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Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeif­fer Luc Bes­son Now on DVD and Blu- ray

Stars: Di­rec­tor: Avail­able:

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.


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

MIX­ING IT UP: Last Ve­gas.

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