If there is a classic example of full flowering acting maturity at its peak, that example has to be Morgan Freeman. At the age of 77, Freeman is going full steam ahead, and it doesn’t appear that he intends to rest on his laurels or anything else at this point. The veteran actor has garnered a hefty share of critical acclaim, he has certainly never been ‘typecast’, and he has turned down several plum roles that he felt weren’t right for him.
Morgan was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1937, his Mom a school teacher and his Dad a barber. While still a baby Morgan was sent to his paternal grandparents in Mississippi and moved several times during childhood, but he figured out very early that he wanted to be an actor. He has said that as a young boy Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier were his role models.
At the age of nine he landed the lead role in a school play, which may have affected his long-term attitude about acting roles. He commented in a recent interview that he’s most comfortable playing the lead – says it easier and there’s less pressure. However Morgan’s exceptional talent shines whether he’s leading or supporting, and he has the accolades and awards to prove it.
After attending high school in Los Angeles, Morgan enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, hoping to become a fighter pilot, but wound up serving four years as a mechanic/repairman for the Automated Tracking Radar equipment. It’s somehow typical of his modus operandi that he finally got his private pilot’s license at the age of 65, and has been certified to fly several aircraft including his own private jet.
Just for the record, he currently owns and flies a SJ30 SyberJet, but says he’ll trade it in on not one but two new models of the super-high-tech machine.
Freeman is not one who ‘burst on the scene’ in a sudden breakthrough, though his performance as the cunning, dangerous pimp “Fast Black” in Street Smart – at the age of 50 – won him his first Academy Award nomination. Prior to that, he was busy building a broad and powerful base for his screen persona, which is a good thing since that ‘persona’ is so diverse and complex.
A substantial portion of his early career was spent in television, most notably and possibly most usefully his long association with the PBS children’s educational show The Electric Company. Over six years and 780 episodes Morgan gained a lot of experience that he has since put to good use in much more demanding roles.
His resume includes a range from sleazy street character to sagacious and dignified mentor of same, President of the United States to retired gunslinger in the Old West and so many other wildly differing roles with such impressive aplomb that a major producer once said of him, “It’s as if he had 1,000 years of living experience.”
Year Title Role
1964 The Pawnbroker Man on Street
1966 A Man Called Adam Unknown
1968 Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? Grand Central Commuter Uncredited
1980 Brubaker Walter
1981 Eyewitness Lieutenant Black
1984 Teachers Al Lewis
1984 Harry & Son Siemanowski
1985 Marie Charles Traughber
1985 That Was Then… This Is Now Charlie Woods
1987 Street Smart Fast Black
1988 Clean and Sober Craig
1989 Glory Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins
1989 Driving Miss Daisy Hoke Colburn
1989 Lean on Me Principal Joe Clark
1989 Johnny Handsome Lt. A.Z. Drones
1990 The Bonfire of the Vanities Judge Leonard White
1990 The Civil War Frederick Douglass Voice
1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Azeem
1992 Unforgiven Ned Logan
1992 The Power of One Geel Piet
1993 Bopha! Director only
1994 The Shawshank Redemption Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, Narrator
1995 Outbreak Brig. Gen. Billy Ford
1995 Seven Detective Lt. William Somerset
1996 Chain Reaction Paul Shannon
1996 Moll Flanders Hibble
1996 Cosmic Voyage Narrator
1997 Amistad Theodore Joadson
1997 Kiss the Girls Alex Cross
1997 The Long Way Home Narrator
1998 Deep Impact President Tom Beck
1998 Hard Rain Jim
2000 Nurse Betty Charlie Quinn
2000 Under Suspicion Victor Benezet
2001 Along Came a Spider Alex Cross
2002 The Sum of All Fears DCI William Cabot
2002 High Crimes Charlie Grimes
2003 Bruce Almighty God
2003 Dreamcatcher Col. Abraham Curtis
2003 Levity Pastor Miles Evans
2003 Guilty by Association Lt. Redding
2004 The Hunting of the President Narrator
2004 The Big Bounce Walter Crewes
2004 Million Dollar Baby Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris
2005 An Unfinished Life Mitch Bradley
2005 War of the Worlds Narrator
2005 March of the Penguins Narrator
2005 Batman Begins Lucius Fox
2005 Unleashed Sam
2006 Edison Force Ashford
2006 The Contract Frank Carden
2006 Lucky Number Slevin The Boss
2006 10 Items or Less Himself
2007 Evan Almighty God
2007 Feast of Love Harry Stephenson
2007 Gone, Baby, Gone Jack Doyle
2007 The Bucket List Carter Chambers
2008 Wanted Sloan
2008 The Love Guru Narrator
2008 The Dark Knight Lucius Fox
2009 Prom Night in Mississippi Himself
2009 Thick as Thieves Keith Ripley
2009 The Maiden Heist Charlie
2009 Invictus Nelson Mandela
2010 RED Joe
2011 Born to Be Wild Narrator
2011 Conan the Barbarian Narrator
2011 Breaking the Taboo Narrator
2011 Dolphin Tale Dr. Cameron McCarthy
2012 The Magic of Belle Isle Monte Wildhorn
2012 The Dark Knight Rises Lucius Fox
2013 Olympus Has Fallen Speaker Allan Trumbull
2013 Oblivion Malcolm Beech
2013 Now You See Me Thaddeus Bradley
2013 Last Vegas Archie
2014 The Lego Movie Vitruvius Voice
2014 Transcendence Joseph Tagger
2014 Lucy Professor Norman
2014 Dolphin Tale 2 Dr. Cameron McCarthy September release date
2014 Life Itself In post-production
2014 The Last Knights Bartok
A very abbreviated list of Freeman’s most notable and critically acclaimed performances might begin with his Broadway debut in the 1968 production of Hello Dolly, an all-black version that also starred Cab Calloway and Pearl Bailey. He continued to work on stage, deepening and refining his acting skills – and adding five years of dance training – as well as landing numerous TV roles and further developing the authoritative yet mellifluous voice that has become his trademark.
Driving Miss Daisy might be considered another breakthrough; Freeman got an Obie for his off-Broadway performance as chauffeur for the Southern Jewish Miss Daisy, and when the play was adapted for film in 1989 his return to the role earned him another Academy Award nomination and a lot more attention from the film industry and audiences in general.
In fact, 1989 was quite a year for Morgan Freeman as he starred in three major films: as the chauffeur in Miss Daisy, as a Newark, NJ high school principal in Lean On Me and as the leader of a troop of black Union soldiers during the Civil War in Glory. Though all those films were racially oriented, Freeman’s performances have soared right through any perceived colour barrier.
In 1992 Clint Eastwood, directing Unforgiven, chose Morgan Freeman as the ex-gunslinger and former partner in a role that, as Clint remarked, “. . .could have been played by a black man or a white man or a man of any race.” That opinion has been reinforced over and over again by the marvellous range of characters played with powerful empathy.
The Shawshank Redemption in 1994 was another powerful example of Freeman’s ability to grasp and project innate human traits that cross all social and ethnic lines; his character ‘Red’, Tim Robbins’ long-term prison pal, was originally written as an Irish-American. That film also received immense critical and audience applause, winning 15 awards and 23 nominations. For Freeman it won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
The IMDB lists perhaps millions of movies in order of popularity with the general public, of all those movies Shawshank is the number one rated movie of all time.
In 1995 he played alongside Brad Pitt in the critically acclaimed Seven, a dark thriller where he plays a detective. In 1998 the sci fi action movie Deep Impact saw Morgan play President Tom Beck, arguably the first time a major feature film featured a black President.
But that was only a step on the ladder as in the 2003 comedy Bruce Almighty and and Evan Almighty, 2007 Morgan was cast as God
Bruce meets God
In 2004 Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won an Oscar for Best Picture, and Freeman one for Best Supporting Actor as Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris. Asked about his working relationship with Eastwood, Morgan said it’s ideal because Clint doesn’t micro-manage; “He expects you to do your job . . .”. And basically, that’s what Freeman does, with well more than average talent and finesse. He says his acting is “channeling”, and if it doesn’t come easily and naturally, he’s in the wrong part.
One of Freeman’s long-held ambitions came to fruition in 2009 when he starred in the Eastwood-directed film Invictus, about the life of Nelson Mandela. The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson, Red with Bruce Willis, and a rather dizzying number of other films including documentaries have kept him as busy as the proverbial bee, but he’s never lost touch with ‘real life’ apart from his acting career.
2013 Last Vegas, where he and Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline cheerfully make fools of themselves with little fanfare and no harm done.
He doesn’t claim that he can sing, but Morgan Freeman can dance, ride a horse, sail a boat single-handed and pilot an airplane – when he has the time. Probably he could sing if he wanted to, but so far that’s not on his agenda. He has recently completed several other projects; Lucy, with Scarlet Johansson, has just been released, so has Dolphin Tale 2. Life Itself, with Diane Keaton, is due out in December this year.
Still in production, The Last Knights puts Freeman and Clive Owen somewhere in the Middle Ages, sworn to avenge the honor of an emperor slain by traitors – quite a far cry from Morgan’s
As of the latest information Morgan Freeman’s next film is a sequel to the 2013 Olympus Has Fallen, in which he returns to the role of House Speaker Martin Trumbull in Olympus Has Fallen 11, aka London Has Fallen. Both are apocalyptic terrorist scenarios, the first taking place in Washington D. C., the follow-up in London. When London is done falling there’s no telling where Morgan will head next, but it’s sure to be somewhere of great interest to movie-goers.
Please leave a comment as to your favourite Morgan movie, its a tough call but for me its Shawshank Redeption.