Morgan Freeman Film Career
Morgan Freeman has had an impressive and varied career on stage, television, and screen. It is a career that began in the mid-’60s, when Freeman appeared in an off-Broadway production of The Niggerlovers and with Pearl Bailey in an all-African-American Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! in 1968. He went on to have a successful career both on and off-Broadway, showcasing his talents in everything from musicals to contemporary drama to Shakespeare.
Before studying acting, the Memphis-born Freeman attended Los Angeles Community College and served a five-year stint with the Air Force from 1955 to 1959. After getting his start on the stage, he worked in television, playing Easy Reader on the PBS children’s educational series The Electric Company from 1971 through 1976. During that period, Freeman also made his movie debut in the lighthearted children’s movie Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow? (1971).
Save for his work on the PBS show, Freeman’s television and feature film appearances through the ’70s were sporadic, but in 1980, he earned critical acclaim for his work in the prison drama Brubaker. He gained additional recognition for his work on the small screen with a regular role on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives from 1982 to 1984.
Following Brubaker, Freeman’s subsequent ’80s film work was generally undistinguished until he played the dangerously emotional pimp in Street Smart (1987) and earned his first Oscar nomination. With the success of Street Smart, Freeman’s film career duly took off and he appeared in a string of excellent films that began with the powerful Clean and Sober (1988) and continued with Driving Miss Daisy (1989), in which Freeman reprised his Obie-winning role of a dignified, patient Southern chauffeur and earned his second Oscar nomination for his efforts.
In 1989, he also played a tough and cynical gravedigger who joins a newly formed regiment of black Union soldiers helmed by Matthew Broderick in Glory. The acclaim he won for that role was replicated with his portrayal of a high school principal in that same year’s Lean on Me.
Freeman has been one of the few African-American actors to play roles not specifically written for African-Americans, as evidenced by his work in such films as Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), in which he played Robin’s sidekick, and Clint Eastwood’s revisionist Western Unforgiven (1992). In 1993, Freeman demonstrated his skills on the other side of the camera, making his directorial debut with Bopha!, the story of a South African cop alienated from his son by apartheid.
The following year, the actor received a third Oscar nomination as an aged lifer in the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption. He went on to do steady work throughout the rest of the decade, turning in memorable performances in films like Seven (1995), in which he played a world-weary detective; Amistad (1997), which featured him as a former slave; Kiss the Girls (1997), a thriller in which he played a police detective; and Deep Impact, a 1998 blockbuster that cast Freeman as the President of the United States.
Following an appearance opposite Renee Zellweger in director Neil LaBute’s Nurse Betty, Freeman would return to the role of detective Alex Cross in the Kiss the Girls sequel Along Came a Spider (2001). Freeman continued to keep a high profile moving into the new millennium with roles in such thrillers as The Sum of All Fears (2002) and Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, and the popular actor would average at least two films per year through 2004 (with a staggering five films scheduled for release in 2003 alone).
By the time Freeman appeared opposite Hillary Swank and Clint Eastwood in Eastwood’s acclaimed 2004 boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, his reputation as one of Hollywood’s hardest working and and most respected actors was as cemented in place as it was well deserved.
When it was announced at the 77th Annual Academy Awards that Freeman would take home the Oscar for his performance as the former boxer turned trainer who convinces his old friend to take in a scrappy female fighter (Swank) under his wing – the award surprised few who had followed the actor’s enduring career. Indeed many considered the award to be well overdue given Freeman’s impressive body of work, and the fact that it came as the result of such a powerful performance made the win seem especially noteworthy. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie GuideRelated Information: