Grape ex­pec­ta­tions

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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - DOL­PHIN TALE Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

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.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.