Having made a career out of playing bizarre oddball characters, actor Crispin Glover had very little mainstream success outside of his breakthrough role as nerdy George McFly in the blockbuster "Back to the Future" (1985). Ever since that time, Glove relished his stature as an off-kilter performer whose penchant for making out-of-the-way indies like "River's Edge" (1987) and "Wild At Heart" (1990) earned him the adulation of a small cult following of fans. While his 1987 appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC, 1982-1993), where he tried to karate kick the host, became the stuff of legend, Glover preferred to stay incognito with small roles in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (1993) and "The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996). Occasionally, he appeared in bigger studio films like "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003), but seemed more at home in smaller movies like "Willard" (2003), a strange little horror film revered by fans and ignored by most everyone else. By the end of the decade, however, Glover was appearing in bigger films, playing animated characters in "Beowulf" (2007) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), which perhaps gave him more opportunity to portray the offbeat characters that he so obviously loved.
Born on Sept. 20, 1964 in New York City, Glover was raised by his father, Bruce Glover, an actor best known for playing Mr. Wint in "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971), and his mother, Betty, an actress, choreographer and former ballet dancer. When he was five, his parents moved to Los Angeles, where he attended The Miriam School for gifted children. He later attended Venice High School and Beverly Hills High School, where he began training as an actor with Peggy Feury and Dan Mason. When he was 13, Glover began acting professionally, making his stage debut opposite Florence Henderson in a production of "The Sound of Music" (1978), after which he appeared in the made-for-television special, "The Best of Times" (ABC, 1981), which focused on a group of teenagers conveying their ideas about oncoming adulthood through song, dance and comedy skits. After landing small parts in features like "Private Lessons" (1981) and "My Tutor" (1983), he stared in two pilot episodes for a proposed series called, "High School U.S.A." (NBC, 1983), which aired as a two-hour television movie instead.
In 1985, Glover starred in "The Orkly Kid," a fact-based short film about a querulous clown. The film was later combined with two of director Trent Harris' other shorts and released under the title "The Beaver Trilogy" (1998). That same year, Glover became a national star following his co-starring turn as the nerdy George McFly, who is transformed from a knee-quivering geek into a confident young man with the help of his time-traveling son (Michael J. Fox) in the first installment of "Back to the Future" (1985). One of the biggest hits of the year, if not the decade, "Back to the Future" gave the iconoclastic young actor a rare taste of mainstream success. Unfortunately, he was unable to continue sharing in the film's success when he was not asked to return for two subsequent sequels. By that time, Glover was cultivating an eccentric persona with the press off-screen while his onscreen roles fueled the rumor mill. He developed into more of a character player rather than a leading man, using his oddball physicality well in a variety of independent features, including "River's Edge" (1987), in which his performance as the speedy, whacked-out Layne divided critics and audiences.
It was while promoting "River's Edge" that Glover gained enduring notoriety following an appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" (NBC, 1982-1993). Dressed in a long wig, striped pants and platform shoes, a bizarrely nervous and unpredictable Glover first challenged Letterman to an arm-wrestling contest, only to stand up and come within inches of kicking the host in the face after his challenge was refused. Letterman abruptly cut to commercial and returned to the show without Glover in the guest seat. The actor returned just two weeks later and gave a more grounded interview, though he remained evasive about his strange behavior from his previous visit. While speculation was rampant about why Glover was out-of-sorts, with some claiming that he had been on LSD, it later became apparent that he was in character for an independent film, "Rubin and Ed" (1991), which was being filmed at the time, but would not be released for another four years. Meanwhile, he appeared in such less-than-mainstream projects like "Wild at Heart" (1990) and "Little Noises" (1991) before offering a memorable cameo as Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone's "The Doors" (1991).
Aside from appearing onscreen, Glover also ventured into music and publishing, where he was able to display his off-beat nature with albums like The Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution, The Solution Equals Let It Be (1989), and books like Rat-Catching (1988) and Concrete Inspection, both of which were re-workings of previous novels that had entered into the public domain. After playing an overly ambitious undertaker in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993), Glover courted controversy when he undertook legal action against Paramount Pictures in 1995 for identifying him in the credits of the animated series "Duckman" (USA Network, 1993-97), since his contract allegedly called for the use of a pseudonym. Despite concerns that Hollywood might retaliate against him, Glover continued to find employment, landing roles in Jim Jarmusch's revisionist Western "Dead Man" (1996) and the award-winning biopic "The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996), starring Woody Harrelson as the famed pornographer and champion of First Amendment rights. Taking a break from acting, Glover concentrated on directing for much of 1998-99 with the hour-long featurette, "What Is It?" which focused on a group of Down's syndrome adolescents portrayed by real-life Down's-stricken actors. With its strange, often difficult imagery, it turned off audiences almost as much as the performances.
Although he stated a preference for remaining behind the scenes as a writer and director, Glover still continued to act. He offered a fine supporting turn as a nosy reporter in the black comedy "Nurse Betty" (2000) and played the creepy thin man in the big screen version of the seminal 1970s television series, "Charlie's Angels" (2000), a role he reprised in "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003). Returning to leading roles, he portrayed an eerie office clerk who finds friendship and loyalty in a pack of basement rats in the bizarre horror thriller, "Willard" (2003). Following a dual role as an odd set of twins in the campy horror flick, "Simon Says" (2006), he joined Jason Lee for the amusing crime comedy, "Drop Dead Sexy" (2006). He next portrayed Willy Wonka in the parody "Epic Movie" (2007), which he followed with a stop-motion animated performance as Grendel in "Beowulf" (2007), though director Robert Zemeckis was hesitant to work with Glover due to the actor's inability to hit his marks in "Back to the Future." After releasing the second part to his Down's syndrome trilogy, "It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE" (2007), he voiced Fifi in "Open Season 2" (2008), which he followed with a turn as the Knave of Hearts in "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Mia Wasikowska as Alice.
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First professional stage role in "The Sound of Music" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (with Florence Henderson)
Feature acting debut in "Private Lessons"
TV acting debut in the ABC variety special "The Best of Times," featuring teenagers performing skits, songs and dances relating to what it meant to be caught between childhood and adulthood
Had supporting role in the TV-movie "High School U.S.A." (NBC)
Reprised character in the one-hour pilot for a proposed series based on "High School U.S.A." (NBC)
Breakthrough screen role as George McFly in "Back to the Future"; did not reprise part in subsequent sequels
Had title role in the short "The Orkly Kid," produced under the auspices of the American Film Institute; eventually released as part of "Beaver Trilogy" in 1998
Appeared in "At Close Range" and "River's Edge"
Co-starred in David Lynch's "Wild at Heart"
Portrayed Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone's biopic "The Doors"
Played Johnny Depp's friend in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape"
Starred in modern day adaptation of "Crime and Punishment"
Had a supporting role in "The People vs. Larry Flynt," Milos Forman's profile of the adult magazine publisher
Portrayed an intrepid newspaper reporter in "Nurse Betty"
Wrote, directed and played featured role in the short "What Is It?"
Had co-starring role in "Fast Sofa"
Played lead in "Bartleby," an adaptation of Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" (filmed in 1999)
Featured in the action sequel "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle"
Undertook the title role in the remake of "Willard"
Directored the surreal art film "What is It?"
Cast as Willy Wonka in the spoof/parody film "Epic Movie"
Premiered second film, "It is Fine. Everything is Fine!" at Sundance
Portrayed Grendel in Robert Zemeckis' big-budget film version of "Beowulf"
Lent his voice to the feature-length adaptation of Shane Acker's short film, "9"
Played the head of the Red Queen's Army in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland"
Appeared as Mosley Baker on TV mini-series "Texas Rising"
Cat as Mr. World on the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"