Hijacked Likenesses ~ Crispin Glover's Suit Against Universal Studios

with Crispin Glover, Actor, writer and Director and Doug Kair, Trademark, Copyright and Computer Business Attorney
790 KABC, November 14, 2015

Crispin Hellion Glover is an American actor, director, screenwriter, recording artist, publisher, and author.

Glover is known for portraying eccentric people on screen, such as George McFly in Back to the Future, Layne in River's Edge, unfriendly recluse Rubin Farr in Rubin and Ed, mentally ill Cousin Dell in David Lynch's Wild at HeartAndy Warhol in The Doors, the Thin Man in Charlie's Angels and its sequel, Willard Stiles in the Willard remake, Bobby McBurney in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Ilosovic Stayne / The Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Phil Wedmaier in Hot Tub Time Machine, and Willy Wonka in Epic Movie.

He is also the voice of Fifi in the Open Season franchise and appeared in the screen adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Freaky Deaky. He played a German-speaking clairvoyant during World War I in the Polish-language film Hiszpanka, and an unwitting employee in service of Robert De Niro's character in The Bag Man. In the late 1980s, Glover started his company, Volcanic Eruptions, which publishes his books and also serves as the production company for Glover's films, What Is It? and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. He currently stars in the Starz television series American Gods as Mr. World, the god of globalization.

Glover was recognized for his directorial work in 2013 when the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City staged the series It Is Crispin Hellion Glover. The program consisted of screenings of all of his directorial work, live performances, and speaking engagements.

Glover has written between 15 and 20 books. Oak-Mot and Rat Catching are featured prominently during his Big Slide Show presentation, and are presented as visual art as much as written art. He constructs the books by reusing old novels and other publications which have fallen into the public domain due to their age (for example, Rat Catching was constructed from an 1896 book Studies in the Art of Rat Catching, and Oak-Mot was constructed from an 1868 novel of the same title). He rearranges text, blacks out certain standing passages, and adds his own prose (and sometimes images) into the margins and elsewhere, thus creating an entirely new story. Four of his books have been published so far, through his publishing company, Volcanic Eruptions. Other known titles include The Backward SwingA New World, and Round My House.

Crispin Glover later sued Universal studios for exploiting his likeness.  While the Back to the Future legacy may be remembered for the relationship between Marty and Doc – and perhaps the filmmakers and writers predictions about what the future would be like – the dissolution and subsequent rebirth of the George McFly character did prove to be a game-changer for the film industry.

Since Jeffrey Weissman essentially wore a prosthetic that was crafted for Crispin Glover’s face – rather than filmmakers simply re-casting the role and redoing the makeup – Glover filed suit against the producers alleging that they didn’t own his likeness, nor did they have his permission to use it. “They owned the character they wrote, but they didn’t own my face,” Glover said.  As a result of Glover’s lawsuit, laws exist today between the Screen Actors Guild and  directors/producers that no longer allow such a practice.