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While everyone concerned with this has done much better, less stereotypical work, the story about a one- time mob family living in hiding in small- town France has its moments amid the uneven tonal shifts and heavy- handedness.
DON JON ( MA)
IF not for Mrs Walker, Morgan Freeman’s astute high- school drama teacher, the world may never have had the opportunity to hear the silky smooth voice that has highlighted so many classic fi lms of the past 30 years.
“We had a glee club and I had a kind of baritone voice, but I was always in the background,” Freeman said. “I remember our teacher, Mrs Walker, said to me, ‘ Morgan, I need you to sing bass, because we don’t have any bass singers – they all want to sing the melody and we need anchoring in bass’.”
What Mrs Walker could never have imagined was she would set in motion the career of a man so globally beloved.
“I was not a jock at all. I was all thumbs and two left feet,” he said, with that familiar deep, honeyed drawl. “But I was amazing on stage.”
A fi ve- time Academy Award nominee – he won for Million Dollar Baby, but fell short for The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Street Smart and Invictus – Freeman has made a career of playing decent, dignifi ed men.
Fellow Oscar- winner Michael Douglas said Freeman’s genius was in his ability to “make every picture his own”.
“From Driving Miss Daisy, to Shawshank to Unforgiven, he’s just able to own the picture,” Douglas said.
Though he’s well- known for dramatic roles, Freeman is taking a stab at comedy in Last Vegas. Freeman plays Archie, a man of advancing years – and questionable health – who is constantly mollycoddled by his family.
Fed up, he jumps out of the window of his son’s house and fl ees to Las Vegas for the bachelor party of an old friend.
The old friend just happens to be played by Michael Douglas, while Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline round out the quartet.
The fi lm won’t win any critical acclaim, but it’s a fun ride and worth watching purely to see these four legends grace the same screen.
“For a man who’s played three presidents and God, he’s also a little bit of a rascal, which I didn’t know,” said Douglas, who had never worked with Freeman.
“I knew he had a good sense of humour, but he’s outrageous.”
Aside from the star wattage, Freeman said the fi lm worked because the characters were just ordinary men dealing with ordinary issues such as ageing and loss.
“They’re just regular guys. None of them have any outstanding thing about them. They’re not super- guys, they’re not heroes,” Freeman said.
“They’re guys with all of the problems we all have – just the fear of growing old and being stifl ed by the pain of loss.
“The problem of having a family that’s beginning to shroud you because they think you’re getting old – ‘ You can’t do that, you can’t do this. You’re old’.”
At 76, Freeman said he’d been around long enough to see the entertainment business change for the good – “there’s a lot more diversity now” – and the bad – “it’s all about the corporate bottom line and that affects creativity”. He said he also felt for actresses who get the short end of the stick from an industry which views them as past their use- by date once they turn 40.
“It’s absolutely terrible for women,” Freeman said.
“There are so many actresses who, in an attempt to prolong their youth, completely screw themselves physically with cosmetic surgery because they don’t get work past a certain age.
“Of course, there are your anomalies – your Meryl Streeps, your Helen Mirrens, Marcia Gay Harden. They’re just ageing gracefully.”
Given his stellar career, Freeman said there were only a couple of roles he held dear.
“Playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus – that fi lm will live always. And the character of Hoke Coleburn in Driving Miss Daisy because he was so evocative of a time and place I grew up in. He was so much like my father and the experiences he went through.”
Next up, Freeman gives voice to Vitruvius, an old wizard, in The Lego Movie. Surprisingly, the role marks his fi rst foray into fi lm animation – and judging by his “diffi cult and physically exhausting” experience, it might also be his last.
“You need to get your feet wet in a lot of different pools and it was a chance for me to fi nd out how you do animation,” he said. “But it’s not fun. I thought there would be a cast of actors there and we would be in a room acting together.
“No, it’s just the two directors and me. The fi rst day I was pretty much lost.
“I need a set, I need costumes. I’m not nearly as versatile as I thought I was.”
LAST VEGAS Now showing at Village Cinemas
Morgan Freeman tries his hand at comedy in