Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, film director, and narrator. Freeman has received Academy Award nominations for his performances in Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and Invictus and won in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby. He has also won a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Freeman has appeared in many other box office hits, including Unforgiven, Glory, Seven, Deep Impact, The Sum of All Fears, Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty, the Dark Knight trilogy, and March of the Penguins.
Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tennessee on June 1st, 1937. He was the son of Mayme Edna (née Revere), a teacher, and Morgan Porterfield Freeman, a barber who died April 27, 1961, from cirrhosis. He has three older siblings. Freeman was sent as an infant to his paternal grandmother in Charleston, Mississippi. His family moved frequently during his childhood, living in Greenwood, Mississippi; Gary, Indiana; and finally Chicago, Illinois. According to a DNA analysis, some of his ancestors were from Niger.
Freeman 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. At age 12, he won a statewide drama competition, and while still at Broad Street High School, he performed in a radio show based in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1955, he graduated from Broad Street, but turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, opting instead to serve as a radar technician in the United States Air Force.
Freeman subsequently moved to Los Angeles, California, where he took acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse and dancing lessons in San Francisco in the early 1960s and worked as a transcript clerk at Los Angeles Community College. During this period, he also lived in New York City, working as a dancer at the 1964 World’s Fair, and in San Francisco, where he was a member of the Opera Ring musical theater group. Freeman acted in a touring company version of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, and also appeared as an extra in the 1965 film The Pawnbroker. He made his off-Broadway debut in 1967, opposite Viveca Lindfors in The Nigger Lovers (about the civil rights era “Freedom Riders“), before debuting on Broadway in 1968’s all-black version of Hello, Dolly! which also starred Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.
He continued to be involved in theater work and received the Obie Award in 1980 for the title role in Coriolanus. In 1984, he received his second Obie Award for his role as the preacher in The Gospel at Colonus. Freeman also won a Drama Desk Award and a Clarence Derwent Award for his role as a wino in The Mighty Gents. He received his third Obie Award for his role as a chauffeur for a Jewish widow in Driving Miss Daisy, which was adapted for the screen in 1989.
Although his first credited film appearance was in 1971’s Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow?, Freeman first became known in the American media through roles on the soap opera Another World and the PBS kids’ show The Electric Company, (notably as Easy Reader, Mel Mounds the DJ, and Vincent the Vegetable Vampire).
Beginning in the mid-1980s, Freeman began playing prominent supporting roles in many feature films, earning him a reputation for depicting wise, fatherly characters. As he gained fame, he went on to bigger roles in films such as the chauffeur Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy, and Sergeant Major Rawlins in Glory (both in 1989). In 1994, he portrayed Red, the redeemed convict in the acclaimed The Shawshank Redemption. In the same year he was a member of the jury at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival.
He also starred in such films as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Unforgiven, Seven, and Deep Impact. In 1997, Freeman, together with Lori McCreary, founded the film production company Revelations Entertainment, and the two co-head its sister online film distribution company ClickStar. Freeman also hosts the channel Our Space on ClickStar, with specially crafted film clips in which he shares his love for the sciences, especially space exploration and aeronautics.
After three previous nominations—a supporting actor nomination for Street Smart, and leading actor nominations for Driving Miss Daisy and The Shawshank Redemption—he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Million Dollar Baby at the 77th Academy Awards. Freeman is recognized for his distinctive voice, making him a frequent choice for narration. In 2005 alone, he provided narration for two films, War of the Worlds and the Academy Award-winning documentary film March of the Penguins.
Freeman appeared as God in the hit film Bruce Almighty and its sequel, Evan Almighty, as well as Lucius Fox in the critical and commercial success Batman Begins and its sequels, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. He starred in Rob Reiner‘s 2007 film The Bucket List, opposite Jack Nicholson. He teamed with Christopher Walken and William H. Macy for the comedy The Maiden Heist, which was released direct to video due to financial problems with the distribution company. In 2008, Freeman returned to Broadway to co-star with Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher for a limited engagement of Clifford Odets‘ play, The Country Girl, directed by Mike Nichols.
He had wanted to do a film based on Nelson Mandela for some time. At first he tried to get Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom adapted into a finished script, but it was not finalized. In 2007 he purchased the film rights to a 2008 book by John Carlin, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation. Clint Eastwood directed the Nelson Mandela bio-pic titled Invictus, starring Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as rugby team captain Francois Pienaar. In October 2010, Freeman co-starred alongside Bruce Willis in Red.
Freeman’s latest project is the Danny DeVito-directed film Charlotte Doyle which will also feature Pierce Brosnan, and is due to begin filming in Ireland in early 2012.
In July 2009, Freeman was one of the presenters at the 46664 concert (celebrating Nelson Mandela‘s birthday) at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Freeman was the first American to record a par on Legend Golf & Safari Resort’s Extreme 19th hole.
At age 65, Freeman earned a private pilot’s license. He owns or has owned at least three private aircraft, including a Cessna Citation 501 jet and a Cessna 414 twin-engine prop. In 2007 he purchased an Emivest SJ30 long-range private jet and took delivery in December 2009. He is certified to fly all of them.
Effective January 4, 2010, Freeman replaced Walter Cronkite as the voiceover introduction to the CBS Evening News featuring Katie Couric as news anchor. CBS cited the need for consistency in introductions for regular news broadcasts and special reports as the basis for the change.
As of 2010, Freeman is the host and narrator of the Discovery Channel television show Through the Wormhole.
He was featured on the opening track to B.o.B‘s second album Strange Clouds. The track, “Bombs Away”, features a prologue and epilogue (which leads in to a musical outro) spoken by Morgan Freeman.
In September 2011, Freeman was featured with John Lithgow in the Broadway debut of Dustin Lance Black‘s play, ‘8’ — a staged reenactment of the federal trial that overturned California’s Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage — as Attorney David Boies. The production was held at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York to raise money for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Freeman was married to Jeanette Adair Bradshaw from October 22, 1967 until 1979.
He married Myrna Colley-Lee on June 16, 1984. The couple separated in December 2007. Freeman and Colley-Lee had adopted Freeman’s step-granddaughter from his first marriage and together helped to raise her. Freeman’s attorney and business partner Bill Luckett announced in August 2008 that Freeman and his wife were in divorce proceedings.On September 15, 2010 their divorce was finalized in Mississippi. In 2008, the TV series African American Lives 2 revealed that some of Freeman’s great-great-grandparents were slaves who migrated from North Carolina to Mississippi. Freeman also discovered that his Caucasian maternal great-great-grandfather had lived with, and was buried beside, Freeman’s African-American great-great-grandmother (the two could not legally marry at the time, in the segregated South). A DNA test on the series stated that he is descended from the Songhai and Tuareg peoples of Niger.
Freeman was injured in an automobile accident near Ruleville, Mississippi, on the night of August 3, 2008. The vehicle in which he was traveling, a 1997 Nissan Maxima, left the highway and flipped over several times. He and a female passenger, Demaris Meyer, were rescued from the vehicle using the “Jaws of Life“. Freeman was taken via medical helicopter to The Regional Medical Center (The Med) hospital in Memphis. Police ruled out alcohol as a factor in the crash. Freeman was coherent following the crash, as he joked to a photographer about taking his picture at the scene. His left shoulder, arm and elbow were broken in the crash and he had surgery on August 5, 2008. Doctors operated for four hours to repair nerve damage in his shoulder and arm. On CNN‘s Piers Morgan Tonight he stated that he is left handed but cannot move the fingers of his left hand. He wears a compression glove to protect against blood pooling due to non-movement. His publicist announced he was expected to make a full recovery. Meyer, his passenger, sued him for negligence, claiming that he was drinking the night of the accident. Subsequently, the suit was settled.
In an interview with CNN, Freeman denied the claim that he was a “man of God,” saying that “the question of faith is whatever you actually believe is. We take a lot of what we’re talking about in science on faith; we posit a theory, and until it’s disproven we have faith that it’s true.”
In 2004, Freeman and others 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 hurricane- and severe-storm afflicted areas.
Freeman has worked on narrating small clips for global organizations, such as One Earth, whose goals include raising awareness of environmental issues. He has narrated the clip “Why Are We Here,” which can be viewed on One Earth’s website.
Freeman has donated money to the Mississippi Horse Park in Starkville, Mississippi. The park is part of Mississippi State University. Freeman has several horses that he takes there.
Comments on race
Freeman has publicly criticized the celebration of Black History Month and does not participate in any related events, saying, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.” He says the only way to end racism is to stop talking about it, and he notes that there is no “white history month.” Freeman once said on an interview with 60 Minutes‘ Mike Wallace, “I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” Freeman supported the defeated proposal to change the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate battle flag.
Freeman endorsed Barack Obama‘s candidacy for the 2008 presidential election, although he stated that he would not join Obama’s campaign. He narrates for The Hall of Presidents with Barack Obama, who has been added to the exhibit. The Hall of Presidents re-opened on July 4, 2009 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Freeman joined President Bill Clinton, USA Bid Committee Chairman Sunil Gulati, and USMNT midfielder Landon Donovan on Wednesday, December 1, 2010, in Zurich for the USA bid committee’s final presentation to FIFA for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Freeman sparked controversy in September 2011 when, on CNN‘s Piers Morgan Tonight, he accused the Tea Party movement of racism.
Freeman: [the Tea Party’s] stated policy, publicly stated, is to do whatever it takes to see to it that Obama only serves one term. What’s, what does that, what underlies that? Screw the country. We’re going to do whatever we do to get this black man, we can, we’re going to do whatever we can to get this black man outta here. Morgan: But is that necessarily a racist thing?…Wouldn’t they say that about any Democrat?
Freeman: It is a racist thing…[The rise of the Tea Party] shows the weak, dark underside of America. We’re supposed to be better than that. We really are. That’s why all those people were in tears when Obama was elected president. ‘Ah look at what we are–this is America.’ Then it just sort of started turning because these people surfaced–like stirring up muddy water.
On October 28, 2006, Freeman was honored at the first Mississippi’s Best Awards in Jackson, Mississippi, with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his works on and off the big screen. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts and Letters from Delta State University during the school’s commencement exercises on May 13, 2006.
|1971–1977||The Electric Company||Easy Reader, DJ Mel Mounds, Dracula, Vincent the Vegetable Vampire||television series|
|1978||Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry||Uncle Hammer||made-for-television|
|1981||Ryan’s Hope||Cicero Murphy||TV series (various episodes)|
|1981||The Marva Collins Story||Clarence Collins||made-for-television|
|1982–1984||Another World||Roy Bingham||TV series (various episodes)|
|1985||The Twilight Zone||Tony||Television series (episode “Dealer’s Choice”)|
|1986||Resting Place||Luther Johnson||made-for-television|
|1987||Fight For Life||Dr. Sherard||made-for-television|
|2008||Smithsonian Channel’s Sound Revolution||Himself (host)||television series, series host|
|2008||Stephen Fry in America||Himself||television series, appears in episode 3|
|2010||The Colbert Report||Himself||interview|
|2010||The Daily Show||Himself||interview|
|2010–2013||Through the Wormhole
with Morgan Freeman
|Himself (host)||television series, series host|
|2010||Saturday Night Live||Himself (celebrity cameo)||What Up with That|
|2011||Curiosity||Himself||“Is There a Parallel Universe?” (#1.5)|
Other awards and honors
- 1978 Nominated for Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play in The Mighty Gents
- 1997 Received an honorary degree from Rhodes College, becoming an honorary alumnus
- 2003 Received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
- 2003 Received an award for his voice resembling that of God.
- 2006 Guest of honor at the Cairo International Film Festival
- 2007 He and his wife received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters
- 2007 Outstanding Contribution To Film And TV gong at the Screen Nation Film and TV Awards
- 2008 Kennedy Center Honors
- 2010 Received an honorary degree from Brown University
- 2011 Received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute
- 2012 Chosen as Favorite Movie Icon at the People’s Choice Awards
- 2012 Cecil B. DeMille Award