Mor­gan Free­man talks God, scripts and gua­camole

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Los An­ge­les

Mor­gan Free­man, the vel­vetvoiced doyen of some of Amer­ica’s best-loved movies, not to men­tion one of the suavest ac­tors in the busi­ness, some­times lets his cool­crownslip.

The 79-year-old fa­mously nod­ded off on cam­era dur­ing a sit-down with Seat­tle’s Fox af­fil­i­ate KCPQ in 2013 and was up­braided ear­lier this year for “drool­ing” over WGN pro­ducer Tyra Martin dur­ing a video in­ter­view.

On Mon­day it was a loud, gassy burp that elicited gales of shocked laugh­ter from a hand­ful of jour­nal­ists gath­ered in a Bev­erly Hills ho­tel to hear Free­man talk about his lat­est movie, Ben-Hur.

“Pardon me, I just had gua­camole,” the twice-di­vorced fa­ther-of-four said in his ir­re­sistible, pan­cake-syrup tim­bre, imp­ish glint in his eye, look­ing any­thing but em­bar­rassed.

Free­man, the apoth­e­o­sis of de­bonair Hol­ly­wood su­per­star­domwhenhe’s not re­liv­ing his lunch, knows he can get away with a lot in in­ter­views.

Since his in­aus­pi­cious, uncredited de­but as “man on street” in Sid­ney Lumet’s 1964 movie The Pawn­bro­ker, Free­man’s 79 films have made $4.3 bil­lion at the box of­fice. That’s more than the GDP of 10 African coun­tries and about the same as the com­bined re­ceipts of the films of Al Pa­cino and Robert De Niro.

He has been nom­i­nated five times for the Os­cars but had to wait un­til 2005 to bring home the sup­port­ing ac­tor stat­uette for Mil­lion Dol­lar Baby.

Many crit­ics be­lieve he should have won best ac­tor a decade ear­lier for his stun­ning turn as ag­ing con El­lis Boyd “Red” Red­ding in The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion, per­haps his most fa­mous role.

Nu­mer­ous other mile­stones in Amer­i­can cinema dot Free­man’s ca­reer, from David Fincher’s bru­tal noir thriller Seven in 1995 and Christo­pher Nolan’s Bat­man films to his ac­claimed por­trayal of Nel­son Man­dela in 2009’s In­vic­tus.

Next up is Ben-Hur, in which Free­man swaps the white suit he donned to play God in Bruce Almighty and its se­quel for an un­kempt set of dread­locks and the robes of a Nu­bian sheik.

The crowd on Mon­day wanted to know if he had any ad­vice on play­ing di­vin­ity for the Brazil­ian ac­tor Ro­drigo San­toro, who por­trays Je­sus in the char­iot-rac­ing epic.

“Di­vine is not that hard to play if you want to know the truth of the mat­ter,” Free­man con­fides.

“Peo­ple say, ‘Well you’ve played God — how did you pre­pare for that?’” he says, af­fect­ing an ex­ag­ger­ated look of face-in-palm ex­as­per­a­tion. “Go to church, maybe? No. Read the freak­ing script, that’s how you pre­pare.”

It is the same down-to-earth at­ti­tude Free­man has adopted through­out his ca­reer, of­ten per­plexed when jour­nal­ists ask him why he was drawn to this movie or that char­ac­ter.

“The bot­tom line is, it’s a job. I heard this story. Maybe it’s apoc­ryphal but I don’t think it is,” he says. “There’s this old ac­tor. The last nighthe­wasalive­hewentto bed and he wrote a note to him­self: ‘I work.’”

Timur Bek­mam­be­tov’s ver­sion of Ben-Hur, the iconic story of broth­erly ri­valry and Chris­tian re­demp­tion, has a lot to live up to. There have been five films of Lew Wal­lace’s 1880 novel, in­clud­ing Wil­liam Wyler’s 1959 opus that won 11 Os­cars.

Free­man, who is on record as be­liev­ing hu­man­ity “in­vented God”, thinks an unashamedly re­li­gious film like BenHur bears retelling.

“There’s a lot of good stuff in this story that kind of in­forms us as hu­mans — the idea of re­demp­tion, of tol­er­ance, for­give­ness, love. All of that makes us want to be bet­ter peo­ple,” he says.

See more by scan­ning the code.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.