What Happened to Danny Glover?

We take a deep dive into the life and career of Danny Glover, the legendary star of Lethal Weapon and a whole slew of other classics.

Last Updated on June 4, 2024

Los Angeles homicide detective Murtaugh sees a mysterious man pull out a weapon in the middle of a police station. He heroically jumps into action to protect, serve, and tackle. But it turns out it is just good ol’ Mel Gibson, who overpowers and flips this 50-year-old character, played by a 40-year-old actor, Danny Glover. Humiliated and hurt, Danny Glover spits out an iconic line that has come to define his career and become a meme, “I’m too old for this shit.” Danny Glover was too old for this shit three decades ago… but he has kept on grinding, making motion pictures ever since. But maybe Danny Glover is too old for this shit… if that “shit” is good movies. Oh, I kid! I kid!

Glover may not have any Oscars (or, surprisingly, a single nomination), but he did get a late start in his movie career, having broken out in his 40s. So, what has Danny Glover, now on the cusp of his 80s, been doing? He’s certainly not retired, not on the big screen and not through his other endeavors. But how has he spent his years? What has he been doing instead of giving us the Lethal Weapon 5 we deserve? Or at least a Danny Glover Arnold Schwarzenegger buddy cop Predator sequel?!!! I would settle for a Wes Anderson cameo actually…

Let’s find out: WTF Happened to…DANNY GLOVER?

To truly understand what happened to Danny Glover, we go back to the beginning. And the beginning began when he was born on July 22, 1946, in San Francisco, California. It was here that Glover attended San Francisco State University, although he didn’t graduate. Later, he would enroll in San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (focusing on the Black Actors’ Workshop) and the Shelton Actors Lab.

Early Roles

But even after his studies and briefly appearing in Escape from Alcatraz, Glover worked in San Francisco’s Office of Community Development. Noble as his causes may have been, he gravitated to the small screen, appearing on shows like B.J. And The Bear (1979), Lou Grant (1979), The Greatest American Hero (1981), and Hill Street Blues (1981), which was actually a four-episode arc.

Glover would balance his early acting days on screens both big and small and the stage, appearing in 1981 comedy Chu Chu and the Philly Flash followed by drama Deadly Drifter (1982), a production of “Master Harold”…and the Boys (1982), and the 1983 miniseries Chiefs, earning praise for his supporting turn. 1984 brought Iceman and, more importantly, the role of a drifter after work in Places in the Heart, which he would later say was his most precious role and a sort of tribute to his ancestors, as he was the great-grandson of slaves. This ties directly into what would eventually be Glover’s defining trait outside of acting: his causes. Inspired by parents active in the NAACP, Glover himself became a civil rights activist, participating in the Black Students’ Union during his short go at college. Such movements and protests in part led to the first college-level Department of Black Studies in the U.S. Nearly five decades later, he actively supported the SFSU hunger strike to get more resources for the College of Ethnic Studies. Glover, too, later received the NAACP Image Award and the Pioneer Award from the National Civil Rights Museum. Such commitment would remain on screen throughout his career, too, notably with 2000’s TV movie Freedom Song, which earned him Emmy and SAG nods. As he would note in the 1980s, “Given how this industry has dealt with people like me, the parts I take have to be political choices.”

Lethal Weapon and stardom

Glover had no doubt arrived, soon truly breaking out after playing a corrupt lieutenant in Witness (1985), a cowboy who suffers racism in Silverado (1985), and, most notably, the abusive husband to Whoopi Goldberg’s Celie in The Color Purple (1985) in a performance that was snubbed of an Oscar nomination, an accolade that he would never achieve. Despite the acclaim, he remained fairly under the radar. This would go away in 1987 with two key works: playing Nelson Mandela in a TV movie (even beating Morgan Freeman to the punch!) and Lethal Weapon, playing on-the-brink-of-retirement sergeant Roger Murtaugh throughout the quadrilogy, which early on redefined the buddy cop movie even in its infancy. (Ironic, too, that his first blockbuster came at 41.) This franchise was key for Glover not in just international exposure but allowing him to fund projects of passion and social importance. Signing on for Lethal Weapon 2 allowed him to work on 1990’s To Sleep with Anger, which was his meatiest role yet (a man who disrupts a small family’s life), earning an Independent Spirit award for Best Male Lead in the process. With that came 1992’s Lethal Weapon 3, which he used as leverage to get the following year’s The Saint of Fort Washington financed. By the time Lethal Weapon 4 was locked and loaded in 1999, Glover could press forward with nearly any project he wanted.

predator 2

Finishing up the 1980s, Glover played a pilot in Bat21* (1988) and a tracker in miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989). This, too, was a pivotal role, with him embodying so much of Dove’s soul. In the early ‘90s, Glover really came into his own, balancing a variety of genres to varying degrees of success. The same year he won an Independent Spirit Award, he played Lieutenant Mike Harrigan in Predator 2 (a Best Movie You Never Saw fave here at JoBlo), a performance that stood out in a genre not normally associated with strong ones. 1991 brought the weak Flight of the Intruder, fine crime flick A Rage in Harlem, ensemble drama Grand Canyon, and a horrible comedy with Martin Short called Pure Luck.

His Morgan Freeman connection was made concrete with 1993’s Bopha!, directed by Freeman himself. He also appeared in Alex Haley miniseries Queen. Now was the time in his career when he could branch out and do family-friendly Disney movies like Angels in the Outfield (1994) and Operation Dumbo Drop (1995). Such fare would carry over the next couple of years, with Gone Fishin’ (1997), The Prince of Egypt (1998) (no, he didn’t do his own singing), and Antz (1998). The rest of the decade saw him in a one-off twist as Philip Marlowe for Fallen Angels (1995), along with thriller Switchback (1998) and Beloved (1998). But his causes remained true, as in 1994 he co-founded the Robey Theatre Company, named after landmark Black actor/singer Paul Robeson.

The first part of the 21st century brought apartheid-focused Boesman and Lena (2000), thriller 3 A.M. (2001), and 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, showing he was somehow a perfect fit for the Anderson troupe. He would also direct his first feature (2002’s Just a Dream), return to TV (2003’s Good Fences), and surprisingly turn up in 2004’s Saw.

Random Roles

Here, Danny Glover hit us with a spree of movies that showed he didn’t give a damn what you threw in front of him so long as it came with a paycheck and steady work. And, by and large, how many of these movies do you even remember seeing Danny Glover in?:

2005’s Manderlay and Missing in America; 2006’s Bamako, Barnyard, The Shaggy Dog, and Dreamgirls; 2007’s Shooter, Poor Boy’s Game, Battle for Terra, Honeydripper, and Miranda Regresa; 2008’s Be Kind Rewind, Gospel Hill, and Blindness; 2009’s Night Train, Down for Life, The Harimaya Bridge, 2012…Oh, a couple? Did you also remember his arcs on ER and Brothers and Sisters? How about the next decade?:

Danny Glover kicked off the 2010s by appearing in – ready for this? – 10 movies! There he is in Death at a Funeral, but what’s he doing co-starring with John Cena (Legendary), voicing dogs (Alpha and Omega), and playing characters with no proper names, like The Principal in I Want to Be a Soldier? The rest of the decade was just padding: two movies in 2011, three in 2012, seven in 2013, eight in 2014 and 2015, nine in 2016, and more than a dozen total to round out the decade. So rare, too, was anything notable. Some titles were, like Sorry to Bother You (2018), The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019), and the Jumanji sequel (2019), but the rest did nothing for his reputation. It was like he was – dare we say it? – too old for this shit.

Danny Glover’s activism

But we have to say that Danny Glover’s true interests were elsewhere, sometimes even behind the camera, usually for the sake of social awareness/justice and genuine meaning, as with 2008’s Trouble the Water, 2011’s The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Uncle Boonmee (2012), and more, all through his Louverture Films, so named after Haitian general Toussaint Louverture. Glover even tried making a biopic of the man, collaborating with Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, whose lack of support from the U.S. Glover was gravely disappointed in. Despite receiving $18 million in funding from Venezuela, the film has yet to be made.

Once saying, “I try to be the best citizen I could be,” Danny Glover would remain prominent in bringing justice to those who needed it internationally, partaking in TransAfrica – dealing with foreign policy between the U.S. and African/Caribbean regions – and serving as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Brazil. He, too, was a UNICEF ambassador. Such causes and more would see him in a spotlight that perhaps better fit his purpose on the planet. In 2004, while protesting against violence and hostility in Sudan, he was arrested for disorderly conduct, while in 2011 he actively protested in support of labor unions; he also spoke directly in support of the American Postal Workers Union, fitting as his parents were both postal workers.

Maybe we can’t name a single movie Danny Glover had a significant onscreen role in in close to two decades, but cinema has given back to him, recently receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for “outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes.” It’s telling that in his speech, Glover barely even mentioned film… Nevertheless, the man is a legend among legends and deserves a great role to put a cap on what’s been an amazing career.

About the Author

1950 Articles Published

Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with JoBlo.com periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.