Chances are, now that you’ve started reading this post, you’re probably imagining Morgan Freeman narrating it. While this soothing, informative voice has narrated many movies before, it wasn’t until 2005’s March of the Penguins that this actor really became known for his narrating ability. This doesn’t mean that Morgan Freeman can’t act; in fact, it’s quite to the contrary. Having acted for over 50 years, Morgan Freeman has been in some of the most celebrated films of the late 20th Century. From Best Pictures like Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Unforgiven (1992), to cult classics like The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Se7en (1995), Morgan Freeman has been in a lot of films (even including some less successful ones). This week’s two films examine two different sides of Morgan Freeman’s career.
Now You See Me
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours
For the last 30 years, Morgan Freeman has been in a movie almost every year (with the exceptions being 1986 and 1999). Recently, he has been in multiple films, sometimes appearing in up to five different movies a year. Considering that most actors decrease their amount of work as they get older, Morgan Freeman has aged so gracefully and fits so many roles flawlessly that it would almost be stupid to stop acting at this point. And even though he is doing more narration work on this end of his career, he still manages to get key roles in film franchises. Most notably, he portrayed Lucius Fox, Batman’s equipment and tech support guru, in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga. Another great fit for him was playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus, an obvious choice considering his close resemblance to the South African leader.
In Now You See Me, Freeman plays Thaddeus Bradley, the magician’s worst nightmare. Bradley has made a fortune selling DVDs where he cracks open the illusions of other magicians and shows the world the secrets behind the tricks. As a result, he’s pulled in as a consultant to help the FBI and Interpol catch four magicians (who call themselves the “Four Horsemen”) who have managed to rob a bank in Paris during their show in Las Vegas. While the Horsemen are always one step ahead of the investigators, Bradley helps narrow the gap. By this time, there’s speculation that a “fifth horseman” might be helping the group from the inside. And yet, in retaliation for an event which helped define Bradley’s career as a spoiler of magic, he ends up being framed as the “fifth horseman” for assisting the Horsemen in their capers.
Another Best Picture that Morgan Freeman performed in was 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. What’s perhaps more strange is that, while he has won many other awards, he’s only won one Oscar for acting. That’s not to say he hasn’t been nominated. In fact, he’s been nominated four times over the length of his career. While you’d think he would win for Best Actor in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, or Invictus, his only Oscar was for Best Supporting Actor in Million Dollar Baby. And yet, because he is African American, Morgan Freeman has excelled in many roles dealing with racism. From the Civil War piece, Glory, to the South African rugby championship in Invictus, Freeman has managed to handle these roles with grace and a sense of solemn power. Driving Miss Daisy is no exception to this.
During the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, change is still slow in the south, but even more-so for the older generations who have been set in their racist ways for a long time. When it becomes obvious that Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) cannot drive, her son Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) hires Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) as a chauffeur for her. Even though Daisy is resistant to the idea, eventually she learns more about Hoke and begins to accept him. As a retired teacher, Daisy puts it upon herself to teach Hoke to read once she finds he’s illiterate. Unfortunately, racism doesn’t just affect the blacks, it also affects the Jews, which Daisy learns when her synagogue is bombed. Eventually, Daisy has deteriorated to the point where she needs to be put in a retirement home. Even so, when Hoke retires many years later, she still remembers their time together fondly.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Freeman roles
Bacon #: 1 (Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story / Kevin Bacon)