Crispin Glover

The actor's in one of biggest movies of the year-but only for the money.

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Illustration: Rob Kelly

The new film version of Beowulf can be tough to wrap your head around. It starts with the idea of Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone donning skintight bodysuits to make a Polar Express--style version of the oldest poem in the English language. And it ends with Grendel's mother being a curvaceous sex kitten played by Angelina Jolie—a concept that deviates just a smidge from the 8th-century original.

The new film version of Beowulf can be tough to wrap your head around. It starts with the idea of Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone donning skintight bodysuits to make a Polar Express--style version of the oldest poem in the English language. And it ends with Grendel's mother being a curvaceous sex kitten played by Angelina Jolie—a concept that deviates just a smidge from the 8th-century original.

It's so absurd that it makes total sense that iconic weirdo Crispin Glover portrays the Viking-devouring monster Grendel. Decades removed from his George McFly and Wild at Heart days, the 43-year-old actor seems to be charting an intentionally puzzling course. One day he's back on the A-list as a bad guy in Charlie's Angels, the next he's making a head-scratching cameo as Willy Wonka in the epically shitty Epic Movie. And then there's the flick he's really excited about, It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!—written in the style of a '70s murder mystery by a man with cerebral palsy. A chatty Glover called us from his Los Angeles home to fill us in on freaking us out.

I have to say, it's surprising to see you in a bona fide blockbuster like Beowulf. It doesn't seem like your style.
It's true that most of the films I act in tend toward being independent, and certainly my own films are. It's a funny dichotomy, working on this multimillion-dollar movie and opening my own submillion-dollar film.

Part of the surprise is that this is a Robert Zemeckis project. Weren't you two on opposite sides of a landmark lawsuit?
What happened was, in the Back to the Future sequel, a false nose, chin and cheekbones had been put onto another actor and interspliced with footage from the original to fool audiences into believing that it was me. Because of my lawsuit, producers will never be able to do that again. I'm proud of that, but when something goes that far, you figure that these are people you'll never work with again. When I heard that there was interest in me for Beowulf, I was surprised and, frankly, I had concerns.

What made you put those concerns aside?
I am at this point where I make films with the money I make from the ones I'm acting in. When Beowulf was offered to me, I had already made this decision, and I'm also able to talk about my film It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! I really think it's going to be the best film I have anything to do with in my entire career, and this is why I'm purposefully releasing it at the same time as Beowulf.

You intentionally coincided the release date? That's kind of genius.
There's no way I could generate the same kind of attention myself as I would when I'm working on a large, corporately funded and distributed movie. I'll be at the IFC Center for a week, including Thanksgiving night, so if people are lonely I hope they'll come celebrate Thanksgiving with me.

Is it frustrating when fans approach you screaming, "Hello, McFly!"?
I don't find it happens that way. I've had a lot of play on cable and DVDs and it's something I'm grateful for. My father [Bruce Glover] is an actor. I remember he would be in a film and then, years later, it would maybe play on television once and then it would go away. But... there's an entire generation of people that have grown up on all of [my] films.

What about when people think of you as eccentric and, well, weird?
The fact is that in my day-to-day life I am busy making my films. I'm double-tasking as we speak. I have a premiere to go to tonight and I have to go to UPS and I can't find my keys. [Laughs] That element of my life is noneccentric. It's extremely centric. But I do have strong interests in things that are unusual.

Do people focus on those interests too much?
It's better to come to terms with it than to try to fight it. I really don't see the purpose for me to do that. I could hire some publicist to do some campaign that would go against that, but it would just be an enormous waste of energy and money and time.

Beowulf opens Fri 16. It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! opens Wed 21.

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