Born to Be Morgan
Morgan Freeman finally won an Academy Award in 2005 in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” for which he also won a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2009, he reunited with Eastwood to portray Nelson Mandela in the true-life drama “Invictus,” for which he garnered his latest Oscar nomination.
Mr. Freeman had previously been honored with three other Academy Award nominations, for “Street Smart,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” And he is set to star next in the family adventure “Dolphin Tale” opening in September.
Morgan’s long list of film credits includes “Red”; “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Bucket List,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Evan Almighty,” “Along Came a Spider,” “Deep Impact,” “Amistad,” “Kiss the Girls,” “Se7en,” “Glory,” “Lean on Me” and “Brubaker.” And he’s lent his distinctive voice to Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” and the Oscar-winning documentaries “March of the Penguins” and “The Long Way Home.”
Here, he talks about narrating “Born to Be Wild,” an endangered species documentary chronicling the extraordinary efforts of a couple of conservationists to save orphaned elephants and orangutans.
Morgan Freeman: Hey, Kam.
KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you again, and they sent in more questions than I’ll ever be able to get to, so I’d appreciate your keeping your answers brief, so we can get to as many as possible.
MF: Okay, no problem. Are you telling me you just want “Yes” and “No” answers? [LOL]
KW: Sorry, no, not quite that concise. Leon Marquis asks: what interested you in narrating another documentary? Was it the fact that “March of the Penguins” and “The Long Way Home” went on to win Academy Awards?
MF: Well, I wasn’t really thinking about those at all. I just felt that what these two ladies’ [Daphne Sheldrick and Birute Galdikas] are doing is extremely important. I believe in helping the planet survive, and that includes reaching out to help some of the disappearing creatures whose habitats we’re destroying. It’s up to us to somehow reverse that trend. I don’t know how we’ll achieve it, but we need to.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you want the public to take away from the movie?
MF: How critical it is that we pull together and focus some attention and energy on alleviating the plight of endangered species.
KW: Patricia mentions that upon Emancipation, many American ex-slaves named themselves “Freeman” to show their pride and gratitude for their freedom. Do you know whether that is how your family lineage got the last name?
MF: I have no idea. I’ve tried to research it, but couldn’t find anything to tell me.
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says that when movies went from silent to sound, they were called “Talkies,” and that now we have “Voicies,” where unseen narrators play a pivotal role, as you do again in “Born to Be Wild.”
MF: That’s not exactly a question, but rather an interesting observation, and a new term that Harriet’s coined, “Voicie!” And it’s a good one. [Chuckles] Most documentaries today are narrated by somebody commenting in the background.
KW: Harriet also says: It was great to see you on Broadway in “The Country Girl.” Would you consider returning to Broadway?
MF: In a word, “No.”
KW: Keith Kremer asks: If a person unfamiliar with your work wanted to watch just one of your films, which one would you suggest?
MF: I think I would recommend “Invictus.”
KW: Ilene Proctor has a related inquiry: Since you’ve contributed your immense talents to so many great films, I’d like to know which one is your favorite.
KW: Ilene also asks: Did you have a role model, whenever you played God?
KW: And who was that?
MF: Me. [Laughs heartily]
KW: Peter Keough asks: Are you the voice of God, or do you just play him in movies?
MF: What the heck kind of question is that? Tell Peter that I AM the voice of God and that he better listen to me. [LOL]
KW: Mike Pittman wants to know whether you ever felt like giving up and doing something different at anytime during your acting career.
MF: Oh yes, many times, however, not during my career, but while trying to get my career going. Absolutely! I have many friends and Providence itself to thank for not having given up.
KW: Mike wants to know if you have any advice for young actors desiring to become actors.
MF: Well, if they’re already actors, then there’s no desire to become actors. What they’re looking for now is success, to become paid actors. And the only advice I have for them is to persevere. Just keep plugging away. Keep going! Don’t give up! The surest way to fail at anything is to give up.
KW: John Zippert would like to know whether there are any community-based, charity organizations you’re working with in Mississippi?
MF: My own. I have a charity dedicated to education.
KW: Larry Greenberg is curious about how your plans to make historical dramas about the black experience in America are coming along?
KW: Judyth Piazza asks: After what movie did you finally say to yourself, “I have arrived!”
MF: “Street Smart.”
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman, says that she’s not only also a Gemini but that you two share the same birthday, June 1st, as well. She wants to know, if you’ve been to any exotic animal orphanages like those shown in the documentary?
MF: No, but I have foster-parented seven cats.
KW: Bernadette has a follow-up: How does your country home life in Mississippi compare to the citified Hollywood environment you enter into for work?
MF: It’s preferable. That’s why I’m there.
KW: Hisani Dubose says: I would like to know what gets you interested in a script and if you ever turn down movie roles?
MF: Oh, I’ve turned down a lot of stuff. And what interests me is the same thing that would interest you in a book. If a book doesn’t hold your interest after several pages, what do you do?
KW: I put it down.
MF: It’s the same thing with a script.
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
MF: Playing solitaire on my computer. I’m totally addicted to it.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
MF: I just read a book called “1,000 White Women,” which is based not on a story but on an actual event. In the 1850s, a Cheyenne chief apparently asked the President of the United States for white women, saying that peace could be achieved if whites and Native Americans became one through the offspring of intermarriage.
KW: The Dule Hill question. To what do you attribute your success?
MF: Perseverance, luck and just a little bit of talent.
KW: Well thanks again for the interview, Mr. Freeman, and I hope to talk to you about “Dolphin Tale” in the fall.
MF: Alright, babe, take care.
Watch a “Born to Be Wild” trailer and interview.