IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Crispin Glover Talks 'The Bag Man,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2,' 'Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass' and His Directorial Work

Thursday, 27 February 2014 17:37 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Crispin Glover Talks 'The Bag Man,' 'Hot Tub Time Machine 2,' 'Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass' and His Directorial Work

Crispin Glover is one on the most fascinating and misunderstood actors of his generation. 

The son of actor Bruce Glover (Diamonds Are Forever), he began his career at a young age appearing in such popular TV series as The Facts of Life, Happy Days, Hill Street Blues, and Family Ties, but his big break came when he played George McFly in Back to the Future. Since then, he has given riveting performances in a string of critically acclaimed and successful films like At Close Range, Wild at Heart, The Doors, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dead Man, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Charlie’s Angels, Willard, Beowulf, Alice in Wonderland, and Hot Tub Time Machine

However, Glover is also an accomplished director having helmed the first two films of his It? trilogy, What Is It?, and It is Fine. Everything is Fine! But for better or worse, the actor may still be best known for his infamous and mysterious appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. Glover appeared on the show as his character from the film Rubin and Ed, which had not yet been released at that time, and attempted to karate-kick the talk show host. All that aside, Glover is a fascinating artist who’s career has spanned over thirty-years and now returns to the big screen with his new film The Bag Man, which opens in theaters on February 28th.

The Bag Man was co-written and directed by first time filmmaker David Grovic, and also stars John Cusack (The Raven), Dominic Purcell (Vikingdom), and two-time Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull). The film follows a criminal (Cusack) who bides his time at a seedy motel, waiting for his boss (De Niro) after killing several men and making away with a mystery bag. Glover plays the hotel desk clerk who interacts with Cusack’s character.

I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Crispin Glover about The Bag Man, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass, and his directorial work. Always an interesting interview, Glover candidly discussed his latest film, appearing in a movie with Robert De Niro, reuniting with John Cusack, working with director David Grovic, what he looks for from a director, choosing projects to act in, not appearing in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, wanting to be in Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass, his own directorial efforts, the It? trilogy, and directing and acting in a movie with his father. 

Here is what Crispin Glover had to say about The Bag Man, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass, and his directorial work:

IAR: To begin with, what attracted you to The Bag Man? Was it the material, or the chance to appear in a film with Robert De Niro?

Crispin Glover: Actually, Robert De Niro wasn't involved when I got the offer. I liked the dialogue for the character and it is well written. The genre is a mystery and even within the dialogue there's questionable elements about what is being said or why somebody is saying something, which is a sign of good dialogue when it can be interpreted. It isn't necessarily evident on the first read or even on multiple reads what the definitive way of interpreting it is. Not every scene, but certain scenes we did multiple interpretations of it. That was enjoyable.

Is that what you're looking for when you're choosing a project? Is it the dialogue and the script that gets you interested in making a film?

Glover: Not always. There are so many variations. A good example is if you've seen the film Charlie's Angels. I played a character that didn't speak in the film. I didn't have dialogue, but the character was originally written with dialogue. The dialogue in the screenplay initially for that character was quite expositional and it wasn't necessary dialogue. I actually wasn't going to go in and meet for it, but they were fairly persistent on me. You know, they wanted to hear what my thoughts were and I did go in on the meeting and I said, whether I play the character or not, I thought it would help the character if the dialogue wasn't spoken, if it remained a silent fighting antagonist because it was always a very physical character. The director McG, who can be very enthusiastic, stood up and said, “That's great! That's exactly how we're going to do it. That's what we're going to do.” They showed me the footage of the Chinese team that was doing the fight choreography for it and the films that they've done. I was familiar with their work and realized that they did understand the psychology through movement. That is what is important, what is underneath the character whether it's a dialogue or a movement. That's very important. But you know, I'm not independently wealthy and I tour with my own films and shows, two different live shows that we perform before two different feature films. I funded these films with money that I've made from acting in other people's films. That's a huge part of it as well. Filmmaking is not an inexpensive medium. So in order to be able to fund my films I have to work at my job essentially. I'm glad to say it is as an actor. There's an element of commerce that you have to be aware of as well of course.

That’s very interesting. I’ve heard that Robert De Niro does something similar and actually uses a lot of the money he earns from acting in movies to fund his Tribeca Film Festival.

Glover: That’s probably true. I don't know all the details of his career, but it seems apparent that he works a lot, which is great because he is a great person to get to watch and see what he's up to. I would assume that probably if he wanted to he could retire and not have to work another day in his life. I mean, I don't know. You never know. Everybody has different ways of things coming into being. Maybe he would be in an interview, and I know he doesn't necessarily give a lot of interviews, but he could be in an interview and say something and mean it, but maybe even subconsciously or maybe even consciously he wouldn't know. Maybe he's put himself into a position where he's forced to work because that's what he does and he's good at it. It might not even be about materialism, but it's good for him to work and it takes away the element of having to make a decision. Kind of like, okay, I've got to go do this and then he does it. I'm just giving a whole supposition I have no clue. I've never met Robert De Niro. I'm very grateful that I'm in a movie that he's in, but I don't have any scenes with him. I'm just saying this because there's so many different ways and reasons of how things come about. On the other hand it could be that he just likes a certain amount of projects and wants to work a certain amount. I have no idea, but I've seen the film and I think he's always interesting to watch no matter what. I think he gives a very interesting performance in this movie. I'm assuming that he probably thought there was interesting material in this as well, but I don't know. You never know about these things.

Can you talk about your experience working with director David Grovic, and as an actor who has directed several movies yourself, what are you looking for from a director when you are acting in a project?

Glover: It varies. In this particular film I don't think he initiated the writing of the screenplay, but he definitely was part of the writing of the screenplay and the writing was good. So that's a good thing and he started writing some different dialogue for the character and I liked it when I initially read it. We stuck with that draft, but he was good. For most of the scenes we did quite a lot of variations and different takes. Some of the scenes we did variations on interpretations of the dialogue, which is good. So he was open to that kind of creativity happening and I enjoyed that. I'm not overly looking for specific things. There are things that I'm looking to not have happen. There's one thing I'll watch out for with first time writer/directors, which David Grovic is. However, David wasn’t the thing I can be concerned about with first time writer/directors. There is a film a couple of years ago that I did turn down with a first time writer/director because sometimes a first time writer/director hasn’t been on a lot of sets so they're living in the words. Words can be important, but ultimately it's what is behind the words and the life that's going on with that, which is important. I'll make sure that a director understands that and David Grovic definitely did. But he was working with somebody like Robert De Niro who like I said, when I agree to do the film had not yet been signed. So that wasn't the reason I did the movie. I'm very grateful to be in a film that Robert De Niro is in. But I agreed to do the movie because of the quality of the dialogue.

Was it nice reuniting with your Hot Tub Time Machine co-star John Cusack on The Bag Man

Glover: Yes and actually it was a fairly close time period for me. Strangely I played kind of a similar character as I did in Hot Tub Time Machine. They're not exactly similar characters and the time periods of the films are very different. But in Hot Tub Time Machine I'm playing a bellman at a hotel that Cusack is a guest at and in The Bag Man I'm playing the person behind the desk in the hotel that he's staying at. But the nature of the characters and the tones of the film are quite different from one another. Obviously John’s worked a lot in the business for many years, but he's also got evident training from before that and it was good to work with him again.

Speaking of Hot Tub Time Machine, will you be in the upcoming sequel, Hot Tub Time Machine 2?

Glover: No. I would have liked to been in it. I think what happened, and I'm not sure of this, but I think they had written a part in it for me. I think it was written in to be quite involved with John Cusack's character. I believe the budget is lower than the first film. I don't know the details, and I haven't talked to John Cusack about it so I have no clue as to exactly what happened, but I do know they didn't come to an agreement for John to be in the sequel. I think when that happened, and what probably often happens, is they still had the go ahead for the film to happen in a certain time period and they had a script. I'm just guessing this because I have no clue but I've heard some things about this. I have heard that I was written into it and then I know that John Cusack didn't end up doing it. I think that ended up meaning that with my character they had to try to come up with something else. There was still talk about me doing it up to the last week of filming, but it just didn't end up happening. I would have liked to been in it, but I never got any kind of formal offer or anything.

While we’re discussing sequels, they are also planning to make a second Alice in Wonderland called Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass. Would you like to reprise your role as The Knave of Hearts in that film?

Glover: Of course! I'd love to be in it. But they have to approach me about it. I don't know if that will happen, but I'm all for it. I had a great time working on the first one. Disney is a very concise business entity. They know how to sell their films and they know what's necessary to make sure that it's a selling project. I'm pretty sure they have Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska have signed to do the movie. I'm sure they know those two people are imperative for the sequel. As far as the other characters and other actors, I don't know what's necessary for them. I'd love to be in it, but I have no idea if there's a need.

Finally, you mentioned your own personal projects that you have directed. Are you planning to direct more?

Glover: I perform a live show before my two different feature films, What Is It? and It is Fine. Everything is Fine! I have two different live shows that I perform before the feature films, which are comprised of books that are taken from the ‘1800s that are heavily illustrated. These pages from the books are projected as they are dramatically narrated. Each show is an hour long and then I show the feature film. The two different feature films that I’ve directed are part one and part two of what will be a trilogy. I also now have ten minutes of another feature film, which is not part of the trilogy. It’s something I've been developing for my father (Bruce Glover) and I to act in together. He and I have never played a scene together in a film before this last October. I have ten minutes from that film meticulous edited that I've been showing audiences. I'm in the midst of shooting that but of course I have to continue shooting a fair amount more to complete the feature. I'm excited about that project as well. People can find out where I'll be with my shows and films by going onto my website, CrispinGlover.com. My next show is in Ottawa, Canada and then I’ll be near San Diego.

The Bag Man opens in theaters on February 28th.

To read our exclusive interview with Dominic Purcell about Vikingdom, The Bag Man and the ending of Prison Break, please click here

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is scheduled for release on December 25th, 2014.

Alice in Wonderland: Into the Looking Glass is currently in pre-production. 

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