Ahead of the anniversary screening of River's Edge at a MGM HD Special Event at Sundance London, we caught up with star Crispin Glover to discuss the teen classic, his filmmaking career, Dennis Hopper and Back to the Future.
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What stage is your film It Is Mine at and when can we expect to see it?
Crispin Glover: I should not go in to detail for It Is Mine yet and I will not shoot that next. There are other projects outside of the trilogy that I will shoot next. The Czech Republic is another culture and another language and I need to build up to complex productions like What Is It? and the existing sequel It is fine! Everything Is Fine. It Is Mine is an even more complex project than those two films were so it will be a while yet for that production.
Many moviegoers will know you best as George McFly - are you happy to be remembered for the Back to the Future franchise?
Crispin Glover: I was only in the first film. I was not in the sequels to Back to the Future. There was a lawsuit about the second film. A lawsuit is or course a reaction to an unfortunate negative situation. I would not enter in to a lawsuit unless there was an egregious and unlawful wrongdoing. It just so happens that was the situation with Back to the Future Part II. If something wrong is done you have to stick up for yourself and ultimately others so that that sort of illegal activity can not recur.
Can you elaborate on that?
Crispin Glover: What happened was that there was no agreement reached for me to appear in the sequels for Back to the Future. The producers hired another actor and put prosthetic false nose, chin and cheekbones on him in order to make him up to look like me then inter-spliced a very small amount of footage of me from the original film in order to fool audiences in to believing it was me. My lawsuit set certain precedent in the US for the understanding of an actor's innate ownership of their own self and their own image. Had [the producers] only used original clips from the first film and not attempted to fool audiences in to believing I was in the film there would not have been a lawsuit. Or had the producers only hired another actor to play the role and not used my features on the other actor there would not have been a lawsuit. The producers owned the name and the character, but they did not own me or my facial features. They did not come to an agreement with me to appear in the film and so they decided to test the boundaries of an actor's ownership rights erroneously. What my lawsuit was about was self ownership infringement. In other words an actor owns their own image and producers taking that image without paying the actor for it is stealing and unlawful. Because of my lawsuit there are rules in the Screen Actors Guild that make it so no producers, directors, or actors in the US are ever able to do this again. I am proud of standing up for actor's rights in that situation.
Yet it's still something that rankles you, evidently?
Crispin Glover: Probably the most negative aspect about it is that Bob Gale who was a co-producer and co-writer and one of the main architects of the illegal activity has decided that it serves him best to lie about what happened. He has falsely stated that I asked the same amount of money that Michael J. Fox was getting. This statement by him is complete fabrication. The truth is I was offered less than half of what Lea Thomson and Tom Wilson were getting. The role I was offered was a similar sized role to Tom and Lea and what my agents were trying to negotiate was for myself to [earn] something similar as this seemed fair. My feeling is that the reason they never changed the low offer was because they did not want me to be in the film. I had not been given a complete screenplay before I was hired for acting in Back to the Future. I analysed the screenplay after I was hired and during production I asked questions as we approached certain scenes. My feeling is they did not want me to be in the film because during the original production when we got close to shooting the end alternate future scenes I asked questions about the characters getting a monetary reward at the end of the film. I said to [director] Robert Zemeckis that I felt the reward should be that the characters were only in love and that if there was a monetary reward at the end such as the son character having a new car in the garage it tainted the message and the message turned to 'Money will bring you happiness' as opposed to 'Love will bring you happiness'. Please understand I was a 20-year-old idealist who had been watching many films from the 60s and 70' that tended towards questioning these things. Robert got angry with me and I do not think it was forgotten when the negotiations for the sequels came around or when they were writing the sequels for that matter. The illegal actions this led to on the part of the producers as a punishment for a 20-year-old actor asking questions is not justifiable. It was not right to producers of Back to the Future to break the law to punish a 20-year-old actor in their film for asking questions about the moral content of a screenplay they only allowed to be read after the deal was completed.
So you'd do the same again?
Crispin Glover: Again I am proud of the lawsuit and standing up against illegal activity that caused proper precedents and bylaws in to be set in the Screen Actors Guild. It is unfortunate that the producers of the Back to the Future films decided it was a good idea to perform an illegal action, which led to a lawsuit. In 2005-2007 I had a very positive experience working with Robert again playing Grendel in his Beowulf. I am enjoying my life, making my films, touring with them, publishing my books and acting in other people's films. If I were put in the exact same situation today I would react in the exact same way. I am glad to help clarify. People can find out about my films and shows and where I will be with them on CrispinGlover.com
You've delved into music and publishing - what other art-forms would you like to explore?
Crispin Glover: I very much enjoy making my own films. There is a universe of ideas to explore in film