The Oscar-winning actor goes the ensemble route for his latest thriller
The name Morgan Freeman means power, the man has accolade after accolade, and last year, he won his first Academy Award for Million Dollar Baby.
Now, his latest movie is the suspense thriller, Lucky Number Slevin, also starring Sir Ben Kingsley, Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, and Bruce Willis. Not to give any of the story away - cause believe me, that would ruin the movie, I will say that this is a definite date movie. For the guys, not only does Lucy Liu look sexy, but for the ladies, you get to see Josh Hartnett in nothing but a towel for the first third of the movie.
I had the opportunity to speak with Morgan about the role and about his career in general. I could tell this man was a straight arrow, but knew how to have fun. I was also able to speak with him after our interview in a casual atmosphere (well, the elevator of the Four Seasons) about his love of horses and boats. He really is one of the nicest and genuinely most important people in Hollywood.
Check out what he had to say:
What was it like working with Sir Ben Kingsley?
Morgan Freeman: Great. Great. Great. It was one of the reasons to take a role like this - you get to work that close to Ben Kingsley. It's like, 'Yeah. I'll do it. I don't care what it is.' Alright?
What about working with Josh Hartnett and Bruce Willis?
Morgan Freeman: More sh*t to put to rest here. Playing is no challenge; every time that you get a role you get to go play with other people in the sandbox and so there is no challenge, real challenge. The challenge, the major challenge is getting the work, finding the sandbox.
You're the big boss in this movie and you project so much strength in this role.
Morgan Freeman: Look at me; obviously that's me. Right? It's that effortless. I've got reserves of power that I've yet to touch; it's on the page, that's the bottom line. You could do it if you chose to, but you didn't; you chose to be a writer.
You came onboard this project a bit late, one of the last ones to sign on?
Morgan Freeman: Was I?
That's what it says in the production notes.
Morgan Freeman: Really?!
Did you have enough time to prepare and all of that?
Morgan Freeman: Yeah, they gave me the script. Sure.
Were you finishing something else up?
Morgan Freeman: I don't even remember, but prepare - you know what you have to do to prepare for these roles? Go get the costume fitting, read the script and you're there, pretty much.
So why do you think that so many people are bad at it if it's that easy?
Morgan Freeman: I don't believe you said that. There aren't that many people who are bad at it. I mean, the few who are bad at it shouldn't be bad at it. But there aren't that many are there?
I don't know. Maybe half and half.
Morgan Freeman: Oh, no.
They're not all Morgan Freeman.
Morgan Freeman: I'll agree with that, but for different reasons than you're saying for sure.
Do you prefer playing the bad guy?
Morgan Freeman: No, I don't. I like playing the bad guy, but I like playing. Just give me something interesting to play and I'm very happy.
How do you keep up your energy and taking projects?
Morgan Freeman: Eat, all of us always have a lot of projects in the works. We've all got a lot of things ahead of us, but it's like holding sand in your hand when you've got projects in this business because they just don't happen. 'I thought that we were going to be doing so and so in June.' Well, they didn't get the money or the script is not ready or the producer or the studio changed heads. There's all kind of things that are shifting and it's all constantly in flux. Hopefully you've always got a lot of projects ahead of you. Hopefully one or two of them will pan out.
Was there a scene in this when you reading the script that you were really excited to perform?
Morgan Freeman: Hmm, (long pause) I'm giving it proper thought here so that my answer is right. Yes, I think there was. I was kind of looking forward to the moment between the boss and the rabbi. That to me had a lot of potential for going flat. Not really because Ben, Sir Ben, would - he's always a lift. He's always interesting to watch and so you just try and remember your lines.
Was there a scene that you changed from the script?
Morgan Freeman: No. No. I mean, I'm known to do that sometimes. At times certain scenes - this scene's either got to go because it doesn't fit or can we change it to make it fit. Then I'll do that because a lot of times writers will say, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do.'
Some people are comparing this film to The Usual Suspects; would you agree or disagree and why?
Morgan Freeman: Someone this morning said that people are equating it with Pulp Fiction. So, yes, I agree in that it's sort of a thinking piece. You walk away from The Usual Suspects and it was a thinking piece. They go back and they show you how this all unfolded right there in the office and The Usual Suspects was this blend of all of these different themes happening and you see it in jump cuts, but it's explanatory. So I think that this was like that. Yeah.
Did all the acclaim and award that came from Million Dollar Baby effect your career or where you already at a level where that made no difference and it was just nice to get the attention?
Morgan Freeman: Yeah, exactly. Well put down the line. You know, at a certain point these things don't impact you. You just keep snaking along; they sort of fall out of the sky.
How did it affect you personally?
Morgan Freeman: It took a little weight off because a lot of people are going around saying, 'You won the Academy Award for such and such.' 'No. I didn't.' 'You didn't?' 'Well, you should have.' That's a done deal now. I've got one now.
You're the boss in this film, but at home who's the boss and does the bossing?
Morgan Freeman: In my home, who is my boss? If you ask my wife she'll say certainly not her. She claims that she can't make me do anything and so she's not my boss. I am. I'm pretty sure, maybe.
Are you bossy in your house?
Morgan Freeman: I don't. I stay out of everyone's way. I don't boss anyone. My wife does the bossing, but she just doesn't boss me most of the time.
Who's the boss in your career?
Morgan Freeman: In my career? Me. I'm the boss. I'm the end all and be all. I'm the alpha and omega in that.
How was it off camera on set with such an ensemble piece like this? Was there a lot of hanging out?
Morgan Freeman: Well, you know what, oddly enough we never do. On set we have a great time. Bruce is a jolly fellow and enjoys working. You can tell that he's just happy to be there and I'm the same way. So he and I - we've been in the same movie before. We didn't work together. This was great, and a lot of great actors. He was one of them. And I'm one of his favorite actors. We have the same sort of approach to work. Turn it on. Turn it off. And be sure to give the director and the DP the hardest time possible. And of course Paul McGuigan is Scott with a thick Scottish Brogue when he talks. So he's just too easy to ride. He would say something and we'd constantly go, 'What did you say?'
Have you gotten any offers to play a romantic lead? You said you wanted to do that a while back.
Morgan Freeman: Romantic lead? You need to define that for me because I don't think that I have. We have to sort of define the romantic lead. You mean like getting the girl and taking her clothes off? No. I think that I'm probably past my prime for that role. None of it is in my immediate future and so if it isn't in my immediate future the chances of it appearing somewhere further down the road, as I approach my eighties, are getting less and less, I think.
What would be the ideal role for you at this point?
Morgan Freeman: What do I want to do? Acting wise? Well, there's a western that I want to do. There's a lot of producing that I want to do, projects that I have stacked up that are in my office that I'd like to get done. And I'm starting slowly to think about the segue because sooner or later, maybe sooner than later, the phone is going to stop ringing and people are going to start saying, 'Get me a Morgan Freeman type.'
Who could fill your shoes?
Morgan Freeman: Anyone. When I was coming along, when I was struggling up to get here it would just piss me off to think that people thought that only one actor could fill a role. You're doing such a disservice to whole other stack of good people standing there saying, 'We can do it.' There are tons of people who can step right in there just like they own it, and they did own it. All of the time.
Have there been certain actors that you were up against a lot for roles?
Morgan Freeman: Other actors who got what I wanted? Samuel L. Jackson. Sam and I have been running down parallel tracks. That's about it.
Did you audition for The Electric Company?
Morgan Freeman: I did audition for that. yes, indeed.
What's the story of how that happened?
Morgan Freeman: Let me try and remember; you're going way back. My agent told me that he had an audition for me for a children's show that was going to be done by the Sesame Street people which was the Children's Television Workshop and so I went and I saw the material that they had. They had drawings of characters and I got the gist of what they were looking for. I sort of went over the top with the character and they said, 'That's it!' So I got the job, and my agent said it was good and that we should stay with this for a couple of seasons and then we'd move on.
How many was it?
Morgan Freeman: I was really beginning to worry after the third year. I really didn't foresee becoming one of those children television icons. Captain Kangaroo or one of those guys. Mister Rogers. I don't know what I had in mind, but it's so easy to get trapped in making money.
What was your favorite The Electric Company skit?
Morgan Freeman: I kind of liked Vincent the Vegetable Vampire.
At that time did you think that you'd be starring in all of these great films - even in your wildest imagination?
Morgan Freeman: Well, it was all imagination.
Did you think that you would still be acting at this stage in your life?
Morgan Freeman: Yeah. My fantasy is that I'll be 105 and someone will be writing roles for me.
Did you think that this would actually happen?
Morgan Freeman: Well, sure. If you dream you've got to dream that it's going to happen. Remember that. If you dream you have to imagine that it will actually happen. Otherwise why dream. You're not writing it down.
Has someone ever written something specifically for you?
Morgan Freeman: I've gotten just a ton of scripts that were written with me specifically in mind. How many have I done? None.
Just not right?
Morgan Freeman: Well, you can't write a script with me in mind. Who is that?
You mentioned the Morgan Freeman type, but has someone approached you with a role that you wanted to do?
Morgan Freeman: That they had written for me? No. No. 'I wrote this with you in mind.' I'm always suspect when you say that because who is the me that you're writing for and what do you have in mind. It has to be something you've already seen me do before which I don't want to do again. So it can't be for me because if you're writing for me it's going to be something that I've never done. It's going to be so far out there into never never land that you're going to say, 'By gosh, he couldn't pull this off.'
I noticed on screen that you were having a great time.
Morgan Freeman: I always have a great time.
Are you looking for things that you've never done before in scripts? Is it the director and the cast, the writing?
Morgan Freeman: It's everything. Yeah. All of that figures into it. Is this something that I've not had a shot at doing before? Are these people that I've always wanted to work with? Is this a director's who's work I know and like or am willing to like? All of this feeds the trough. I was going to have a good line there, but it flopped.
Are you going to do another Batman Begins film and how do you keep that fresh?
Morgan Freeman: See, now you're asking and unanswerable. I don't know. That's up to the writer and the director. Are you going to write Lucius Fox into the next Batman Begins film and if you do are you going to hire me to do it? If they hire me to do it I'll not worry about the freshness of it. That's not my job. My job is to take it off of the page just like I did for the first time.
Are you doing a Bruce Almighty sequel?
Morgan Freeman: Yes. It's called Evan Almighty with Steve Carrell. I play the same character.
Are you surprised to see a sequel to that film?
Morgan Freeman: Nope. I mean, I've been talking with them for just about - well, ever since the movie came out. Bruce Almighty. You know that if makes over a certain amount they're going to want to do it again, that you have a built in audience.
But doing it without Jim Carrey? Were you surprised that they'd do it like that?
Morgan Freeman: I was very surprised that we would do it without Jim Carrey, that Jim Carrey wouldn't want to do it, but it might workout better actually. We'll see.
Is there something in life that you haven't done that you want to do that you've never done before?
Morgan Freeman: Yeah, there are things that I would like to do, but I make a big distinction between liking to do something and wanting to do something. If there's something that I want to do I've done it. If there's something that comes up that I want to do I will do it. I've driven NASCAR, I've driven Rally Cars, I've flown, I do fly, I have horses, I have a boat, There isn't much left. I'm married, I've been married to the same woman for - well, I've been with the same woman for close to...long enough to fool around.
Have you shot anything else in the past couple of months since you've been here since January?
Morgan Freeman: Yeah. I was shooting something. I did a movie called Ten Items Or Less.
Who do you play in that?
Morgan Freeman: The character is me, an actor, aging, hasn't worked in a while - I have, but that's okay - who has taken this little job as a store manager at a supermarket. So he's in this supermarket just sort of looking around doing research and he sees this young lady working the ten items or less line. She's got amazing speed and he's fascinated by her. They wind up spending an afternoon together.
Morgan Freeman: It's romantic, but no romance. Let me make that clear.
But before Ten Items Or Less, you can check out Morgan and the star studded cast of Lucky Number Slevin when it hits theaters April 7th; it's rated R.