Glover Compartment

LOCAL MEDIA MISSED out on a formidable photo op last Saturday when actor-director Danny Glover had to cancel a visit to the Mall of America's star-funded eatery Planet Hollywood. (Incidentally, I recommend their Pepsi Cola in a Glass, ice included.) Glover, had he not been socked in by inclement snowstorms in Denver, would have appeared in person to donate the outfit he wore while filming Switchback, his new serial-killer thriller that opens this weekend. Instead, a headless, limbless mannequin draped in the coveted Wrangler jean jacket and dungarees served as a vastly less photogenic stand-in.

Speaking of surprises, if you're actually fired up to see Switchback--and, I dare say, you shouldn't be--then rest assured that I'm only half-ruining an already painful movie by divulging that Glover's character, an amiable wanderer named Bob, turns out to be the killer. This ain't much of a plot twist, although it does enable a different side of Glover compared to his righteous characters in, say, Bopha! or A Raisin in the Sun.

"Would I have been interested in playing the part of the FBI agent? Yeah," admits a phoned-in Glover, whose familiarly endearing mug takes on a creepy edge in the role of a serial slasher. "But I didn't decide on this part to redirect my image," he says. "I was originally offered the part of the sheriff." Natch.

After all, guy-movie mavens know Glover best as the good cop to Mel Gibson's badge-wielding psycho-stud in the Lethal Weapon series. (Good news for fans, by the way: Lethal Weapon 4 begins shooting this winter.) But while Glover has his share of fun shooting action flicks, he sees this mainly as a means to pay the bills while developing nobler, lower-profile endeavors.

"It's only because of the success of Lethal Weapon that I was able to do To Sleep With Anger and The Saint of Fort Washington," Glover insists. "It did wonders for our visibility and for our bank accounts--both mine and Mel's. But it's not like either of us were waiting around to do another sequel. I mean, it's been 11 years since we wrapped the first one."

Truth is, between box-office bangs, Glover has been busier than most Hollywood stars with heady projects. Cases in point: 1) He recently exec-produced an HBO series called America's Dream, created to promote Black History Month; 2) he's just about to finish work on an adaptation of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer-winning Beloved, directed by Jonathan Demme and co-starring Oprah Winfrey ("This movie is being made by the sheer will of Oprah," he says); 3) his book-on-tape production of Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom was just nominated for a Grammy; 4) and, this December, Glover will oversee and star in a film about the historic Buffalo Soldiers for the TNT network.

Beloved notwithstanding, Glover says he's started looking beyond the big screen for "things that I think would present a different view of the world, or a different image of people of color. A lot of my youthful idealism [about Hollywood] has worn off."

That said, the actor no doubt has his fingers crossed that Switchback will somehow come off as a taut, character-driven winner--if only to help fund his riskier ventures. Me, I'm thinking of renewing my cable service.

Switchback starts Friday at area theaters.

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