Interview By: Michael Dance
Morgan Freeman needs no introduction. The Oscar-winning star of classics like The Shawshank Redemption and Driving Miss Daisy is well-known and beloved by anyone who’s ever watched one of his movies. He’s everyone’s grandfather, prone to monologues full of wisdom and thoughtful voice-over narrations (often in movies he doesn’t even appear in).
Freeman is also incredibly polite, even while tacitly admitting he’d rather go rest than talk to you: “How are we all today? I’m marvellous, simply marvellous. The day is almost over.”
He’s been doing the press rounds all day for his new movie, Feast of Love, in which he plays a character who is, you guessed it, both wise and the narrator. He’s asked how much wisdom he considers himself to have. “I have no such thing. You have to keep utmost in your mind that it’s written down somewhere, and I’m speaking it back. None of this is spontaneous. Not a comma comes out of me. It’s all scripted. That I can pretend well enough for you to believe it is either my curse or my blessing.”
He admits to feeling a bit conflicted about the persona he has created for himself, which has included, literally, playing God. Twice. “It’s hard to walk through life with people saying, ‘Oh, here comes God.’ You’re confusing the actor with the part again. There’s a syndrome, which they used to call the Othello Syndrome, where you walk off the stage with the character still in place. Not me. Never do that, never have, and still don’t.”
In fact, he’s troubled by actors who seem to carry more weight because of their perceived intelligence thanks to their roles. “That’s another one of the problems that we have. I’m not anything, I’m — okay, I will cop to being fairly well-read. Meaning that I can
He laughs, realizing he’s saying that while being interviewed. “Wrong analogy.”
As for the narration thing — we’ve previously heard him do a voice-over in Shawshank, Million Dollar Baby, March of the Penguins, War of the Worlds, and others — he seems finally inclined just to accept it. When someone suggests that maybe the temptation is too great for filmmakers to not give him a voice-over, he shrugs. “You know, I’m beginning to think that that is becoming true. I get so many requests to do narratons, and voice-overs, for documentaries. It’s like, the come-on is: ‘Only you can do it!’ Of course, if you believe that, you’ll be buying bridges and all kinds of other stuff.”
Feast of Love is an ensemble piece about a number of characters’ experiences in love, sometimes magical, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes mysterious. “Well, I think it’s a very eclectic approach to love, as we see of it,” Freeman says of the script. “And you know, what are we generally talking about in here is love and many of its manifestations: sexual, interpersonal, group interaction. I was very intrigued by it. It covered a lot of ground, you know? It’s very inclusive, shall we say. You feel like, yeah, I want to be involved in this. I feel good about taking part in this music.”
Freeman’s character in particular, Harry Stevenson, is a complex figure: he’s in a long and happy marriage, but is still grieving over the death of one of their children.
Aside from Feast of Love, Freeman is also appearing in the upcoming Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck (“It was an interesting experience; I think Ben’s going to make a good director”) and The Bucket List, opposite Jack Nicholson. “The experience of doing that was all it was cracked up to be. Working with Jack and Rob Reiner, you know, you look forward to going to work every day.”
Additionally, he’s finally getting a dream project off the ground: a biopic in which he’ll star as Nelson Mandela. Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon are both currently interested in joining the project. “It’s on track. Script is done. And it’s reached the top of the mountain…we’ve got every ingredient that we need.”
Yes, it might be easy to guess, but Freeman is also known as one of Hollywood’s most prolific actors, often starring in upwards of three films per year. How does he keep it up? The answer, it turns out, is quite simple: “Money,” he says. That’s it? “Well, you know, you do so much of this for free when you’re trying to make your career, that when you start getting paid, when they start calling you a
But…but…you’re Morgan Freeman, you’re not supposed to be cynical. He chuckles. “That really isn’t all there is to it,” he finally adds. “You’re also looking for that gem, that little pearl that’s nestled in amongst all the others, that may not pay well, but the dividends are countable.”
Still, he obviously doesn’t think he’s explained his thoughts well enough, and right before leaving (“Thank you, and thank you all, always, take care,” he says with his signature politeness) he’s able to clarify himself. It sounds, dare we suggest it, like wisdom. “[The little movies] don’t drop into your lap every other day, so when they do, you are very lucky when you realize that’s what it is. ‘Oh, but Morgan, they’re offering you a bucketful of money.’ ‘That can wait. This one.’ Usually, the more money you make, the less you gotta do to get it. Did you know that? The harder you work, the less you make. The poorest-paid people in show business are dancers.”