Crispin Glover

Active - 1981 - 2020  |   Born - Apr 20, 1964 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Avant-garde / Experimental, Comedy Drama, Horror

Share on

Biography by Jason Ankeny

Both onscreen and off, Crispin Glover earned notoriety as one of the most infamous oddballs in Hollywood, garnering vast critical acclaim for his bizarre character turns and intense performances. Crispin Hellion Glover was born September 20, 1964, in New York City. After his family's late-'60s relocation to Los Angeles, he began acting while still in elementary school, and by the age of 13 had already secured professional representation. After winning a lead role in an L.A. production of The Sound of Music starring Florence Henderson, Glover graduated high school and began working regularly in television, appearing in guest roles on series like Happy Days, Hill Street Blues, and Family Ties. In 1981, he made his feature debut in the teen sex romp Private Lessons, and in 1983 appeared in My Tutor as well as a pair of TV movies, High School U.S.A. and The Kid With the 200 I.Q.

Supporting roles in projects like 1984's Teachers, Racing With the Moon, and the American Film Institute-produced The Orkly Kid followed, but a highly idiosyncratic performance as Michael J. Fox's father in the 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future was Glover's ticket to stardom. In 1986, he delivered a brilliant performance in the disturbing teen drama River's Edge, but in the wake of its release he began to earn a notorious reputation for eccentric behavior: A July 1987 appearance on NBC's Late Night With David Letterman in which Glover -- clad in a ratty wig and platform shoes -- attempted to kick the program host in the head was the stuff of tabloid headlines, and the concurrent publication of Rat Catching, an antique Victorian children's book updated with gruesome cut-up text and new drawings distributed through his mother's Volcanic Eruptions press imprint, did little to dispel questions about his sanity.

In 1989, Glover issued an LP, The Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution Equals Let It Be, containing a bizarro-world cover of the Nancy Sinatra hit "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." A follow-up, The Big Love Album, remains unreleased. That same year, he shocked onlookers by refusing to return for the inevitable Back to the Future sequel. When another actor was outfitted with prosthetics as a substitute, Glover successfully sued 20th Century Fox, a legal victory which forced the Screen Actor's Guild to create new rules on the issue of performance "sampling." He then turned his back on the Hollywood mainstream, accepting supporting roles in off-kilter films like David Lynch's Wild at Heart and Lasse Hallstrom's What's Eating Gilbert Grape? In 1991, he even appeared as Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone's The Doors.

By the mid-'90s, Glover had settled rather comfortably into his role as Hollywood's eccentric-at-large, appearing with some of the American independent community's most notable filmmakers. In 1993, he appeared in Gus Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and in 1996 he delivered a memorable cameo in the opening scenes of Jim Jarmusch's masterful Dead Man. In 1995, Glover began directing his own film, What Is It?, starring a cast made up entirely of victims of Down's Syndrome. He also mounted The Big Slide Show, a traveling one-man performance-art piece incorporating footage from What Is It?, music from his records, and images from his books, which additionally included 1990's Oak Mot and 1992's Concrete Inspection.

Though still a mainstay of smaller-minded independent films in the year 2000, Glover made a dramatic return to the Hollywood cotton candy blockbuster that year by gleefully sinking his teeth into his role as the creepy Thin Man in Charlie's Angels. Boiling over with a silent psychotic glee and displaying remarkable heretofore unseen dexterity (save for the aforementioned Letterman fiasco), Glover's Thin Man was a highlight of the film's action sequences and took his patented dementia to new heights. The following year found Glover in a rare starring role in Bartleby, a surreal adaptation of Herman Melleville's Bartleby the Scrivener. The same year also found the wide release of Glover's little-seen pre-Rubin and Ed collaboration with director Trent Harris, The Orkley Kid, a short that was included in Harris' The Beaver Kid. When a remake of the 1971 horror classic Willard was announced in 2002 and Glover was tipped to star, few could deny that his casting in the role was a stroke of genius.

In 2005 he directed, wrote, edited, produced, and starred in the avant-garde feature What Is It? He followed that up with the equally idiosyncratic It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. He returned to more mainstream ventures with Alice In Wonderland and Hot Tub Time Machine as well as the Elmore Leonard adaptation Freaky Deaky. He's also contributed his voice to several animated projects including 9, Beowulf, and the two direct-to-video sequels of Open Season.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography


  • Attended the Mirman School for Academically Gifted Children for nine years.  
  • At 14, appeared opposite Florence Henderson in a stage version of The Sound of Music.
  • Challenged David Letterman to an arm-wrestling match in a notorious 1987 appearance on Late Night With David Letterman, then did a karate kick close to the host's head. 
  • Recorded the whimsical album The Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be in 1989.
  • Made his directorial debut with What Is It?, a 2005 art film featuring a cast mainly comprised of actors with Down syndrome. 
  • Has published multiple books through his publishing/production company Volcanic Eruptions. The works spawned Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show, a live show in which he performs excerpts from his heavily illustrated books.