5 Cool Moments From The What Is It? Q&A w/Crispin Hellion Glover
We were able to catch Crispin Hellion Glover, who many know as George McFly in Back to the Future, for both nights while he was in town with his Big Slide Show tour, showing his films What Is It? and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. The show includes a dramatic reading from Glover’s avant-garde books, a screening of the film, a lengthy Q&A session, and a meet and greet. During the Q&A (which lasted over an hour), the affably odd Glover verbosely responded to audience questions in a loosely focused manner, tossing out an abundance of information with an anti-corporation twist while somewhat addressing the proposed questions. The evening-long event can only truly be experienced via Glover’s touring show, but in case you’ve missed it, we’ve plucked the best bits to share with you for your reading pleasure.
NOTE: No recording devices of any kind were permitted during the evening’s performance. The information listed below is a summary of Glover’s responses accompanied by loose quotations and notes, which were made during the hour-long session.
According to David Lynch in Room to Dream, he believes he’s an executive producer on the film.
In response to an early audience question regarding the casting, Glover launched into a long-winded story about the film’s conception and what its intentions are before circling back to touch on the question. During his response, he name dropped David Lynch, stating “There was a different screenplay that had been written that David Lynch had agreed to executive produce for me to direct.” Glover indicated that Lynch was very helpful and that him agreeing to produce the short was a very kind thing for him to do.
The film that Lynch signed on for was actually a different project — a short film Glover was making to promote a feature, wherein a majority of the characters would be played by people with Down Syndrome. The hope with the short was to get funding for what would become What Is It?, but the corporation that Glover was working with eventually dropped out of the project.
Referencing the book Room to Dream, Glover mentioned that it seems as though Lynch believes that he’s executive produced What Is It? Some of the footage from the Lynch-produced short appears in What Is It? so that makes hime kind of the producer, but having the Lynch name directly attached could’ve given Glover’s self-distributed full length a definite boost.
Seeing the humor, Glover then stated, “Had I realized that he thought he was the executive producer on this film, I would have been advertising it since 2005.” He went on, “He really did do stuff that was good, and I’m grateful to have these mentor-type people that I admire be genuinely helpful to me.”
Back to the Future taught Glover to always read the script.
“I didn’t read the screenplay until after I was cast in [Back to the Future].” Glover told the crowd, indicating that around that time in the early 80s, Hollywood was very concerned about keeping productions under lock and key. After auditioning for the part, Glover, who was only in his 20s at the time, was offered the role of George McFly having only read just one scene. His agent urged him to take the part because of the dual role and the time traveling story, both of which were enough for young Glover to sign on.
This is something that Glover indicated he would never ever do that now. “If there’s anything I would call a mistake, it’s to not reading the screenplay.” Glover then told a story about John Hurt working with Spielberg (presumably on Crystal Skull). Hurt told Glover that they also didn’t want him to read the screenplay. After insisting to read it, the studio sent someone with the script who sat and watched Hurt as he read it, taking it back with them after he’d finished.
This seems like pretty standard Hollywood proceedings nowadays, but there’s definitely something about Spielberg that Glover isn’t saying, which he alluded to including in a forthcoming book. The only thing he mentioned to the crowd is that there’s something about Spielberg productions that aren’t particularly caring toward the actors, indicating that he got the feeling that they’re “expendable pawns, cattle, or what have you.”
Glover went on a double date with Herzog in Las Vegas.
In the film’s credits, Glover thanks Werner Herzog. An audience member asked what his contributions were, and Glover cited Herzog’s films Even Dwarves Started Small and Fata Morgana as influences. “I was thinking about films where all the people in them had a similar look or feel, and I immediately thought of Even Dwarves Started Small.” Glover was invited to record commentaries with Herzog for some Anchor Bay releases of his films, and afterwards, that’s where their connection started.
Later, Glover attended the release party for the Anchor Bay Herzog films in Las Vegas, where he went on a double date with Herzog to see Siegfried and Roy, which just sounds like the best time ever. “We got to go backstage because Herzog had grown up in a nearby village to Siegfried,” Glover said.
Glover invited Herzog to the premiere of What Is It?. “Herzog liked the film, and he was asking me questions about the use of the music,” Glover mused, still noticeably awestruck. Glover also mentioned Herzog being the inspiration for him self-producing his film, saying, “I remember him very seriously saying, ‘Always produce yourself.’ And he said it in such a way that it really impressed me.”
Glover’s father, Bruce Glover, wanted to be credited as a grave digger.
A number of graves needed to be dug for the film, notably for a cemetery scene towards the end in which a minstrel character played by Adam Parfrey is buried alive. Glover’s father, who is himself an actor — best known for his portrayal of the assassin Mr. Wint in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever — had worked a number of jobs growing up, and as Glover mentioned, one of which happened to be grave digging. “He told me, ‘I want a credit as a grave digger!’ And so I said, ‘Ok.’”
Glover thinks audience discomfort is funny.
At the end of the Q&A, Glover shared his favorite part of What Is It?, which involves a Johnny Rebel song. It may come as no surprise, but Glover finds audience discomfort hilarious.
“That’s actually my favorite part of the film. As my character is introduced Deus-ex-machina style with the long hair, the audience is kinda laughing. The jaunty music is playing and the dolls are laughing, and that’s often the high point of people being comfortable to laugh. Then the song with the offensive refrain plays at the same time that there’s graphic sexuality. In my experience, the audience goes completely silence, and the laughter never goes back up at that point because people are uncomfortable, which, to me, makes me laugh.”
That’s all we got! Did you you learn anything cool? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!