Thursday, October 23, 2014

Morgan Freeman

If there is an actor whose mere on-screen persona is enough to make him likeable as an actor, it is Morgan Freeman. He puts you at ease instantly with his calm exterior, steady gaze, reassuring smile, deadpan humour, unfazed attitude, and deep voice. You can change the order of his filmic qualities if you like but that won’t alter his dignified demeanour. His contemporaries, Anthony Hopkins and Gene Hackman, have a similar bearing but they also have their own distinct qualities.

While I’m no authority on the 6' 2" actor from Memphis, Tennessee, I have enjoyed every film of his that I have watched. Many remain to be seen considering that he has been around since the mid-sixties, a very long time for one who first noticed him in Glory (1989), that too a few years after it was released. 

Last evening, I was watching Along Came a Spider (2001) by Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day) and what struck me about his role was that he wasn't playing equal or second fiddle to anyone. He was actually playing the sole lead as Dr. Alex Cross, homicide detective and profiler of criminals, a role he previously essayed in Kiss the Girls (1997). Both the films are based on novels by James Patterson.

I admit that I haven’t seen him in too many lead roles, not even as Nelson Mandela in Invictus (2009), so you’ll have to fill the gaps there.

Freeman is really on top of his game in Along Came a Spider where he is unintentionally dragged into a case involving the kidnapping of a US senator’s young daughter. As a detective who has just lost his partner, Freeman’s character is clever and cunning and almost always one step ahead of the kidnapper, providing vital clues and breakthroughs to both the FBI and the Secret Service who are eating out of his hands. In the end Freeman, dressed up in a long coat, a tie, and a fedora, shoots the mastermind with a shotgun. I thought he’d make a very good old-world gangster.

In most of his films that I have seen, however, Freeman is standing shoulder to shoulder, or a tad behind, his equally famous contemporaries, be it Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington in Glory (1989), Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven (1992), Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Anthony Hopkins in Amistad (1997), Gene Hackman in Under Suspicion (2000), Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty (2003), Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby (2004), Michael Caine in Batman Begins (2005), Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List (2007) or Michael Caine and Mark Ruffalo in Now You See Me (2013).

I think he has no issues, ego issues really, being in the shadow of other actors. He has been quoted as saying, “Once you've gotten the job, there's nothing to it. If you're an actor, you're an actor. Doing it is not the hard part. The hard part is getting to do it.” If he likes a particular role, he accepts it and acts it out, and I believe he doesn’t ask too many questions.

Morgan Freeman’s cinematic success, aside from his popularity with his female co-stars like Jessica Tandy, Ashley Judd, and Hilary Swank, lies in his capacity to do any role he thinks is right for him, and he does it with conviction. I have a theory that Freeman knows he doesn’t have to play sole lead every time because he is so good at what he does even in multi-star cast films that people frequently mention his part before that of his co-actors. I think that's a fine tribute to a terrific actor.

What do you like about Morgan Freeman and which of  his films do you like the most?


  1. I liked both Freeman's appearances in the Patterson books. He is a very fine actor.


  3. What a great actor he is - and what a great list of films that is. I liked him in Deep Impact and se7en.

  4. I think I first knew him in the 1970s children's TV series, The Electric Company, with Rita Moreno (another favorite). He has never lost the warmth and reassuring quality he brought to that show. For lead roles in films, I'd recommend DRIVING MISS DAISY.

  5. I agree Prashant, he is right up there with Hopkins and Hackman as the best of his generation - a splendid actor, but like both of them has perhaps appeared in too many unworthy films. I thought Freeman was great as a cross, and you're right, he has not been the lead in enough films, though I think he is undoubtedly the lead in SEVEN but mor eoften he is the co-lead as in SHAWSHANK or the amazing MILLION DOLLAR BABY- but let's face it, he's played God a couple of times so I think he does very well as a co-lead too!

  6. SHAWSHANK and MILLION DOLLAR BABY for me, though he eminently watchable in anything.

  7. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTON is a favorite. More recently, I loved him in RED, with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Mary Louise Parker. He is great in the two Dark Knight movies that I have watched. Also OBLIVION, a sci fi movie with Tom Cruise. Any movie he is in I am willing to try.

    But what I really like about him is that he funded a 2009 documentary called Prom Night in Mississippi about the first racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi history (which he also funded). I haven't seen the documentary, but it is on my queue.