September 28, 2023 - 10:08 am
Morgan Freeman doesn’t love the sound of his own voice.
“Sometimes, when I first wake up, it’s deep and powerful,” the 86-year-old Oscar winner says. “Most of the time, it’s just another voice. I have to smile when people start talking about how unique it is … or how they know it’s me in one or two words. It’s not that special to me.”
Truth is, everything about Freeman is special. His distinctive voice and ample acting talents have given us a slew of memorable roles across an A-list career that spans more than five decades.
It begs the question: Who would Freeman want to narrate the story of his life: “George Clooney or Jeremy Irons,” he says. “Changes. Depends on the day!”
The native of Memphis, Tennessee, won an Academy Award for his supporting role in “Million Dollar Baby.” He also garnered Oscar nominations for “Street Smart,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Invictus.”
His most recent work includes the Taylor Sheridan streaming hit “Special Ops: Lioness.” Freeman also stars opposite Josh Hutcherson in “57 Seconds,” opening this weekend in theaters. It’s the story of a blogger who lands an interview with a tech guru and stops an attack on him by finding a ring that takes anyone 57 seconds into the past.
How long will he act?
“I plan to act until I can’t get out of bed,” Freeman says in an interview conducted before the Screen Actors Guild strike. “Acting is my life, and you can’t retire from life.”
His good life advice:
Live by a motto
If Freeman wants to reach for a motto to describe his life, he borrows from his classic film “The Shawshank Redemption.” “I love the line: ‘Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies,’ ” he shares. “It’s a beautiful line and quite meaningful, especially as you get older.”
Find the bursts
“I don’t give younger people a lot of advice,” Freeman insists. “If I had to say anything, it would be to take your time, learn what you’re doing and keep moving forward. Other than that, just decide what you want to do and do that. Believe in yourself and something good will happen.”
Early in his career, he moved to San Francisco with little money. “I worked with a little theater group and lived really poor, but I got encouragements that sustained me,” he says. “And then I moved to New York, where I wondered if I would ever make a living acting. But each time things got rocky, a little burst of something positive would sustain me and move me forward. You need to find those bursts, no matter what you do.”
“You get to an age where it’s easy to think about what you did wrong in life. Why not focus on what you did right?” Freeman reasons. “That’s what feeds me as I age. What are the victories? Reach for the happiness.”
Do something new
“I’m always trying something new to keep my mind active,” he says. “You need to explore the world at every age. Try a new hobby. Talk to someone new. Make a new friend. Read a new book. Or just get out there and experience your town. Stop repeating everything you’ve done in the past and challenge yourself.”
‘I had to do it’
“I figure I was born to be an actor,” Freeman says. “I had to do it. My first role was in a third grade play. I was 8 and it was in ‘Little Boy Blue.’ My second role was in the seventh grade. I was an actor. I have been an actor my entire life even when I didn’t know that was what I was doing. My high school senior picture — (it) says actor underneath it. … I was lucky my mother, my biggest influence, saw something in me and wanted me to follow my dream.”
Keep it interesting
“People ask me if it’s better to play the good guy or the bad guy in movies,” he says. “I’d say the bad guy. The good guy can get pretty boring. But you do need both. You have to mix it up in life to keep it all interesting.”
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Freeman famously played Nelson Mandela in “Invictus.” He learned a lot portraying him, including how to enjoy a moment of levity. “I’ll never forget the screening of the film, one of the first showings, with him,” he says. “I was nervous, especially during a pivotal scene where he comes out of prison. He leaned over to me and said, ‘I know that fellow!’ ”
Clear your head
Freeman likes to spend free time on his boat. “It’s so beautiful and relaxing when you’re out on the Caribbean or a crystal-clear lake. You can literally imagine all of your troubles melting away,” he says. “And you look out at the ocean and realize that you really are just a small part of the universe. … Give me the water and some Southern cuisine and I’m happy.”
Age doesn’t matter
“I don’t like the word ‘old.’ I use the word ‘experienced,’ ” Freeman says. “Numbers don’t matter. It’s all about how you feel every single day. I do focus on exercise, because a key to aging is being mobile. I keep my mind active with solitaire and being a puzzle addict. Also, it helps to find your purpose. That just adds to your overall joy. … I also believe that if you live long enough all of your dreams will come true.”
Ask him his favorite roles and he doesn’t skip a beat. “Ones that pay!” Freeman deadpans.