Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman[2] (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, director and narrator. He is particularly known for his distinctive deep voice, and has appeared in a range of film genres portraying character roles. Freeman is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman Deauville 2018.jpg
Freeman narrating at the Deauville Film Festival in 2018
Born (1937-06-01) June 1, 1937 (age 83)
OccupationActor, director, narrator
Years active1964–present
Notable work
Full list
Spouse(s)
  • Jeanette Adair Bradshaw
    (m. 1967; div. 1979)
  • Myrna Colley-Lee
    (m. 1984; div. 2010)
Children4
Morgan Freeman's voice from BBC Radio 4's The Film Programme, September 12, 2008.[1]

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Freeman was raised in Mississippi where he began acting in school plays. He studied theatre arts in Los Angeles and appeared in stage productions in his early career. He rose to fame in the 1970s for his role in the children's television series The Electric Company. Freeman then appeared in the Shakespearean plays Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, the former of which earned him an Obie Award. His breakout role was in Street Smart (1987), playing a hustler, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He achieved further stardom in the comedy-drama Driving Miss Daisy (1989), which garnered Freeman a second Academy Award nomination, for Best Actor. His other critical successes of 1989 were the war film Glory, and the biographical drama Lean on Me.

Freeman made his directorial debut in 1993 with the drama Bopha!, and a year later, appeared in the acclaimed prison drama The Shawshank Redemption. David Fincher's crime thriller Seven (1995), in which Freeman was cast as a detective, also received praise for his performance. Later, he appeared in Steven Spielberg's historical epic Amistad (1997), and the science fiction Deep Impact (1998). In the mid-2000s, he played a former boxer in Million Dollar Baby, joined The Dark Knight Trilogy, and narrated the documentary March of the Penguins. For his portrayal of South African President Nelson Mandela in Invictus (2009), he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Freeman joined two film franchises in 2013; the Fallen film series, and the Now You See Me series. Freeman also hosted and narrated National Geographic's The Story of God with Morgan Freeman and The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman.

Freeman is the co-founder of Revelations Entertainment, a production company that has produced some of his films and documentaries. He has been an advocate of environmental causes, and has narrated short films for global organizations such as the United Nations. He is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor, the AFI Life Achievement Award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. For his performances on stage, he has won three Obie Awards, one of the most prestigious honors for recognizing excellence in theatre.

Life and career

1937–1969: Early life and work

Morgan Freeman was born on June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee.[3] He is the son of Mayme Edna (née Revere; 1912–2000), a teacher,[4] and Morgan Porterfield Freeman (July 6, 1915 – April 27, 1961),[2][5] a barber, who died of cirrhosis in 1961.[5] He has three older siblings. According to DNA analysis, some of his ancestors were from the Songhai and Tuareg people of Niger.[6] Some of Freeman's great-great-grandparents were slaves who migrated from North Carolina to Mississippi. Freeman later discovered that his Caucasian maternal great-great-grandfather had lived with, and was buried beside, Freeman's African-American great-great-grandmother in the segregated South, as the two could not legally marry at the time.[4] The DNA test suggested that among all of his African ancestors, a little over one-quarter came from the area that stretches from present-day Senegal to Liberia and three-quarters came from the Congo-Angola region.[7]

As an infant, Freeman was sent to his paternal grandmother in Charleston, Mississippi.[8][9] He moved frequently during his childhood, living in Greenwood, Mississippi; Gary, Indiana; and finally Chicago, Illinois.[9] When Freeman was 16 years old, he contracted pneumonia.[10] He made his acting debut at age nine, playing the lead role in a school play. He then attended Broad Street High School, a building which serves today as Threadgill Elementary School, in Greenwood, Mississippi.[11] At age 12, he won a statewide drama competition, and while still in high school, he performed in a radio show based in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated in 1955, but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, opting instead to enlist in the United States Air Force[12] and served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.[13] After four years in the military, he moved to Los Angeles, California, and took acting classes at the Pasadena Playhouse, dancing lessons in San Francisco, and worked as a transcript clerk at Los Angeles City College.[12] He also studied theatre arts at the college, where a teacher encouraged him to embark on a career in dance.[14]

In the early 1960s, Freeman worked as a dancer at the 1964 World's Fair and was a member of the Opera Ring musical theatre group in San Francisco.[15] He acted in a touring company version of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, and also appeared as an extra in Sidney Lumet's 1965 drama film The Pawnbroker starring Rod Steiger.[15] Between acting and dancing jobs, Freeman realized that acting started to take hold. "After [The Royal Hunt of the Sun], my acting career just took off", he later recalled.[15] Freeman made his Off-Broadway debut in 1967, opposite Viveca Lindfors in The Nigger Lovers (about the Freedom Riders during the American Civil Rights Movement),[16] before debuting on Broadway in 1968's all-black version of Hello, Dolly! which also starred Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.[17] In 1969, he also performed on stage in The Dozens.[18]

1970–1988: The Electric Company and breakthrough

Beginning in 1971, Freeman starred in the PBS children's television show The Electric Company, which gave him financial stability and recognition among American audiences.[9] His tenure on the show was tiring, so he quit after four years, in 1975.[14] Television producer Joan Ganz Cooney said that Freeman loathed appearing in The Electric Company, saying "it was a very unhappy period in his life."[19] Freeman later acknowledged that he does not think about the show, but he was grateful to have been a part of it.[20] His first appearance in a mainstream was in 1971's Who Says I Can't Ride a Rainbow!, a family drama starring Jack Klugman.[21] Also that year, he performed in a theatre production of Purlie.[22] After a small career break, he returned to work in 1978, appearing in two stage productions: The Mighty Gents and White Pelicans.[23] Freeman continued to work in theatre, and a year later, appeared in the Shakespearean tragedies Coriolanus and Julius Caesar.[24] He received the Obie Award in 1980 for the title role in Coriolanus.[15] Freeman also won a Drama Desk Award and a Clarence Derwent Award for his role as a wino in The Mighty Gents, a 1978 play.[25]

In 1980, he had a small role as Walter in the drama Brubaker, which starred Robert Redford as a prison warden.[26] Freeman next appeared in the television film, Attica (1980), which is about the 1971 Attica Prison riot and aftermath.[27] A year later, he starred in Peter Yates' Eyewitness with co-stars William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver.[28] From 1982 to 1984, Freeman was a cast member of the soap opera Another World, playing architect Roy Bingham. After several small roles in dramas, he starred in Marie (1985), a film adaptation of Marie: A True Story by Peter Maas, in which he portrayed Charles Traughber,[29] and also appeared in the miniseries The Atlanta Child Murders. Freeman had a small role in the drama That Was Then... This Is Now, based on the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton.[30] In the mid-1980s, he began accepting prominent supporting roles in feature films, earning him a reputation for depicting wise, fatherly characters.[9]

In addition to television films, in 1987, Freeman played a violent street hustler, a role that diverted from Freeeman's previous roles, in Street Smart co-starring Christopher Reeve and Kathy Baker. Freeman's performance was praised by film critics, including Roger Ebert who wrote, "Freeman has the flashier role, as a smart, very tough man who can be charming or intimidating - whatever's needed...Freeman creates such an unforgettable villain."[31] Freeman's performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[32] Freeman later considered Street Smart to be his breakthrough role.[20] In his next film, he played Craig in the drama Clean and Sober with co-stars Michael Keaton and Kathy Baker. Although the film was not a box office hit, it gained fair reviews; Roger Ebert gave the film 4½ out of 5 stars and called the performances "superb".[33] He received an Obie Award each for his roles as a preacher in the musical The Gospel at Colonus, and as Hoke Colburn in the play Driving Miss Daisy, respectively.[15]

1989–1996: Mainstream film acclaim

 
Freeman with his ex-wife (left) and mother (right), 1990

Freeman had four film releases in 1989. In the first, he starred as Sergeant Major John Rawlins in Glory, directed by Edward Zwick. It is about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union Army's second African-American regiment in the American Civil War. Writing for The Washington Post, Desson Thomson praised Freeman and co-star Denzel Washington for their "warming sense of fraternity".[34] Glory was nominated for five Academy Awards, and won three: Best Supporting Actor for Washington, Best Cinematography and Best Sound.[35] Next, Freeman starred in the comedy-drama Driving Miss Daisy, alongside Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd. Based on Alfred Uhry's play, in which Freeman appeared in previously, he reprises his role of Hoke Colburn, a chauffeur for a Jewish widow. The film was a commercial success and grossed US$145 million worldwide.[36] Film critics were mainly positive; Henry Sheehan from The Hollywood Reporter opined that Freeman and Tandy's performances complemented each other while retaining their "individual star-quality".[37] The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Freeman.[35]

His third release was the biographical drama Lean on Me, in which Freeman portrays the principal of an under-performing New Jersey high school. Jane Galbraith of Variety magazine thought Freeman's casting was "wonderful".[38] Lastly in 1989, he starred in Walter Hill's Johnny Handsome, a crime drama in which he plays a New Orleans police officer.[39] In a 1990 interview, Freeman said Glory was one of his favorite releases—"The Black legacy is as noble, is as heroic, is as filled with adventure and conquest and discovery as anybody else's. It's just that nobody knows it."[14]

In 1990, Freeman provided the voice of Frederick Douglass in The Civil War, a television miniseries about the American Civil War.[40] That year, he also starred in the critically panned The Bonfire of the Vanities. According to the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 16% based on 51 reviews.[41] In the summer of 1990, he played Petruchio in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, which opened at Delacorte theatre in New York City. Freeman had the role in his mind for six years; "[Petruchio] seems to have a lot of fun in life.", he said.[42] His sole work of 1991 was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, an action adventure co-starring Kevin Costner and Christian Slater. The film was a commercial success,[43] but garnered mixed reviews from critics; The New York Times Vincent Canby thought Freeman played Azeem with "wit and humor" despite the "muddled" plot.[44] In 1992, he appeared in Clint Eastwood's western Unforgiven, which won four Academy Awards including for Best Picture.[45] The film depicts William Munny (Eastwood), an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job with old friend Ned Logan (Freeman). Unforgiven was widely acclaimed and one critic thought Freeman gave an outstanding performance.[46] The Power of One was Freeman's second film in 1992, a loose adaptation of Bryce Courtenay's 1989 novel of the same name, in which he plays boxing coach Geel Piet.[47]

In 1993, Freeman made his directorial debut with the drama Bopha!, which tells the story of a black policeman (portrayed by Danny Glover) during South African apartheid era. Bopha! was well received, in particular for Freeman's directing. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote, "Freeman lays out the father-son dynamics with great skill and very little fuss. There's no hysteria in his approach; instead, he sticks to the facts, relying on his cast to provide the emotion. The result is a surprisingly powerful, insightful film."[48] Kenneth Turan from Los Angeles Times also complimented Freeman's direction, but thought the film was "more predictable than powerful".[49] In 1994, Freeman portrayed Red, the redeemed convict in Frank Darabont's acclaimed drama The Shawshank Redemption with co-star Tim Robbins. It is based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Freeman was cast at the suggestion of producer Liz Glotzer, despite the novella's character of a white Irishman.[50] Filming proved to be challenging, mainly because of Darabont's need for multiple takes. "The answer [I’d give him] was no [...] having to do something again and again for no discernible reason tends to be a bit debilitating to the energy", Freeman said.[50] Nevertheless, Freeman's performance was described as "quietly impressive" and "moving" by The New York Times.[51] At the 67th Academy Awards, Freeman received a nomination for Best Actor.[52] Since its release, The Shawshank Redemption has remained popular among audiences.[50] That same year, he served as a member of the jury at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival.[53]

Outbreak (1995), a medical thriller directed by Wolfgang Petersen, was Freeman's next film. He played General Billy Ford, a doctor dealing with an outbreak of a fictional virus in a small town. The film also stars Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Donald Sutherland. Outbreak was a box office success, grossing $189.8 million worldwide,[54] but gained a mixed critics' response.[55] Mick LaSelle of the San Francisco Chronicle credited Freeman for his performance which may have been unappreciated by viewers.[56] In 1995, Freeman also starred in David Fincher's crime thriller Seven paired with Brad Pitt. It tells the story of two detectives who attempt to identify a serial killer who bases his murders on the Christian seven deadly sins. The film generated a positive response, and the critic from Entertainment Weekly praised his performance; "Freeman plays nearly every scene in a doleful hush; he makes you lean in to hear his words, to ferret out the hints of anger and regret that haunt this weary knight."[57]

A year later, Freeman appeared in Chain Reaction as Paul Shannon, a science fiction thriller co-starring Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz. The film was a critical and commercial disappointment.[58][59] Next, he was cast opposite Robin Wright in 1996's Moll Flanders, a period drama based on the novel of the same name. The film received a mixed reception; Greg Evans from Variety magazine said Freeman gave a "sweet" performance, while The New York Times critic thought he was miscast.[60][61]

1997–2004: Continued success, Oscar win

While filming Outbreak, Freeman expressed an interest in starting a film production company. He turned to Lori McCreary, producer of Bopha!, to be his business partner. Freeman explained to her that he wanted to achieve representation on screen, explore challenging issues and reveal hidden truths, so they chose to name their firm Revelations Entertainment.[62]

In 1997, Freeman narrated the Academy Award-winning documentary The Long Way Home, about Jewish refugees' liberation after World War II and the establishment of Israel.[23] He also appeared in Steven Spielberg's historical epic Amistad alongside Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, and Matthew McConaughey. Based on the events in 1839 aboard the slave ship La Amistad, the film was mostly well received and earned four nominations at the Academy Awards.[63][64] The critic from Salon magazine, however, thought the film lacked inspiration and Freeman's role was "utterly cryptic".[65] In that same year, he was cast as psychologist Alex Cross in Kiss the Girls, a thriller based on James Patterson's 1995 novel of the same name. In a mixed review, Peter Stack of San Francisco Chronicle thought Freeman and co-star Ashley Judd gave strong performances despite the lengthy plot.[66]

 
Freeman in 1998

Freeman went on to star in Deep Impact (1998), in which he played President Tim Beck in the science fiction disaster film.[67] The story depicts humanity's attempt to destroy a 7 mile (11 km) wide comet set to collide with Earth and cause a mass extinction. The film was a box office hit despite competition from Armageddon, another summer blockbuster of the year.[68] Continuing with the disaster genre, he then starred in 1998's Hard Rain opposite Christian Slater. It centers around a heist and man-made treachery amidst a natural disaster in a small Indiana town. The film was unpopular with critics; Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times called the characters "one-dimensional" and the film "routine".[69]

Freeman returned to the screen in 2000 with a lead role in the comedy Nurse Betty. He plays hitman Charlie, featuring co-stars Renée Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to mainly positive reviews; the critic from Variety magazine thought Freeman and Rock had "wonderful chemistry".[70] Next, he appeared in Under Suspicion (2000), a thriller remake of the 1981 French film Garde à vue. The film had been "carting round" for twelve years before Freeman was able to produce it under Revelations Entertainment.[71] He co-starred with Gene Hackman; "Working with Gene was wonderful. I didn't find it too hard working with an icon I so respected.", Freeman said.[71] Upon release, Under Suspicion was met with lukewarm reception; CNN's Paul Tatara praised the actors but thought the film was "too tawdry to be completely entertaining, and too static to generate much excitement."[72] In 2001, Freeman starred in Along Came a Spider, a sequel to 1997's Kiss the Girls. Reprising his role as Alex Cross, the film received mixed-to-negative reviews.[73] Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today observed that "Freeman strides with noble authority" but thought the overall film was unmemorable.[74]

In 2002, Freeman was cast opposite Ben Affleck in the spy thriller The Sum of All Fears. It is based on Tom Clancy's 1991 novel of the same name, about a plot by an Austrian Neo-Nazi to trigger a nuclear war between the United States and Russia, so that he can establish a fascist superstate in Europe. The Sum of All Fears received generally mixed reviews but was a commercial success, grossing $193.9 million worldwide.[75] Ed Gonzalez of Slant magazine took issue with the film's violent content, especially being released not long after the September 11 terrorist attacks.[76] Next, Freeman starred alongside Ashley Judd and Jim Caviezel in High Crimes (2002), a legal thriller based on Joseph Finder's 1998 novel of the same name. The story follows lawyer Claire (Judd), whose husband (Caviezel), is arrested and placed on trial for the murder of villagers while he was in the Marines. Although several critics were unimpressed with the story, they credited Freeman and Judd for their chemistry and performances.[77][78]

In 2003, Freeman appeared as God in the hit comedy Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston. Next, he starred in the science fiction horror Dreamcatcher, adapted from Stephen King's 2001 novel of the same name. The film was a box office flop and garnered mostly negative reviews; Dreamcatcher has an approval rating of 28% on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.[79] Also in 2003, Freeman starred in two other dramas that were not widely seen; Levity and Guilty by Association. His 2004 releases were comedy The Big Bounce and sports drama Million Dollar Baby. In the last one of these, directed by Clint Eastwood, saw Freeman portraying an elderly former boxer. The film was a critical and financial success, winning four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Hilary Swank), and Best Supporting Actor for Freeman, his first Academy Award.[9] Freeman was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the same category.[80] Roger Ebert complimented Freeman's "flat and factual" narration, and Timeout magazine thought the cast fully inhabited their roles.[81][82]

2005–2013: Documentaries, thrillers and film series

2005 was a busy year for Freeman, making six appearances in various features. In the drama An Unfinished Life, Freeman plays neighbor Mitch to a Wyoming rancher (Robert Redford). The film had a mixed response; The Guardian critic thought it was amiable but questioned the purpose of Freeman's "sidekick" role.[83] Freeman's authoritative voice led to his narration of two documentaries; Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds and the Academy Award-winning March of the Penguins.[23] He also appeared in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, the first instalment in what would become The Dark Knight Trilogy, as the fictional Lucius Fox.[84] Afterwards, he co-starred with Jet Li in the action thriller Unleashed. He played Sam, a blind piano tuner who teaches Li's character to turn his life around. The film gained a mixed-to-positive reception; Peter Hartlaub of San Francisco Chronicle was confused with the genre which morphed between action and drama.[85] Freeman's next role was in a thriller Edison, which bombed at the box office.[86] In his last release of 2005, he provided the voice of Neil Armstrong in the documentary Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D.[87]

Freeman starred in 2006's The Contract, as assassin Frank Carden opposite John Cusack. The film was released direct-to-video, which critic John Cornelius suggests was unsurprising, considering the generic formula of the thriller.[88] Freeman next appeared in Lucky Number Slevin (2006), a crime thriller directed by Paul McGuigan. Starring a principle cast of Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Stanley Tucci, and Ben Kingsley, the film garnered mixed reception. David Mattin of BBC wrote, "Kingsley and Freeman shine individually, but their inevitable, climatic clash of heads lacks force. Like its leading man [Hartnett], this movie presents a charming façade with nothing much underneath."[89] Next, Freeman portrayed himself in the low-budget comedy 10 Items or Less opposite Paz Vega. Two weeks after its theatrical release, 10 Items or Less was made available for download from ClickStar, a film distribution company that Freeman co-founded that year.[90]

In 2007, Freeman reprised his role as God in Evan Almighty, a sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty, with Steve Carell. Evan Almighty was a box office failure and negatively received; The Guardian critic wrote, "A cast full of people who have been frequently funny elsewhere flounder in this deluge of sentimentality and CGI. Avoid like the Ten Plagues."[91] The drama Feast of Love was Freeman's second release of 2007. It is based on the 2000 novel The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter, about a group of friends living in suburban Oregon come into contact with a free spirit named Chloe, who changes their outlook on life in unexpected ways. The film was also unpopular with critics; Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian sarcastically remarked that it was great to see Freeman in a challenging role.[92] Freeman had a supporting part in Gone Baby Gone (2007), a mystery thriller in Ben Affleck's directorial debut. Adapted from the 1998 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Freeman plays Captain Jack Doyle of the Boston Police Department. The story and cast performances were positively received; Timeout magazine called it "flawed but impressive".[93] Afterwards, he starred in Rob Reiner's 2007 comedy The Bucket List opposite Jack Nicholson.[94] The plot follows two terminally ill men on their road trip with a wish list of things to do before they die. The film grossed a successful $175 million worldwide.[95]

In 2008, Freeman was cast in the action thriller Wanted, a loose adaptation of the comic book miniseries by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones. The plot revolves around Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a frustrated account manager who discovers that he is the son of a professional assassin and decides to join the Fraternity, a secret society in which Sloan (Freeman) is the leader of. Principal photography took place in Chicago; co-star Common remarked on the set atmosphere, "Freeman is a cool guy. He’d be walking around joking and singing and just dancing. You know, artists are free and I just felt the freedom in him."[96] The film received generally favorable reviews; Peter Howell of Toronto Star thought it was original and one of Freeman's bolder performances to date.[97] Freeman narrated The Love Guru (2008), before appearing in The Dark Knight (2008), the second installment of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, in which he reprised his role as Lucius Fox.[98] Freeman returned to Broadway in 2008 after an eighteen years absence to co-star with Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher in Clifford Odets' play, The Country Girl, directed by Mike Nichols.[99]

Freeman continued to accept roles in a diverse range of genres. In 2009, Freeman starred opposite Antonio Banderas in the heist Thick as Thieves.[100] Next, he collaborated with Christopher Walken and William H. Macy for the comedy The Maiden Heist. For some time, Freeman expressed a desire to do a film based on Nelson Mandela. Initially, he wanted to adapt Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom into a screenplay, but plans never finalized.[101] Instead, he purchased the film rights to John Carlin's book: Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation.[102] The book was adapted into a script which Clint Eastwood directed: Invictus, starring Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as rugby team captain Francois Pienaar.[103] The biographical drama received positive reviews from critics praising Freeman's performance. Roger Ebert wrote, "Freeman does a splendid job of evoking the man Nelson Mandela ... He shows him as genial, confident, calming, over what was clearly a core of tempered steel."[104] Freeman received Best Actor nominations at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, as well as a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.[105][106][107] The same year he provided the narration for Anne and Emmett, a play featuring an imaginary conversation between Emmett Till and Anne Frank, both killed as young teenagers because of racial persecution.[108]

Freeman's sole film release of 2010 was Red with co-stars Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich.[109] Red is loosely adapted from the comic-book series of the same name created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner and published by the DC Comics imprint Homage. Freeman plays CIA mentor Joe, who helps retired fellow agent Frank (Willis) to uncover some assassins. The film was a critical and commercial success;[110] writing for Melbourne's The Age, Jim Schembri praised Freeman and the cast who "bring an infectious comic energy to their roles".[111] Besides film, Freeman worked on other projects. In January 2010, Freeman replaced Walter Cronkite as the voiceover introduction to the CBS Evening News presented by Katie Couric.[112] CBS stated the need for consistency in introductions for regular news broadcasts and special reports as the basis for the change.[112] Deborah Myers, head of Science Channel, approached Freeman for being the presenter of Through the Wormhole (2010–17). She had heard that he was "really interested in space and the universe", and the pair agreed to develop the series together.[113]

In 2011, Freeman narrated the fantasy Conan the Barbarian and appeared in the family drama Dolphin Tale, as prosthetic specialist Dr. McCarthy.[114] Returning to theatre in 2011, Freeman was featured with John Lithgow in the Broadway debut of Dustin Lance Black's play, 8, a staged reenactment of Perry v. Brown, the federal trial that overturned California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. Freeman played Attorney David Boies.[115] The production was held at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City to raise money for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.[116][117] Freeman had a lead role in the 2012 drama The Magic of Belle Isle, as an alcoholic novelist trying to write again. The film fared poorly with critics, gaining only a 29% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[118] Lastly in 2012, Freeman reprised his role as Lucius Fox for the third time in The Dark Knight Rises.[119]

A number of box office hits were released in 2013. Freeman appeared in the action thriller Olympus Has Fallen, the first instalment in what would become the Fallen film series;[120] he portrays Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull. The San Francisco Chronicle critic gave Olympus Has Fallen 3 out of 4 stars, and opined that Freeman gave an amicable supporting performance.[121] He then starred in the science fiction drama Oblivion, with co-star Tom Cruise, as veteran soldier Malcolm Beech,[122] and appeared in the thriller Now You See Me, as an ex-magician.[123] Lastly, he played a retiree in Last Vegas, with co-stars Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen.[124] Filmed in Las Vegas and Atlanta,[125] Last Vegas was praised for its cast's chemistry, and one critic thought Freeman brought the most amusement.[126]

2014–present

In 2014, Freeman voiced the character Vitruvius in The Lego Movie, a commercially successful 3D animation.[127] He starred in Transcendence, a science fiction thriller directed by Wally Pfister in his directorial debut, in which Freeman plays scientist Joseph Tagger. Reviews of the film were mainly negative; Tim Robey of The Telegraph called it "pretentious and silly".[128] Next, he co-starred in the action Lucy (2014), about a woman (Scarlett Johansson) who gains psychokinetic abilities when a nootropic drug is absorbed into her bloodstream. Freeman plays Professor Samuel Norman, who helps her research the condition. Producer Virginie Silla wanted Freeman for the part because of his experience in portraying a character of wisdom.[129] "He was the perfect actor", she said.[129] Upon release of Lucy, critical reception ranged from mixed-to-positive.[130] Also that year, Freeman appeared in the sequel to 2011's Dolphin Tale, Dolphin Tale 2, and 5 Flights Up, a comedy drama. At the end of 2014, Freeman appeared as himself, among other celebrities, in the documentary Lennon or McCartney.[131]

Kazuaki Kiriya's action thriller Last Knights was Freeman's first film of 2015, starring opposite Clive Owen. The plot centres on a band of warriors who seek to avenge the loss of their master at the hands of a corrupt minister. Reviews were largely underwhelming; Sara Stewart of New York Post called it "bloody bad", adding, "Once-proud box office names are its first casualties."[132] Freeman next joined the cast of Ted 2, a comedy sequel to Ted, directed by Seth MacFarlane. The story follows the talking teddy bear Ted as he fights for civil rights in order to be recognized as a person. Freeman portrays Patrick Meighan, a highly respected civil rights attorney.[133] A television series also occupied Freeman's time. He played the Chief Justice of the United States in season two of Madam Secretary. He and his producing partner Lori McCreary served as executive producers.[134] Freeman directed the first episode; of his directing style, McCreary remarked, "What's riveting is that he can achieve a complete tonal change in performance with the least amount of direction [...] Everybody behaves better when Morgan is there [...] but he's very fun."[135] At the end of 2015, Freeman played a U.S senator in the thriller Momentum.[136]

 
Freeman, 2006

He appeared in London Has Fallen, the 2016 sequel to Olympus Has Fallen. Freeman reprised his role as Allan Trumbull. The film follows a plot to assassinate the world leaders of the G7 as they attend the British Prime Minister's funeral in London, and Secret Service agent Mike Banning's efforts to protect U.S President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) from being killed. The film was a commercial success, but reviews were mostly negative.[137] Writing for A.V. Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky criticized the cheap filmmaking; "the movie periodically cuts to overqualified supporting actors—including Freeman, Melissa Leo, and Robert Forster ... (As it turns out, it’s possible to write something that will sound like garbage even when spoken in Freeman’s sonorous voice.)"[138] Next, Freeman starred in Now You See Me 2 (2016), the sequel to Now You See Me. Reprising his role as Thaddeus Bradley, the film grossed a successful $334.9 million worldwide.[139] Finally, he had a leading role in the historical drama Ben-Hur, the fifth film adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Freeman expressed interest in playing Sheik Ilderim, a wealthy Nubian sheik, stating "This character has quite a bit of power in the story. And I like playing power. It’s something about my own personal ego."[140] Ben-Hur turned out to be one of 2016's biggest box office bombs.[141]

In 2017, Freeman appeared in two comedies: Going in Style and Just Getting Started. The first one of these is a remake of the 1979 film of the same name, co-starring Michael Caine and Alan Arkin, in which they play bank robbers after their pensions are canceled.[142] It opened to a mixed response; The Telegraph's Robbie Collin thought the film was boring and the trio of actors looked tired before the end of it.[143] Just Getting Started, in which Freeman starred with Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo, was critically panned by reviewers.[144] The plot follows an ex-FBI agent (Jones) who must put aside his personal feud with a former mob lawyer (Freeman) at a retirement home when the mafia comes to kill the pair. Freeman hosted the National Geographic The Story of God with Morgan Freeman and The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman, in 2016 and 2017, respectively.[145]

In 2018, Freeman narrated Alpha, a historical drama set in the last ice age. He then starred in Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a retelling of E. T. A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker.[146] Finally, he had an uncredited role as Jerome in the biographical drama Brian Banks, a high school football player who was falsely accused of rape and upon his release attempted to fulfill his dream of making the National Football League.[147] In 2019, Freeman starred opposite John Travolta in The Poison Rose, an adaptation of the novel by Richard Salvatore.[148] In Angel Has Fallen, Freeman reprised his role as Allan Trumbull, the third instalment in the Fallen film series, following Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen. Although critical reception was mixed, the film was a box office success, earning $147.5 million worldwide.[149]

Freeman will next appear alongside an ensemble cast in George Gallo's crime comedy The Comeback Trail. Coming 2 America, a sequel to the 1988 film, will follow next.[150]

Other ventures

Environmental and political activism

In 2004, Freeman helped formed the Grenada Relief Fund to aid people affected by Hurricane Ivan on the island of Grenada. The fund has since become PLANIT NOW, an organization that seeks to provide preparedness resources for people living in areas affected by hurricanes and severe storms.[151] In 2014, he narrated a clip titled What's Possible, which debuted at the United Nations climate summit.[152] Freeman has donated to the Mississippi Horse Park in Starkville, Mississippi. The park is part of Mississippi State University and Freeman has several horses that he takes there.[153]

In 2005, Freeman criticized the celebration of Black History Month, saying, "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."[154] He opined that the only way to end racism is to stop talking about it, and he noted that there is no "white history month."[154] In an interview with 60 Minutes's Mike Wallace, Freeman said, "I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man."[154][155] Freeman supported the defeated proposal to change the Mississippi state flag, which incorporated the Confederate battle flag at the time.[156][157] In an interview on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, Freeman drew controversy when he accused the Tea Party movement of racism.[158][159][160]

In reaction to the death of Freddie Gray and the 2015 Baltimore protests, Freeman said he was "absolutely" supportive of the protesters. "That unrest [in Baltimore] has nothing to do with terrorism at all, except the terrorism we suffer from the police. [...] Because of the technology—everybody has a smartphone—now we can see what the police are doing. We can show the world, Look, this is what happened in that situation. So why are so many people dying in police custody? And why are they all black? And why are all the police killing them white? What is that? The police have always said, 'I feared for my safety.' Well, now we know. OK. You feared for your safety while a guy was running away from you, right?"[161]

During the 2008 presidential election, Freeman endorsed Barack Obama's presidential bid, although he said he would not join Obama's campaign.[162] He narrated for The Hall of Presidents with Obama, when he was added to the exhibit.[163][164] The Hall of Presidents re-opened on July 4, 2009 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.[164] On day four of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Freeman provided the voiceover for the video introduction of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.[165][166] On September 19, 2017, Freeman appeared in a video by the Committee to Investigate Russia group,[167] in which he declared "we are at war" with Russia.[168]

After learning about the decline of honeybees, Freeman decided to turn his 124-acre ranch into a bee sanctuary in July 2014, starting with 26 bee hives.[169]

Business

In 1997, Freeman and business partner Lori McCreary founded Revelations Entertainment, a film production company. They also founded ClickStar in 2006, a film download company, with investment from Intel Corporation.[170] ClickStar ceased operations in 2008.[171] Freeman owns and operates Ground Zero, a blues club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He also formerly co-owned Madidi, a fine dining restaurant in the same city.[172]

Personal life

 
Freeman and his daughter Morgana, 1990 Academy Awards

Freeman was married to Jeanette Adair Bradshaw from October 22, 1967 until November 18, 1979.[173] He married Myrna Colley-Lee on June 16, 1984.[173] The couple separated in December 2007[174] and divorced on September 15, 2010.[174] Freeman has four children: Alfonso, Deena, Morgana and Saifoulaye.[175] Freeman and Colley-Lee adopted Freeman's step-granddaughter from his first marriage, E'dena Hines, and raised her together.[176] On August 16, 2015, 33-year old Hines was murdered in New York City.[177]

Freeman resides in Charleston, Mississippi, and maintains a home in New York City.[178][179] He earned a private pilot's license at age 65.[180] He owns or has owned at least three private aircraft, including a Cessna Citation 501 and a Cessna 414 twin-engine prop. In December 2009, he purchased an Emivest SJ30.[181][182][183] When asked if he believed in God, Freeman said, "It's a hard question because as I said at the start, I think we invented God. So if I believe in God, and I do, it's because I think I'm God."[184] Freeman later said that his experience working on The Story of God with Morgan Freeman did not change his views on religion.[185]

On the evening of August 3, 2008, Freeman was injured in an automobile crash near Ruleville, Mississippi. He was driving a 1997 Nissan Maxima which suffered a rollover. He and a female passenger, Demaris Meyer, had to be cut free from the vehicle with hydraulic tools. Freeman was conscious after the crash, and joked with a photographer at the scene.[186] He was taken via helicopter to The Regional Medical Center (The Med) hospital in Memphis.[187][188] He broke his left shoulder, arm, elbow, and required surgery on August 5. Doctors operated on him for four hours to repair nerve damage in his shoulder and arm.[189] His publicist announced he was expected to make a full recovery.[190] Although alcohol was not considered a factor in the crash,[191] Meyer sued Freeman for negligence, claiming that he had been consuming alcohol, but the suit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.[192] Since the incident, Freeman suffers from fibromyalgia.[193]

In December 2010, Freeman joined President Bill Clinton, President of the United States Soccer Federation Sunil Gulati, and soccer player Landon Donovan in Zurich for a presentation to bid for the U.S hosting rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.[194]

On May 24, 2018, CNN published an investigation of which eight women accused Freeman of being "overly flirtatious", by "making inappropriate comments" while on the set of films or at his production company.[195] In response, Freeman issued an apology; "Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected—that was never my intent."[196][197] The spokesperson for Lori McCreary, Freeman's business partner, did not respond to CNN's request for comment.[198] Several journalists spoke out in response to the story, including Tyra Martin who stated, "I’m not, never was [a victim]. CNN totally misrepresented the video and took my remarks out of context.”[199] Freeman's lawyer demanded CNN to retract the story.[200] The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) did not take any action against Freeman.[201]

Artistry and legacy

Freeman's deep voice is considered to be distinctive, iconic, and recognizable, which frequently makes him a preferable choice for narration in films and documentaries.[202][203] The journalist Radhika Sanghani writes that his "deeply reassuring voice, with its mellifluous tones and authoritative presence, is why an entire generation still hear his trademark tones when they think of the almighty."[204] Freeman said that his voice developed in this way while taking speech classes in college; he found that most people speak in a voice either too fast or too high. He learned to develop a commanding voice by speaking in a lower octave and enunciating each word.[205]

According to author Miriam DeCosta-Willis, Freeman is an intuitive actor. He likes to select his roles carefully, and study the character to ensure he portrays them with depth, sensitivity and substance.[206] Commenting on Freeman's persona, Beverly Todd, who co-starred with him in Lean on Me (1989) and The Bucket List (2007) said, "The world knows he is such a consummate actor. He's a very sharing actor and such a nice guy. He's not the kind of actor who demands that he has all of the scenes and all the dialogues and all the emphasis is on him".[207] Freeman has said he is interested in playing character roles,[15] and values the importance of listening carefully while filming scenes, saying "The big danger in acting is to wait for your line. That's what I never do. I always listen, no matter how many times we do it."[208]

On October 28, 2006, Freeman was honored at the first Mississippi's Best Awards in Jackson, Mississippi with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in film and theatre. He received an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from Delta State University during the school's commencement exercises on May 13, 2006.[209] In 2013, Boston University presented him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.[210] On November 12, 2014, he was bestowed the honor of Freedom of the City by the City of London.[211]

In 2008, Freeman was chosen as a Kennedy Center Honoree at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.[212] In 2011, he received the AFI Life Achievement Award in recognition for his contribution to the film industry. Those who honored Freeman included Sidney Poitier, Samuel L. Jackson, Forest Whitaker, Rita Moreno, Helen Mirren, Clint Eastwood, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Matthew Broderick.[213] In 2012, he was awarded the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the film industry."[214][215] In August 2017, he was named the 54th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment.[216] His co-star Rita Moreno from The Electric Company presented Freeman with the award.

Filmography and theatre credits

Select filmography:

Prolific in film since 1963, Freeman's most acclaimed and highest-grossing films, according to the online portal Box Office Mojo and the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, include:[217][218]

Select theatre roles:[219]

Select television roles:[218]

Awards and nominations

Freeman has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances:

Freeman has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, winning one for Best Actor in Driving Miss Daisy (1989).[220] He has also been nominated for three Screen Actors Guild Awards, winning one for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in Million Dollar Baby (2004).[221] He earned an Obie Award for each theatre role in Coriolanus (1979), Mother Courage and Her Children (1980), and Driving Miss Daisy (1987-90).[15]

See also

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External links