Crispin Hellion Glover is known for his eccentric characterizations in mainstream films, most notably for roles such as George McFly in Back to the Future, Grendel in Beowulf and the titular character in Willard. Now he's touring the country with his original "Big Slide Show" book reading and What Is It?, his directorial debut, produced by David Lynch. What Is It? is a highly surrealist piece, featuring Glover himself as Dueling Demi-God Auteur and The Young Man's Inner Psyche, with a cast made up mostly of actors with Down syndrome (and Fairuza Balk voicing a snail). Glover and What Is It? come to the Plaza Theatre Aug. 29-30.
How have the first two films in your "It" trilogy – What Is It? and It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE – been received?
What Is It? was premiered at Sundance in 2005 and won best narrative film at the 2005 Ann Arbor Film Festival and it won the 2005 Sitges International Film Festival Midnight Extreme Award. It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE was premiered at Sundance in 2007 and won a special mention the 2007 Sitges International Film Festival for New Visions Award. ... I have happily welcomed and been somewhat surprised by the amount of positive press and reviews both the films have received in the corporate media entities that have written about and reviewed the films.
How was it rewriting the original What Is It? script and making it into a feature-length film? What is your process?
In 1996 I was approached by two young writers and aspiring filmmakers to act in a film they wanted to produce and direct. I found interesting things about the screenplay and was interested in the project, but I thought there were things that did not work. I came up with solutions that needed reworking of the screenplay and I told them I would be interested in acting in the film if I directed it. David Lynch then agreed to executive-produce the film for me to direct. This is when I wrote a short screenplay titled What Is It? We shot this short screenplay in four days. I edited that over a period of six months and the first edit came in at 84 minutes. The final feature length film of What Is it? is 72 minutes. 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.
The majority of the actors in the film have Down syndrome. How did you arrive at this unique casting decision?
I wrote it originally to promote the viability of having a majority of the characters that do not necessarily have Down syndrome to be played by actors with Down syndrome. I 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 last 20 to 30 years in film making. Specifically anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. It is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair, looks up at the screen and thinks, "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 that is taboo in the culture?" I would like for people to think for themselves.
How did you get started with your Big Slide Show?
When I first published [my book] Rat Catching in 1987 people said to me that I should have book readings. As I continued publishing it became apparent that this would be valuable but because the books are so visual, as I read them it would be necessary to have a visual reference. This is why I have the slides projected behind me. The audience then has the necessary visual reference that is necessary for these particular stories. I first performed the slide show at a film festival in 1993 at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Wash.
What can the audience expect Aug. 29 and 30?
I perform a one-hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. After the dramatic narration of the eight different books I will present the film What Is It?, which is 72 minutes. After the film I will have a Q&A, which generally lasts 45 minutes to an hour. During the Q&A I will show the preview for the sequel to What Is It?, entitled It Is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. This film has been completed and I will return to Atlanta with this film at a later date. After that I have a book signing in the lobby.
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