. I’m glad I’m in it.
Writer: What’s your take on the return of the hard-R comedies of the ‘80s?
Glover: I think nudity can be a good thing in films. Both of my films, “What Is It?” and “It Is Fine, Everything Is Fine!,” have a fair amount of nudity, and even graphic sexuality in them. But it’s probably handled in a different way than…neither of those films would be classified as comedies. So there is a different quality to the nudity and comedy – the hard ‘R,’ as you’re calling it – than there is in my films, but I don’t have anything against it. I think sometimes it can be handled better than other times, but in this film, it seemed like there was a good-hearted quality behind it.
Bullz-Eye: What project of yours didn’t get the love that you thought it deserved? (Note: this is one of fellow BE editor Will Harris’ standard questions, and it has produced a veritable gold mine of responses from various actors in his hands. In my hands, not so much.)
Glover: Uh, (pause) I never really think of it that way. I guess you could argue that something doesn’t get what it deserves, but I feel like it’s better to be interested in what you’re interested in at the time, and if it does get attention, fair enough. If it doesn’t get attention, fair enough as well. I don’t really like to compare things; it’s a great way to make yourself feel great or bad. You can always compare yourself to something or somebody that’s doing terribly or somebody or something that’s doing great, but neither of those things really matter. It’s more important if you’re really interested in what you’re doing. For me, making my own films, and everything that comes from that, and to be working in other people’s films, to make that work is great. I’m ever more grateful that I’m able to be doing that. So I don’t really think of that way, in terms of this ‘should’ happen.
Writer: Is there a bitterness at all on your part with the “Back to the Future” series, that you’re so recognized for that, and then what happened with the sequel, and them using your image and everything?
Glover: Yeah, it’s unfortunate that that happened with the sequels, and yes, that film is so recognizable and it’s so well thought of. I’m glad I’m in the first film, and yes, it’s unfortunate that happened in the second and third film. There is one thing in particular that I don’t like, and I’ve been talking about it a little bit, and that is on the DVD to the “Back to the Future” trilogy, Bob Gale, who’s one of the writers and executive producers, has said something that’s totally fabricated. I really don’t like that, and it makes me very upset by it. What he said is that I asked for twice the money that Michael J. Fox asked for. And I’ve seen people say, “Oh, I thought Crispin Glover was okay, and then I heard he did that.” I didn’t do that. It has nothing to do with reality. Michael J. Fox made $2 million, I believe, on the sequel, which means that I would have had to ask for $4 million. I didn’t do that!
But the fabrication is…I’ve been kind of analyzing it…what they did in the sequels, and particularly “Part II,”—and that’s what my lawsuit was about – if that was done now, it’s highly illegal. And the way propaganda works, you hear the phrase, “the bigger the lie, the more people believe it.” Basically, what was done was to obfuscate the fact that they had done something extremely wrong by taking another actor and putting him into false nose, chin and cheekbones in order to fool people into believing that I was in the film. They don’t really address that on the DVD. Bob Gale specifically…Robert Zemeckis doesn’t do that, and I’ve worked with him since and I appreciate that. I had a good experience with him on “Beowulf,” and ultimately I had a good experience with him on “Back to the Future.” But this very specific lie that Bob Gale told on the DVD was specifically to not address that what they did was totally immoral and illegal, and just wrong. Rather than addressing what they had done, I felt like they thought it was better to make up this thing to make it sound like I had done something really wrong. I didn’t do something wrong, except that we didn’t come to an agreement financially, because…
I’ve been careful about talking about it because it is complicated; there are a lot of elements about it. But in negotiations for the second film, they offered me, to return to the film, less than half than any of the other actors that were being asked to come back: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson. But I was offered…they had all done studio films, and they had made a lot of money. The film I had made between “Back to the Future Part I” and “Part II” was “River’s Edge,” and I did that for scale. So they seemed to argue that it’s okay to offer me far less than any of the other actors that were coming back because I had done this independent art film – which I really like, I’m still very proud of it – but I was being penalized.
And then there was another aspect to it, that I thought about, which is that…and I’m careful about it, because the David Letterman thing, which, when I talk about it is I say I cannot confirm or deny that I had been on the David Letterman show. But it should be noted that that happened before the negotiations for the sequel to “Back to the Future” were going about. So it seemed to me that there was an aggressive quality toward the negotiations. It was not fair, it was not a normal negotiation. And in fact, what normally happens is they’ll make an offer, you’ll make a counter-offer, and then you’ll meet in the middle, or something approximate to that. In this situation, they made an offer, and I didn’t even make a counter-offer. I just said, “That’s too low.” At which point they came back at a lower offer. To me at this point, what was apparent was that they did not want me to be in the film. And I mentioned this David Letterman thing; I’m sure there can be other reasons as well, but it was very apparent to me when we were doing the negotiations that I was not wanted or, if I was going to do it, that it was essentially a punishment that I was going to have to take less than half what everybody else was going to take in order to make the film. It just didn’t seem fair on any level.
And then this thing that they did, which was extremely illegal at this point in time, I mean, how can you calculate anything from that but an aggressive, mean-spirited element, coupled with the comments that Bob Gale made on the DVD? There is something, I’m sure you can understand, irritating about that. And I’ve been careful not to talk about it, but at a certain point, I don’t have the platform that the DVD of “Back to the Future” has, and I feel as though I can be totally quiet about it, and let people think I’ve done this wrong thing, or tell the truth of what I think has happened. I’ve talked about it very little, but I’m starting to talk about it because it’s been 25 years, and I’ve also noticed that Bob Gale didn’t do this just on the DVDs, but he’s been going on radio shows. I don’t know why…It was at this point that the MGM reps, who began circling in the background roughly three minutes earlier, informed us that Crispin had to move on to his next interview.