April 2002
Morgan Speaks : An interview with Morgan Freeman

Interviewed by Wilson Morales
Morgan Speaks : An interview with Morgan Freeman

Not many people know this but Morgan Freeman HASNíT won an Oscar yet. In a recent poll taken, most thought that he was a previous winner considering the talent he brings to the screen. There hasnít been a film where his acting skills lacked. He always brings in his ďAĒ game. He doesnít mind taking first, second, or third billing so long as his part is meaty and good. He was good in ďGloryĒ, ďDriving Miss DaisyĒ and ďKiss the GirlsĒ. The latter was a box office hit and co-starred Ashley Judd. Chemistry was good enough that they have reteamed to star in Carl Franklinís HIGH CRIMES. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Morgan speaks his mind on Ashley, the government, and his character.

WM: Was Ashley Juddís casting crucial in you taking this role?

MF: Not part of the deal, I actually got this from Ashley, she called me and said do you want to do this? I said, "Are you in it?" and she said, "Yeah, yeah. No, it isnít anything on paper. Itís just in the wind; itís in the cards, thatís just the way itís going to be. I just feel itís going to happen.Ē That way, the admiration is on the surface, you can see it. I just adore her. A lot of actresses I dig, but sheís the only one Iíve worked with. Some people just want you because they think your name will do great things for what theyíre doing, but Ashley has quite an eye for characters, parts, and stories themselves. You know. Sometimes you feel The need to go against the pull of stardom, you know. People say "You Canít do that, itís beneath you." I go back to Ed Wynn there are no small parts, just small actors.

WM: Do you think the government, specifically the military, likes to have its image look negative?

MF: It seems that weíre always on one side of the fence or the other. When we need the cops or the military, of course, theyíre good guys. When things settle down we start looking into the background of the good guys and see all the things they did to make things possible. "You didnít do that?" But I think you need to because power corrupts.

WM: What about having its authority questioned?

MF: American credo, if you donít, pretty soon you canít. Bush is catching holy hell, the civil liberties union, Amnesty International, the papers in Canada are full of "what does he think heís doing" and what do we think weíre doing when the Bush administration demanded that the Canadian armed services deliver Taliban and Alikan prisoners to the United States soldiers. They said, "Wait a minute are we just going to be dictated." Well, ultimately the question answered was "Yes." But they are kinda up in arms about it, nationally. People are saying, "We donít want to be part of that. Obviously this isnít right, you canít have a tribunal and deprive people of their rights to due process. Yeah, questioning authority is constant, and ongoing. In our system we donít have to worry, weíre not going to have a president for life. Okay buddy you go stick your foot in it as long as you have the time, but your time gets shorter and shorter.

WM: Did you take any projects for the wrong reasons?

MF: What are the wrong reasons Ė money? Yeah, I mean are youíre going to call that the wrong reasons, it doesnít sound good. Iíd said, "What does it pay?" Oh my God, let me think Ė Yes."

WM: What can you say about Carl Franklin as a director?

MF: I like the results of his work. I really liked "Devil in the Blue Dress." And umm, when we were going to do this and I knew it was him, I was looking forward to it. And I donít know, everything depends on the final product, and Carl is very exacting. What it turns out to be is most important. Iím told this is good product. So what does it matter what I think. When he calls, Iíll be there.

WM: First time you step on stage, did you have that perspective that itís about the end product?

MF: No, itís always about the end product. As far as you, itís only about how you fit into it. It has nothing basically to do with you as a person. Iíve always been a little hesitant about directing, but to me directing is about captaining a ship. The Captain doesnít run down to the engine room and shovel coal or check instruments, he has an expert go down there who does that and reports to him. Itís the captain who says, "Letís go." Itís like "Action, stop the ship, cut." Other people do the rest and you donít have to get involved about it unless something horrendous goes wrong. But thatís what a captain is, someone who takes all the weight, but thatís not the person giving all the orders. The captain says pretty much, "Letís put to sea." And then the executive officer and first assistant officer sayís, "Okay, stand by, letís put to sea." Down the line Ė the Captain has just been standing there watching it all.

WM: Did you get any advice as a child, to get that attitude?

MF: I got so much advice as a child. I got a lot of it in high school. I remember in my 20ís one man said to me, he didnít put it in these words, Satchel Paige put it in these words, but he said, "never trouble until trouble troubles you." Right, in other words, donít look for trouble. I think my ultimate condensation of all this information came down to "Know what you want." "Know what you want." What you want is so changeable, effected by moment to moment experiences, but Iím such a deep believer that what you want is what you are going to get. For people that donít believe that, thereís a point where youíre in denial "This isnít what I wanted, but it is." You get what you want by every day choices you make, all day long, you make choices based on what you want.

WM: What do you want right now?

MF: I want to be in the Caribbean right now on my boat. I want to be sailing, I want to be gone. Not really, I want this movie to do well so Iím sitting here talking to you. Thatís what I really want, the other is what Iíd like.

WM: Alcoholic aspect of his character? Effort to stay somber?

MF: If youíve met an alcoholic itís always the first thing uppermost in their mind, alcoholic and drug addicts because itís so easy to slide off of that, to be caught downward. If you forget for a moment, you met a lovely woman and she says "How about a drink?" You go, "Sure." Youíre lost, your gone. What will it take to get you back out of that? Iím not an addict, I donít have that kind of makeup, but I know that. Quite closely, so itís terrifying, because very often people that get addicted to substances donít have any control over it, until they have no control over anything whatsoever.

WM: Is there are rule of thumb in playing a drunk?

MF: For me, there is, I learned it from Gig Young. Whatís the essential thing about being drunk? You feel like youíre not in control, actually you feel like youíre fully in control, but youíre not, youíre struggling to be in control. Youíre not struggling to be drunk, youíre struggling to be in control as an actor so the trick for an actor is to struggle for control, not for loss of control. So the guy who is drunk, is to stop and think about what heís saying. If youíve had enough to drink the fumes are already there, reminding you maybe youíve had a little bit too much to drink, letís have another one.

Gig Young, he was the best drunk. I think people who are really drunk donít do it well. You know who else was a good drunk? Dean Martin, and he was not a drunk, he just had a whole persona around that.

WM: Color blind casting?

MF: Itís very, very important to me that casting be color blind, because when I was wishing to be an actor, professional actor, you look at movies based on the future, sci-fi, you never saw anybody but white people. So somehow all the rest of the world got wiped out except whites. And I became seriously aware of itÖserious aware of it. What do we do to fix that? Well actually I was at the Screen Actors Guild and jumped up and said, "We have to change that. We have to have open-casting." So itís very important to me that we continue and make this broader, because if you just look out of the world weíre all here, just look at us, look at this rainbow. And I think we are trying real hard.