At 74 and still very much in demand, Morgan Freeman reckons he’ll retire when he can no longer get out of bed, writes Shereen Low
IF there was ever a prize for the greatest lover of grapes in the world, Morgan Freeman would probably win it.
The Hollywood legend is a huge fan of the fruit, and it’s rumoured he even has a dedicated ‘‘ grape carrier’’.
‘‘ Wherever I go, they go,’’ he says, referring to the grapes and presumably the person holding his precious fruit.
‘‘ So whenever somebody wants a grape, they know where to come,’’ he adds, as a big bowl of red grapes materialises in front of him.
The screen icon, who has portrayed God and Nelson Mandela, has been described as prickly in interviews.
But as we sit in a beachside hotel in Clearwater, Florida, there is no sign of that. Rather, he is disarmingly honest about anything and everything.
Whether discussing his gloved left hand – his fingers have yet to regain movement following a car crash in 2008 – (‘‘ I live in hope that it will heal’’), the gold earring on his right ear (‘‘ I’m a sailor: it’s my attachment to the sea’’) or politics ( he recently made headlines after accusing the US Tea Party of being racist), he gets straight to the point.
But there’s just one topic the 74- year- old won’t go into too much detail about – the next Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
‘‘ I am,’’ he grudgingly admits when asked if he is reprising the character of Lucius Fox for the third film. He jokes, saying any more would incur the wrath of director Christopher Nolan.
Move him on to the subject of Nolan though, and Freeman is more vocal.
‘‘ It’s that incredible mind of his. Did you see Inception? What did you think? Amazing, right?’’ he says in his rich baritone voice.
‘‘ He’s a terrific writer. I think he has rejuvenated the Batman franchise.’’
An avid pilot, Freeman, who splits his time between New York and Mississippi, flew himself to Clearwater, Florida, to promote his new film Dolphin Tale.
Already top of the US box office, the heart- warming real- life story, which also stars Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd and Nathan Gamble, focuses on Winter, the dolphin which has learnt to swim with a prosthetic tail.
Freeman plays prosthetics expert Dr Cameron Mccarthy, who takes on the seemingly impossible task of crafting a tail for Winter after she gets her natural one trapped in a crab cage.
The silver- haired actor readily admits he wasn’t aware of Winter – a local celebrity – or of prosthetics when he signed on.
’’ I took the job because it’s a pretty good script,’’ he says. ‘‘ I’m always looking for work. Scripts that come along and have a good story, I love to do. I just thought, ‘ They’re making a great movie, for families and kids to go to’.’’
He didn’t mind letting his aquatic co- star take the limelight this time.
‘‘ I know Winter is the real star of the movie, so I just tried to ingratiate myself. I don’t mind being upstaged by anything, as long as I keep working.’’
However, getting to bond with the dolphin took some time. ‘‘ Well, she’s like any kid. You have to coax her with food, so I spent a lot of time with fish and tossing them to her. After a while, she’d come and stay.’’
‘‘ It took a long time. I was 50 years old before I got really recognised in the movies’’
Dolphin Tale is Freeman’s latest animal- related outing following his
narration in March Of The Penguins and Born To Be Wild 3D. Yet he insists that’s not the reason why he said yes to the film.
‘‘ No, no. I’m not looking for message work. Documentaries are about the only message films I do,’’ he says.
But he does have a ‘‘ great respect for all creatures great and small’’.
‘‘ I have experience with mostly cats, dogs and goldfish. I had a dog, who was the bane of my high school principal because he used to follow me to school.’’
He can also relate to the film’s inspirational message of overcoming adversity through persistence.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Freeman began acting when he was
– Morgan Freeman
about nine, winning the lead role in the school play. ‘‘ My mother knew long before anyone else that I was destined for this. Heck, I don’t know,’’ he quips.
Yet big- time success came decades later, when his award- winning performance as pimp Fast Black in 1986’ s
Street Smart really launched his career. Since then he has garnered acclaim for The Shawshank Redemption, Driving
Miss Daisy and Invictus. ‘‘ It took a long time. I was 50 years old before I got really recognised in the movies,’’ he recalls.
‘‘ I lost faith a number of times. But I was working on stage so I thought, ‘ It’s fine if they don’t offer me Hollywood’. Nobody ever said that I couldn’t make it – ever. But whoever said it would be easy?’’
‘‘ The one thing I can say to anyone who wants to do anything at all in life, the surest way to fail is to give up quick. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. If you keep going, you will eventually get there.’’
With a best supporting actor Oscar under his belt for Million Dollar Baby ( although he’s prouder of his four Oscar nominations), the twice- married Freeman remains happiest ‘‘ on set or in the sea’’ and reckons his work allows him to indulge his passions, which also include flying, horseriding and solitaire.
‘‘ I really like sailing. I don’t want to give up any of my guilty pleasures. I should give up a little bit of solitaire but it’s an addiction,’’ he says, with a glint in his eye.
‘‘ I want to keep working, absolutely. I’ll retire when I can’t get out of bed.’’