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RICHARD: Your debut film, What Is It?,
is generating great controversy. Several film critics were extremely disturbed
by it. One reviewer claimed there was a character dressed in a Nazi uniform.
CRISPIN: Descriptions of the film have been wrong, and reviews inaccurate.
Nobody is dressed as a Nazi. What I consider odd is that there are so
many subjects that are not generally dealt with in popular media. There
are not many films like What Is It? I’m proud of it.
RICHARD: Was it difficult getting the project off the ground?
CRISPIN: The film was shot in approximately twelve days. I’ve been
working on it for the past nine and a half years. It’s the first
in a trilogy. Originally the film was going to be a short to promote a
screenplay that had similar concepts. David Lynch wanted to executive-produce
that screenplay. The corporation I went to for financing was uncomfortable
having a majority of the characters played by actors with Down’s
RICHARD: Why was it important for you to cast people with Down’s
CRISPIN: When I look at the face of someone with Down’s syndrome
I see a history written of someone who has lived outside the culture.
When most of the characters are cast with actors with Down’s syndrome
it makes a world that feels outside of the culture.
RICHARD: Audiences may feel that addressing disability is taboo.
CRISPIN: I do not treat the members
of the cast with Down’s syndrome the way they’re usually treated
by most media. They are treated like any other actor. Perhaps that’s
taboo. Someone in the press claimed that kids with Down’s syndrome
have sex in this film. No one has sex in this film. There are two people
with Down’s syndrome that were boyfriend and girlfriend that kiss
passionately. They were not children.
RICHARD: Have you had any response from people who have disabilities?
CRISPIN: When I screened What Is It? in Austin this past February, a couple
with Down’s syndrome came up afterwards and told me they related
to the couple in the film. The couple in Austin have been together for
RICHARD: I saw a lot of parallels between What Is It? and Werner
Herzog’s 1970 film, Even Dwarves Started Small.
CRISPIN: Yes. Herzog’s film is influential. The entire cast of his
film were short people that were not particularly nice to each other.
When I was conceptualizing about the short film to promote casting a majority
of actors with Down’s syndrome I reflected on his film. I admire
Werner Herzog very much.
RICHARD: Has he seen your film?
CRISPIN: He came to the screening at Sundance. I had shown him a rough
cut a long time ago. I asked him questions on the commentary for the DVDs
of Even Dwarfs Started Small and Fata Morgana. At Sundance, he said it
was the best improvement between a rough cut and a final print he had
seen. He has been truly supportive and I appreciate it.
RICHARD: How would you describe your character in the film?
CRISPIN: My character’s name is “dueling demigod auteur and
the young man’s inner psyche”. The film is a simple mythic
structure. “Being the adventures of a young man whose principle
interests are snails, salt, a pipe and how to get home, as tormented by
an hubristic, racist, inner psyche.
RICHARD: You subjected snails to a gruesome death-by-table-salting.
CRISPIN: I received a letter from an animal rights organization. I don’t
like pointlessly hurting animals, Yet, I knew there would be a certain
visceral experience for the audience and that is worth that.
RICHARD: Not only have you maintained creative control of every
aspect of this film, but you are also distributing it yourself. That must
CRISPIN: Yes, I have been traveling to cities showing the film. I present
it after I perform a slide show of my books. I made the film for theatrical
projection. I definitely won’t release it on DVD in the next few
years. It would be helpful if there was public funding for media that
is more conceptual and sits in the realm beyond good and evil.
RICHARD: There certainly isn’t any support from the film
CRISPIN: There really are almost no films funded by corporate entities
that genuinely question things right now. The current media climate encourages
people to feel good about how things are and it will not promote thought
that sits within the realm that could be considered beyond good and evil.
If nobody counters the generally accepted cultural norm, there is no dialogue.
That’s doom for a culture.
RICHARD: Experimental filmmakers have always reacted to the cultural
conditions that disturb them.
CRISPIN: Luis Buñuel made L’Age d’or in 1930 in reaction
to restrictive morality of the time. It definitely sits in the realm that
is beyond good and evil. It ultimately makes fun of Jesus. Now people
look back at it and say, “How quaint! Why would anybody be offended?”
But you weren’t supposed to do that in1930 Catholic Europe. Buñuel
started dialogue. This culture’s media likes to talk about the corruption
of, say, dictatorship, that controls media through military power. But
this culture’s media has difficulty pointing out its own corruption
wherein the media is ultimately controlled by corporate interest.
RICHARD: Soldiers don’t enforce governmental censorship,
but corporations that control the money determine what you can and can’t
CRISPIN: It is unlikely you will be hit with a bat, but nobody will fund
your movie if it causes genuine discomfort. Supposedly censorship does
not exist in this culture. But media corporations will not fund material
that contains dissent. Whoever funds the film ultimately controls the
project. The film industry largely consists of corporations producing
films that conform to certain standards.
RICHARD: They choose an existing box office hit and use it as
CRISPIN: What Is It? is a reaction to the existing film culture. The amount
of propaganda that exists in the media makes it difficult for the population
to understand that there are other ways of thinking.
RICHARD: Do you think there are some directors working within
the film industry who succeed in making movies that pose questions and
counter the status quo?
CRISPIN: Extremely rarely, especially if it funded by corporate interests.
I’m all for movies making money. I’m definitely not against
commercialism. I have great admiration for both Stanley Kubrick and the
film director, Tod Browning.
They both worked within the studio system. At first Kubrick financed his
films and they made money. Studios were interested. He indicated he would
make films his way, or he wouldn’t do it with them. Kubrick utilized
corporate interest to his advantage in a movie like 2001 that also appealed
to what was called “the counterculture” at the time. Corporations
could point to “ the counterculture” and say they would fund
movies for them. There are all kinds of major blockbuster filmmakers today
who lose money on their theatrical releases. Every single movie Kubrick
made earned a lot of money in its theatrical release, and that’s
extremely unusual. Tod Browning is also interesting. He directed a series
of highly profitable movies featuring Lon Chaney, who was the biggest
name in the silent era. With his success, Browning was able to have MGM
fund Freaks. That is a remarkable piece of work.
RICHARD: Freaks is set in a traveling circus. It came out in 1932,
but it is still shocking. How old were you when you first saw it?
CRISPIN: I was eight. It’s a beautiful story. The film is true to
the power of the unusual, and the terror for those who are not sensitive
RICHARD: While producing your personal projects, you’ve
played roles in a number of big-budget, commercial studio movies such
as Charlie’s Angels and Willard.
CRISPIN: When I’m working on films like that, I do it whole-heartedly.
I utilized the money from Charlie’s Angels to fund the sequel to
What is it? It is called EVERYTHING IS FINE! It was written by Steve Stewart.
He had cerebral palsy, is in What is it? and is the main actor in the
sequel which is currently being edited. It will probably be the best film
I’ll ever have anything to do with in my career.
RICHARD: You’re one of the few people to successfully sue
Steven Spielberg. After you declined to appear as George McFly in the
sequel to Back to the Future, Spielberg hired an actor and put him in
prosthetics to make him look like you.
CRISPIN: It was designed to fool audiences in to believing it was me.
As a result of the lawsuit, the Screen Actor’s Guild instated rules
preventing producers from doing that.
RICHARD: Your father, Bruce Glover, is an actor. He played the
classic James Bond villain, Mr. Wint, in Diamonds Are Forever. What was
it like growing up in a Hollywood family?
CRISPIN: I was born in New York City. My parents moved to Los Angeles
when I was five. I went to a school for children with high IQs. The further
away that gets, the more I realize it was an unusual way to grow up. There
were two hundred students in the school It was insular. I was in a class
with approximately the same twenty people the whole way through.
RICHARD: You seem attracted to more eccentric roles, like Willard,
Layne in River’s Edge, and Andy Warhol in The Doors.
CRISPIN: I met Andy Warhol at Madonna and Sean Penn’s wedding in
1985, and he was nice to me. I watched him and studied how he moved, because
I thought he would be an interesting person to play one day. When I heard
that there was a Warhol role in Oliver Stone’s The Doors, I pursued
it. I’m glad I got to do it.
RICHARD: Andy Warhol was an expert at handling the press.
CRISPIN: He understood certain things that journalists would not know
how to properly deal with and he made his responses an art itself. I admire
that about him.