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Morgan Freeman Turns 85

They say Morgan Freeman plays characters with a calm and reassuring demeanor: well he’s also the voice of God! Since Bruce Almighty (2003), Freeman has added this honor to his many accolades. “I gravitate towards gravitas”, Freeman was quoted to say to Variety at the time, with his distinctly ironic tone. And as God himself he’s ageless, eternal: he turns 85 on June 1, 2022. 85… and still going. No sign of slowing, no signs of stopping. His uniquely sounding baritone voice telling us great stories over and over again, one of the greatest figures ever in American film history, a true living legend. He’s a five-time Golden Globe nominee, winning once as best supporting actor for Driving Miss Daisy (1989); in 2012 he was honored by the HFPA with the Cecil B. deMille Award for his career. He won an Academy Award, again as best supporting actor, for Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004).

Freeman was born on June 1, 1937, in Memphis, Tennessee, and moved to Los Angeles to attend the Los Angeles City College before serving several years in the US Air Force as a mechanic between 1955 and 1959. He started as a performer in the musical theater, appearing on stage in an all-African American production of Hello, Dolly! in the early ’60s. That experience led to professional acting: he was a regular (playing different characters) in the children’s television show The Electric Company (1971), followed by Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow! (“I always loved children’s shows,” Freeman said reminiscing those years during a round table with this journalist for the film Kiss the girls. “Those are some works I’m most proud of in my entire career”). During the ’70s he received a Tony Award nomination for   The Mighty Gents (1978), and in 1980 he won two Obie Awards for his portrayal of Shakespearean anti-hero Coriolanus at the New York Shakespeare Festival and for Mother Courage and Her Children.  In 1987 Freeman created the role of Hoke Coleburn in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Driving Miss Daisy, a role he reprised in the Oscar-winning Bruce Beresford‘s film with Jessica Tandy.

He hasn’t stopped working since, with a furious pace as it were. He has 141 credits as an actor between film and television, and 21 as a producer (notably the acclaimed TV series in the 2010s Throughout the Wormhole, plus The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman, The Story of God, and Madame Secretary). He recently worked at the movies in Angel Has Fallen (2019), The Comeback Trail (2020), Vanquish (2020), the TV series Solos (2021), had a cameo role as himself in the last season of The Kominsky Method, and he’s presently at work on seven projects (he’s currently filming the sci-fi thriller 57 Seconds).

Freeman famously played Dr. Alex Cross in Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001). He played God twice, in Bruce Almighty and its sequel Evan Almighty (2007). He played Lucius Fox in both Batman Returns (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). Freeman is spearheading a new wave of amazing octogenarians still at work in the entertainment industry, along, most notably, his pal and frequent collaborators Clint Eastwood (well, he’s in his ‘90s…), Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Sophia Loren, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, just to name a few. “I’m healthy and I’m a free man and acting is my passion and it’s my job, and until I can walk and talk at the same time that’s what I’ll keep doing,” Freeman told Variety when he turned 80. He’s twice divorced and has four adult children.

Among his other famous films are Lean on Me (1987), Glory (1989), Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Seven (1995). He worked again with Eastwood in Invictus (2009), in which he portrayed Nelson Mandela.

“Clint is my most favorite director of all,” Freeman said upon receiving his Cecil B. deMille Award. “Hooking up again with him after making Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby was really fun. We go back a long time, me and him. We still like the work, we still like the life on a set.” “I guess it’s our way to magically postpone the inevitable,” he added with his ironic smile during an interview for History of God in the production office of the series.