Danny Glover – On Matters Close to His Heart
Barbara Ellington, Lifestyle Editor
United States actor Danny Glover explains the passion during his art to members of the ASHE Caribbean Performing Arts Ensemble in his visit to the island recently.
The first thing that struck me about American actor Danny Glover, was how much taller he is in real life than he appears on screen. The actor/producer/activist breezed into the island last week for a day packed with meetings and visits to some of the city's historic landmarks. But he also took a few minutes out of his crammed schedule, for an exclusive interview with Flair before jetting back to New Jersey for work on his current project, “Dreamgirls.”
Winner of Independent Spirit and Screen Actors Guild awards, the versatile actor currently has eight projects in pre- or post-production stages,while others are being filmed for release between 2006 and 2008. Glover, who is a trained economist, has close to 100 films under his belt and has the remarkable ability to segue from an action-packed blockbuster to serious dramatic film.
Glover is a Pan-Africanist and ardent follower of the teachings of Marcus Garvey and these influences guide his life and work. Two profound statements encapsulate his essence. They are: “Every day of my life I walk with the idea I am black no matter how successful I am.” And, “It would be extraordinary for (the American) film culture to unravel slavery but it doesn't. People are afraid to deal with it. There is no framework for people to unravel it.”
The preceding statements could be part of the reason for Glover's decision to choose the little-seen film , Beloved (1998) as a vehicle of self-expression and exploration. He spoke about that and other matters close to his heart.
BE: Although 'Beloved' was not a box office success, producer and talk show host Oprah Winfrey still speaks passionately about it. What did that film mean to you?
DG: Beloved was one of the most important films that I've done and I will qualify that and tell you that the most important was Places of the Heart because the work in that film was in tribute to my mom. But Beloved allows us to be reflective in a different way. If you want to to know about who people are you have to understand their journey. Beloved more than any film I've done, resonates with that.
It mixes some of the fantastical with the spiritual and a journey into the self. Beloved in some sense represents the end of the beginning; the end of an institution that subjugated and dehumanised Africans for over 200 years. It showed Africans at a time when they had to do for themselves, had to have their evolution of self. Toni Morrison skillfully tells the story. That's why it's so important to me.
It also gives a sense of who we are today, in that a part of Jewish history is identified by the holocaust; and part of the African history is identified by slavery. We are all here today not because of choice but because we were forcibly brought here. The film represents part of our psychic memory and helps us to understand who we are because of that.
BE: Is there any film you have worked on that you regretted doing?
DG: No, I would do them all again if I had the opportunity. I can't go looking back with regret.
BE: Respond candidly to the following names: Harry Belafonte, Marcus Garvey, Colin Powell, Barak Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
DG: Harry Belafonte is my friend, my brother, my comrade: He is the most important man in my life outside of my father.
I was just at the National Gallery where I saw images of Marcus Garvey. I believe in the Pan- Africanist movement. Marcus Garvey was the father to this whole expansion of ourselves. We have to go through Garvey to get an understanding of who we are as Africans and we owe a lot to him. Colin Powell is an extraordinary man with extraordinary intelligence but it's unfortunate how his career has turned out.
I do not know enough about Barak Obama to make an honest assessment yet.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful and extraordinary women of our time and I have great admiration for her.
BE: Is there anything else that you would love to do in your career and how would you like to be remembered?
DG: There is a movie I want to do about the Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Overture. I want to use that and other projects to create another kind of space and make another kind of film. In other words use film as a vehicle for change.
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