John Glover is tired of being a villain, but that isn't why he'll be on view at the Senator Theatre tonight as a genial benefactor.
The Tony Award-winning actor won't be playing a part this time. He is a genial benefactor, and he'll be playing host to a screening of his film "Love! Valour! Compassion!" to help his alma mater, Towson State University, raise money for a scholarship fund in his name.
Glover was one of the first students in Towson's theater arts program. He graduated in 1966, boarded a bus for New York and has been in theater, film and television ever since. And, yes, many of his memorable characters have been loathsome, venal and diabolical.
He was a killer in "52 Pick-Up," a cad in "Annie Hall" and "Julia" and a backstabber in "Scrooged." On his long, angular face, a smile can chill with menace or repulse with disingenuousness. To his great delight, Pauline Kael in the New Yorker dubbed him "one of the great rotters of the '80s."
Still, he admitted in a telephone interview last week from his home in Los Angeles, the bad guy tag is tiresome. "It's limiting that sometimes they won't give me other roles because I'm known as a villain," he said. "And when there is a really good villain role, they won't give it to me because I'm known as a villain, and that would give too much away too early. That's one of the reasons that I went back to New York and the theater a couple years ago. I felt stymied here. I understand it, though. This is a frightening business with a lot of money at stake. You don't want to take chances."
He has not always been a fiend. He won an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of a young man dying of AIDS in the television movie "An Early Frost." And the Salisbury native probably effected the most authentic Baltimore accent on television as Blair Brown's irritating cousin on the acclaimed television show "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd."
In person, Glover, 52, is anything but villainous, especially as concerns Towson State. He started the scholarship in his name in 1992 and has spearheaded fund-raising efforts in its behalf ever since. As an official member of the TSU faculty, he also returns often to teach acting technique.
He demonstrates his own technique and his wide range in "Love! Valour! Compassion!" -- a film based on Terrence McNally's Broadway play about a group of gay friends who spend three holiday weekends in a country home. Glover plays two parts, identical British twins John and James Jeckyll. John is a self-loathing, unlikable cynic who has always resented his brother, a kind, buoyant man embraced by all John's friends. In the film, James is dying of AIDS, which compels John to contemplate his own failure to warrant affection.
"John tries to change, I think," said Glover. "He comes to a crisis point where he realizes if he's not careful he'll be alone all his life."
Glover earned a Tony for the role on Broadway. When McNally was asked to adapt his own play for the film, he insisted the entire Broadway cast be in the movie. Glover, along with six actors and director Joe Mantello, all signed on. Only Nathan Lane passed, and he's replaced in the film by "Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander. He plays Buzz, who falls in love with Glover's character James.
"Jason is remarkable," said Glover. "Within 15 minutes, he had become one of us. He did it by being himself. He's totally fearless."
Glover has been gratified to hear that "Love! Valour! Compassion!" has attracted strong audiences over the last three weeks in the limited markets where it's been released. It opens in Baltimore on Friday.
"Terrence takes eight gay men and gives the audience a play about human values and says, 'This is what it is to live,' " said Glover. "These are human beings living with the same kinds of concerns and problems as all people."
Glover is one of the few Hollywood actors who is openly gay, and while he believes the film industry is homophobic, he doesn't believe his sexual orientation is an issue in casting decisions.
His identification as a villain, however, is another story. Later this month, he returns to familiar ground when he plays Dr. Woodrue in "Batman and Robin." "He's a cross between Albert Einstein and Charles Manson," said Glover.
Perhaps as self-protection, Glover makes a distinction between the doctor and some of his other roles: "I don't think of him as a villain so much as a madman."
For now, he is not signed on for any other parts, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been interest. "A couple of villain roles came down the pike, and I was very, very strong," he boasted. "I said, 'Not for me.' "
'Love! Valour! Compassion!'
What: Benefit for the John Glover Scholarship Endowment at Towson State University
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Senator Theatre, 5904 York Road
Tickets: $100 for reserved seat, $50 unreserved; includes reception afterward at the Polo Grill in the Colonnade
' Call: 410-830-3200
Pub Date: 6/04/97