The Relativity of Fineness
Crispin Glover on the 'It' trilogy and his departed star and screenwriter
If you were one of the lucky, possibly bewildered few who caught actor/director/writer/what-is-he? Crispin Glover's 2005 Austin screening of his very strange (even by our standards) film What Is It?, then you perhaps have some idea of what's in store when C. Hellion G. himself returns to Austin to the Alamo Ritz this weekend with what promises to be a stunningly surreal sequel.
Attempting to presage what may or may not occur, onscreen or off, tends to leech the fun from a Crispin Glover event, so suffice it to say the former rodentia-fond Willard Stiles and author of Rat Catching will be debuting the second cinemanic chapter in his It trilogy (this one co-directed with David Brothers), the ominously titled It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. (The series capper, which is already scripted, will be called It Is Mine!) Since Glover's first volley into the realm of truly indefinable moviemaking (executive produced by no less than David Lynch) centered on, as the film's press kit put it, "a young man whose principle interests are snails, salt, a pipe, and how to get home" and ended with Glover's character throttled to death by the actor Steven C. Stewart, one hopes things will, indeed, be at least marginally more fine, narratively speaking.
Tragically, Stewart, who returns in the sequel as both star and screenwriter, died soon after shooting wrapped in 2001 from complications of cerebral palsy but not before he phoned Glover from the ICU to ask if it was all right if he be removed from life support, just in case more filming needed to be done. "I have no doubt that, had there been more work to be done on the shoot," Glover recently said to the Chronicle, "Steven C. Stewart would have found a way to be there." Glover was immensely touched and has since gone on record as saying that It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. will undoubtedly be the best of the trilogy.
"The first film, in which actors who had Down syndrome [appeared] but were not necessarily playing characters who suffered from Down, [presented] a taboo subject," says Glover. "I realized that there was a ubiquitous excision of anything that could possibly be considered taboo within the last three decades of corporately funded and distributed film. And I think that's a very negative thing, because that 'taboo' moment is when an audience member sits back in their chair, looks up at the screen, and thinks to themselves: 'Is this right what I'm watching? Is it wrong? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have done it? What is it?' And that's the title of the film."
Lest anyone think Glover is simply out to make your mind ache with his utterly unique forays into reel/real transgression, it pays to recall that his most prominent role of late was as the monstrous yet pitiable Grendel in Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf, a CGI-enhanced character who not only had to endure the forced removal of a limb (by a buffed-up Ray Winstone as Beowulf) but also spoke all of his dialogue in Old English through what sounded like a digitally dehanced mouthful of premoistened woe.
The parallels between Grendel – misshapen, misunderstood, assailed on all sides by hunky warrior-types who fall well short of displaying anything other than outright revulsion at his presence – and the physically handicapped protagonists of Glover's It trilogy are striking, disturbing, and very intentional.
"I hate to play favorites about these movies," adds Glover, "and I'm very proud of What Is It?, but there's an emotional catharsis with the Steven C. Stewart character in It Is Fine! that is extremely compelling. And that doesn't happen very often. When the whole trilogy is done, EVERYTHING IS FINE. will be the best of the three films, but not only that – I feel it will be the best film I will have anything to do with in my entire career. It's not the kind of thing that other people will see so readily, but, for me, I know that it has a very lasting and compelling quality."
It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. will screen at the Alamo Ritz on Saturday, Feb. 9, and Monday, Feb. 11, with Crispin Glover in attendance. He will also present What Is It? on Sunday, Feb. 10. Both screenings will include Glover's Big Slide Show. To purchase tickets, visit www.originalalamo.com. For more information, visit www.crispinglover.com.