Everybody likes Morgan Freeman.
There aren’t many actors you can say that about, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with someone where Freeman’s name came up and someone said, “Oh, I can’t stand him.” That’s kind of amazing. It’s a testament to the fundamental honesty of what Freeman does on-camera, and the way he’s picked and chosen roles over the last twenty-plus years.
He’s one of those guys who worked for a long time in what must have felt like relative obscurity, one of his best-known roles being an ensemble part on “The Electric Company.” All of that changed when “Street Smart” hit, and suddenly Hollywood figured out how great he was. Suddenly, he started getting the types of roles he deserved. Suddenly he was front and center in a number of big films, including the Oscar-winning smash hit “Driving Miss Daisy” and the Oscar-winning genre-defining Clint Eastwood film “Unforgiven.”
Thanks to his distinctive voice and his warm, authoritative diction, Freeman’s become the king of the voice-over work, and no one has made better use of that than Frank Darabont did in “The Shawshank Redemption,” a film that seems to become more beloved with each passing year. I’ve spoken with him once or twice in the past, and he’s always been cordial and engaging.
By far, though, the biggest reactions I’ve ever seen from him came during our chat last week in support of the new science-fiction film “Oblivion.” First, there was a moment as we were sitting down and getting ready to tape, when I told him that my kids have been growing up on the DVD releases of “The Electric Company.” I thanked him for helping to teach them to read just as he helped to teach me, and he smiled, acknowledged what a long life that show has had.
During the interview, though, at one point we were talking about genre and how he’s been pretty careful about which genre films to be in, and I mentioned a project that he’s been attached to produce for many years now. Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous With Rama” is one of the seminal pieces of science-fiction, a remarkable book about first contact, and for years now, Freeman’s been trying to get a film version made with David Fincher directing. When I brought it up, he was more than happy to talk about how hard it’s been to get the film going, and just why it is he feels like it’s important and worth the effort.
We’ll have more on “Oblivion,” including more of my chat with Freeman and a talk with Olga Kurylenko, in the day ahead. For now, though, check out just how excited Freeman is about trying to make this film and tell me you don’t want to see what it is that he’s so excited about.
Here’s hoping we get the chance someday.