Morgan Freeman goes back to the action genre alongside Jet Li in Unleashed
You can't say enough good things about Morgan Freeman. The man has been a pillar in the acting community for years and richly deserved his Oscar win earlier this year. Unleashed seems like a different role for Morgan Freeman, but he's done quite a few action films during his career. He plays a blind piano tuner that adopts Jet Li's "Danny the Dog" character into his home. Morgan won't win Oscar for this one, but it's great entertainment if you're an action fan. He continues the action trend in the highly anticipated "Batman Begins", which is slated for a June release.
Can you talk about what Oscar night was like?
FREEMAN: You're sitting there and there's a camera on you and so you're really conscious of yourself because there are like, what, however many billions of people watching you're butt. All of your friends have said, 'Do something so that I know. Wink or scratch your nose.' So you people doing all of this kind of stuff like in baseball trying to talk to everyone. I don't know. They said, 'And the Oscar goes to…' and they said my name and I remember saying to my wife, 'I'll be damned. They did it.' So that's as far as I went. I'm not one who can write out a speech and remember all the names of the people that you need to thank because you need to thank all of those people. So you just say, 'Thank you, and everyone gets it and so that's pretty much what I did. And I got kudos. Everyone said that I was so elegant.
We've heard that it was your idea to be blind in this movie?
FREEMAN: Yes. It was my idea. So the follow up to that of course is why? Right? I'm getting smarter at this. I don't know. That's the real answer. But the answer that I'll make up because I've been asked this question is that I thought the character, I didn't think it, I
felt it, but I thought that the character was too perfect. He was too sensitive, I guess. So I needed something temperate and it occurred to me that if he was blind, and well it didn't occur to me, but it now occurs to me that if he were blind the blind are not visually judgmental. They're not deciding to make judgments right now based on what they see. They blind don't have that sort of thing. They don't see it coming. So this whole sensitivity to other people, there was that and then of course he's a piano tuner and so that would help a lot. I'm sure that I played on the fact to that Ray Charles had perfect pitch and often the blind can have that. Blind singers, blind musicians they have that ear. I put that to Luc [Besson] and gave him a couple of three weeks to think about it and make sure that that didn't change his concept and he came back and said, 'Good idea.'
Was it difficult to play blind?
FREEMAN: No. Acting is like that. Being blind is as simple as closing your eyes. The blind don't act any different than you or I. You never see a blind person going around saying, 'I'm blind.' So if you want to play blind just close your eyes and keep them closed and fare thee well.
What drew you to this story?
FREEMAN: It was money. No. I really wanted to work with Luc Besson. I'm a big fan of his. Did you ever see 'The Professional.' It was very violent. But a fabulous story, a fabulous movie, very well done. So that and two or three other projects of his that I've seen, I just thought if I had a shot to work with him I wanted to do it.
Can you talk about working with Jet Li and whether you were a fan of his beforehand?
FREEMAN: Yeah. He has great dramatic chops. He was not brand new to this. He's a huge star in China and has been for many, many years. You're going to talk to Jet in a bit and he'll say that he learned a lot working with me, but I reject that. I don't think that anyone learns anything. Well, I mean, you do always learn something if you have your eyes and ears open. You do learn something from every outing, every time that you go for it. But for me what actors do is interact and that's why you have to do that and he's good at that. So when he comes in and says, 'I had to take lessons and learn a lot from Morgan.' Say no you didn't.
You say that acting isn't hard , so what keeps you engaged?
FREEMAN: I say that it's not hard. I love doing it and it's not hard for me because I'm really like good at it. I'm not bragging here. You write it because you're good at it. You do what you do. Writing I think, out of what all of us do, writing is the hardest. You're the only who start with nothing except what's up here. You do that. It's really hard I think, acting is not.
Can you talk about working with Kerry Condon because she's such a bright spot and you two were great together?
FREEMAN: She's great, and that's what I'm talking about. That's what happens. We come together and we sit around a table like this and we read the script and we begin reaching for each other. That's what really happens – how we're going to respond in certain scenes, how physical we're going to be able to be. Some women are like, 'I don't know you. So don't touch me.' I have had that. 'Oh, shit. No problem.' Now, you've got something else to work at it. Its like, 'How am I going to get around this little thing.' But this is it. Kerry was just delightful. The whole experience was a real delight. The only thing wrong was that we were in the winter in Northern Europe. Not good. I don't do cold. My reaction to cold is drastic. I'm a southern boy.
You've played God, a blind man and half blind man. So where can you go from here?
FREEMAN: I'm going to play a woman. No. I don't know.
What are you working on now?
FREEMAN: I'm working on getting a job. Actually, the next thing that I'm going to do is called 'The Contract' and I play an assassin.
Are you excited to now play a villain?
FREEMAN: I understand your question completely. I'm a little concerned that there's going to be a lot of action in this and I remember remarking when I did 'Robin Hood' that they were going to wait until I've got great hair before they start giving me great action roles and that's unfair of them. So I have to do all this stuff. Now I'm in the gym and I'm doing yoga to get myself physically prepared without hurting myself. So yeah I'm a little excited, but scared.
You've done so many good guy roles, do you wonder if you can pull this off for an audience?
FREEMAN: See, there you go. That's really just the worst part of life really, you get bracketed somewhere and the next thing you know people are saying, 'No. No. That's not the type. Get me so and so.' I'm not a type. I'm an actor.
Have you learned anything from Jet Li to apply to your assassin role?
FREEMAN: I haven't learned anything yet because I didn't want to hurt myself. I didn't want to say, 'Hey, Jet, how did you do this?' because I know that no matter what he says he's been doing this since he was eight years old. That's where all these kung fu, most of these kung fu actors come out of that group. What you're looking at is a dance. It's the most intricately choreographed dance. They can bring their foot up to there and hit it with their hand.
How was it working with Chris Nolan on Batman?
FREEMAN: Chris Nolan was one of those guys who knew exactly what he wanted to shoot. He's got it all storyboarded and he showed it to me and said this is what the story looks like. So you have a very clear idea of what he wants and its easy accommodate. Other directors will say, 'Well, I don't quite know what I want. So go for broke.'
Dont't forget to also check out: Unleashed