What is It? and It Is Fine are the first and second films in a planned trilogy, It’s Mine being the third. The second film is an autobiographical, psycho-sexual, fantastical retelling of Steven C. Stewart’s point-of-view of life. He died from complications of cerberal palsy one month after filming wrapped. It is Fine showed at the Alamo Drafthouse with a live perforamnce by Crispin.
AUSTIN DAZE: Tells us a little bit about Steven C. Stewart.
CRISPIN GLOVER: It’s sad that he didn’t get to see the completed thing. I know he would have loved to have been here talking—he really liked the attention. He liked to talk to the women and touch their hair. I didn’t go into detail about it but, it was something David Brothers and I were very firm about and that was that it was obvious that this film had to be made with Steve. It could not have been made with any other person. It is about a very specific individual. I know people often ask about the handicapped issue of the film and I would say, because Steve was an advocate–a different kind of advocate for that kind of thing–mainly that he wanted to play a bad guy in this movie which is not something that often happens in that situation. He was really firm on that. If Steve had died and this was a corporately funded film and they said, “Well we’ll get a different actor who doesn’t have Cerebral Palsy,” to me that film wouldn’t be interesting at all. But also even if it was not a corporately funded and distributed film and Steve died and they said, “Well we’ll get an actor who does have Cerebral Palsy to play the character” I still don’t think it would work. What’s important about the film is that he was living this fantasy. It’s at least important that this man had this fetish for women with long hair. It was absolutely specific that it had to be that guy otherwise there would be no point. I know that David Brothers felt this way as well and it wasn’t just because I said to Steve that I wanted to get the film made, I would have actually felt like I had done a bad thing if I hadn’t gotten this film made. I don’t know exactly why but I really would not have felt good about it. I would have felt like I did something wrong. So I’m genuinely relieved that this is on its way. And on top of it, I’m really proud of the movie. When the whole trilogy is done I feel like this film will be the best of the trilogy but more than that I feel like this film will be the best film I will ever have anything to do with in my career. It’s such a specific story and an impossible thing to replicate. It has to do with Steve and his peculiarities. That’s another reason that I really wish he was here, because I feel funny in a certain way talking for him. At the same time I’m also very possessive of the film so I like talking as well, but Steve would say things that I would never say.
AD: These are both pretty intense films. What reaction are you after from people with them?
CG: For me they are two very distinct things. With What is It?, very specifically, I was reacting to corporate constraints that have happened in the last 20 or 30 years where anything that can possibly make an audience member uncomfortable in any way what so ever, anything that could lack the possibility of making something a relatively easy sale, is necessarily excised. In any case the corporate constraints that have happened within the last 20 or 30 years are being specifically reacted to in that film. As for It’s Fine,I had read Steven C. Stewart’s screenplay in 1986 and I could see that there were taboo elements in it and that is part of what was interesting about it but the main thing was the emotional catharsis that is really important and a certain beauty to that film or that screenplay that was really interesting. As far as reactions or attacks, I felt like it was important to address those taboo elements first in What is it? so if there were attacks, let the attacks happen on part one and so by the time part is gotten to, there wouldn’t be that confusion. Of course there still can be an attack on the taboo element but I just think there are other things that need to be addressed.
AD: You mentioned feeling like you knew you had to see this film made when you read the marriage proposal scene. Can you tell us why?
CG: I knew there was graphic sexuality: the thing about the hair, these taboo elements were what drew me to it but the thing that made me say, “I have got to do this” was because that scene felt like an emotional reality. There was a lot of fantasy in the film but part of what is interesting about this is by writing it in this genre style it’s somehow more revealing to me rather than if he had written it as a strict autobiography. It draws you in in some way and then you start realizing there is something really going on here that you can understand clearly.
AD: You had also talked about wanting to one day publish the original script of Steven C Stewart. How much of that original script has changed?
CG: Essentially the fact of it is David Brothers and I, we could have taken the screenplay and done anything we wanted to with it and Steve would have been OK. He wasn’t a forceful Prima Dona type of guy. But we both were united on that there was a genuine beauty in what he had written and we wanted to keep that. There was a naiveté to what he had written. He wasn’t a stupid fellow at all but he had been locked in a nursing home for 10 years and had lived a life apart for quite a long time. So there was a naiveté to how he had written it. He was difficult to communicate with. Not impossible; but difficult. He would write emails to me every once in awhile but they were very simple emails, like, “So how’s it going to go? When are we going to start?” I already started making What is it? and I knew this had to be made in a way that I could afford to do it. I had made a feature film out of a relatively short screenplay with What is it? so I knew if I cut the screenplay down to about 50 pages it would be affordable. That scene that I read, that was the emotional crux of the film–the things having to do with the daughter and mother. Once they were killed it kind of went into a repetition of a variation of either the women with the long hair, him washing their hair, and then killing them. So I cut it at page 50 which already had 2 or 3 of these love/sex/murder situations. They weren’t necessarily the most climactic of them so David Brothers and I figured out which ones would be the element that would lead up to what was the best thing. He had a couple of different variations of the screenplay as well. All of that stuff with the mother, daughter and the three women, all of the dialogue is the same; the situations are the same; it’s juxtaposed. It’s edited in a different way. There are some where he is caught by these detectives and there are other times when the detectives didn’t catch him. We went with the idea that the detectives didn’t catch him. He was a good writer and he started writing his autobiography which was really quite beautifully written. It was only 20 pages so it was his very young life but it was very interesting.
AD: Tell us what you like to do more: direct, write,edit,produce or act.
CG: I would say my favorite portion of the process is editing. I like writing but I really like editing. Those two. When everything is really coming together that’s where the art really comes into play. When you are writing, it’s the creation of something and all of that part is really beautiful. When you are on the set it’s kind of war and then it’s kind of editing and making everything come together. I’m an actor, I like acting as well, but I find acting more difficult. There are physical and monetary restraints that make directing difficult—it’s a different kind of difficult. Really to me acting is more difficult. For me, the more difficult element is that I have to be concerned about what other people are going to do with my performance and how it will become ruined by other people. When I’m acting for myself I’m not so worried because I know I can fix whatever problem in the editing process. My father is friendly and likes to talk–he is very much more an actor type. I’m much less like that. He likes to meet people and have the focus of attention be on him for just the sake of attention. I’m not like that. Steve was like that as well. He was more of an actor type and a real ham. He liked singing show tunes; being in front of the camera. I’m a little bit more uncomfortable with that kind of thing. I don’t mind being in front of the camera, or acting, or talking to people, or anything as long as there is a concept that I can be advocating. As long as the attention is not on myself I can get totally behind it. I don’t want that song Happy Birthday sung to me ever. Last time it happened was when I was 16. To me it is the ultimate of stupid attention on you for nothing. It really makes me uncomfortable.
When it is an idea or concept I enjoy getting behind it. It’s just that usually the idea or concept isn’t that interesting to me. Sometimes it happens and that’s great. I don’t have to be the person who came up with the idea or is making the idea happen. I like trusting that. I’m a professional actor and I have to make a living as an actor so not every single thing that I’m in is the thing that I’m most passionate about in terms of ideas. I made the first Charlie’s Angels film to fund this film and I’m very glad that I did it. That was something that was good for me. But it also changed the way I was thinking about how to choose working as an actor. I’m very comfortable now, and I wasn’t for such a long time, going in and working on projects even if I know it’s not perfect. I go in with a good attitude and I want to do a good job; I want them to get across what they want to get across and hopefully there will be something that I’m genuinely interested in and if for some reason I’m not I know that that money that I’m making is going to be put into a project that I genuinely feel really passionate about.
AD: Do you have a favorite between the two films?
CG: I don’t like to play favorites with the films because What is It? has elements that Everything is Fine does not that I’m very proud of. Of course I wrote and directed What is it? But at the same time I feel as possessive of Everything is Fine even though I co-directed, co-edited, and Steve wrote it. Some people like What is it? better than Everything is Fine buton the whole, when I walk in front of the audience after Everything is Fine it is a much easier situation. I can get pretty harshly attacked on What is it? I’ve had small attacks on Everything is Fine but it’s almost like, How is it possible that you could be attacking that film? I could understand how people could attack What is it? I can even understand how people can attack Everything is Fine but it is harder to understand.
AD: It’s such a voyeuristic experience.
CG: And the fact that he wanted that voyeuristic experience and was totally comfortable with that–that’s interesting. There are so many questions that I would want to ask him: Is that what you wanted? Is having people watch you do this what you were wanting or was it that you just wanted to do this and you knew that this was the way it was going to happen?
AD: How do you like the Alamo Drafthouse?
CG: It’s great. I was here with the first film What is It? a couple of years ago—this was the first venue that I went to outside of the festival because Tim League and his wife were very on top of it. He and his wife told me that the thing that kept their business going was the beer. I don’t know if it is difficult in other cities to have the liquor license or what. It’s a lot easier to get into clubs than it is to get into movie theaters because there is that social element—they might meet people; there is music and drinks. Somehow I think this may make it more social. It’s still not as social as a club but more social than a movie.
AD: What wisdom would you offer somebody starting out in the film business? What have you learned from this process?
CG: First I’ll make it pertinent to the film. With the film it was a big deal when I started changing how I chose to act. That was good for me. It was actually not good when I was being overly selective because I worked less and I wasn’t making as much money. When I was 14 is when I started acting professionally and I just thought it would be neat to be on a commercial. I didn’t work that much as a teenager. Until I was 18, then I started working in film. When I was 20, I did Back to the Future and that was so successful I started feeling like I had an obligation to find films that would psychology represent and reflect interest. The first film that I acted in after that was River’s Edge which is still a film I’m very proud of; I think that’s a good movie. Subsequent to that, most of the films that I acted in really did not necessarily reflect what my own psychological interests were and they didn’t necessarily make that much money and that wasn’t that good for my acting career. So then all of these years later I chose to make a movie specifically to fund this other film and then that film was successful financially and I started getting more interesting acting offers. I was able to select Willard, which was a great part, and more recently playing Grendel in Beowulf—that was another great part. Still any money that I was making was going into making this film and set me up for making other things. It was important to switch away from trying so much to reflect my psychology in other people’s films, which really never made sense because I didn’t write those movies and I wasn’t directing them and was acting as an interpretative element. It is healthier for me to know that I’m acting as an interpreter to help other people do what they want to do and that money that I’m making from that I’m putting wholly into these things that I’m making myself. So that was something that because I became involved with Steve Stewart happened. That very specifically, I learned from these things.
In general, there are thousands of pieces of advice I could give to someone but in general having a good attitude is very important thing I think. ***