Fans might think it would be a burden to not only be one of the most respected actors in film, but to have a voice that is universally recognized. From science documentaries to films involving a certain caped crusader, Morgan Freeman has seemingly done it all and shows no signs of slowing down. He sat down recently to talk about his relationship with fans and working with a screen idol of his, Tom Cruise, in the new sci-fi flick “Oblivion.”
Bullz-Eye: This is the first time you’ve worked with Tom. Do you have differing ways of how you approach a role?
Morgan Freeman: I don’t know. Everybody works the same. Preparation, very often, may be different, but you can’t work differently. You have to say the words that were written on the page. You have to make your marks. That’s the work.
BE: This film has many aspects that sci-fi purists enjoy. What do you think sets it apart?
Morgan Freeman: One of the things that stands out in this film is the love story. It’s not like one we’ve seen before. Then, there’s the awesome technology. The bubble ship can be remotely controlled. I agree that this is unlike many we’ve seen, or any we’ve seen prior. It’s very intelligent and extremely creative. Joseph designed these doggone toys. Awesome. Those drones are things you can’t believe, but there they are… believable.
BE: What aspect of the script most appealed to you?
Morgan Freeman: When I first read it, it talked about the mysteriousness of this group. At the outset, you don’t see them. They’re there, but you don’t see them. Then, when they are finally revealed, they’re the good guys and I’m the leader.
BE: In “Olympus Has Fallen,” you play your usual authoritative figure, but in this movie, you got to use some heavy machinery. Was that a choice on your part?
Morgan Freeman: No, I don’t make choices like that. (laughs) That’s written in that he goes up there and mans the machine gun. How these things work out is strictly the writer’s thing. It’s not the director. It’s not the actor. It’s strictly the writer.
BE: Was it fun?
Morgan Freeman: It was fun. That was dual 50-calibers on that tractor. I’d never fired a 50-caliber machine gun before.
BE: What was it specifically about “Oblivion” that made you pick this role?
Morgan Freeman: Tom Cruise. It’s a Tom Cruise movie, so if I was going to be a truck driver hauling supplies, I would’ve taken the job. I’m one of his huge fans — have been for I don’t know how many years. I know, at this point, I’m not going to be offered a minor role. You compare the script to the movie and they don’t compare, but I was excited about the script. The movie is so much more than what you can read on a page, but it’s a big draw. It’s a big science fiction film with Tom Cruise. It’s hard to go wrong.
BE: Joseph had said you and Tom wanted to make a movie for a while. Why did it take so long?
Morgan Freeman: When we said we wanted to work together, it’s not an active thing. Were that the case, I would’ve been in “Mission Impossible 1, 2 or 3.” But when the right project comes along, it’s sort of a domino effect. Everything falls into place. I think this was the perfect genre for me to be involved with Tom in. So, I no longer resent not having done anything with him. (laughs)
BE: Tom spoke of meeting you in 1990 when you were both nominated for an Oscar. What were you impressions of him then?
Morgan Freeman: The first time I saw him was in “Risky Business.” He was awesome. When his parents walked out of the house and he slid into frame in his Jockeys and did that whole thing, it was like, “This kid is awesome.” I don’t know if there is anything that he has done that I haven’t seen and appreciated. I’d seen stuff he’d done even before then. He’d done this fairy tale movie, “Legend.” He was just born to do this.
BE: Your character had a unique costume. How important are the costumes to you?
Morgan Freeman: Costume is always an asset. With a normal costume, you have a lot of say. If you’re wearing suits and ties, what color you want or how it will be cut, or whether or not you’ll wear a hat. But when you’re wearing a special costume… and costume is probably the second ingredient in character, with script being first. I always find that the costume does a lot to cement your character, to put it firmly in mind. This costume, I remember going for the fitting. It took maybe a half an hour to get into it. Then, I looked at it and I was walking all over the office, showing it off. It was, shall we say, instructive.
BE: You looked very good in a cape.
Morgan Freeman: Thank you very much. Maybe I’ll just buy myself one and wear it.
BE: You’ve been doing this for a while. Do you still enjoy it?
Morgan Freeman: I enjoy it every single day. I’m born to do this, too. I enjoy it every single day. It’s not like I have to get up every morning Monday through Friday and go to a job. You do a movie. However long it lasts, it begins and it ends in a relatively short period of time. So, in a given period of time, say a year, you can have four or five different experiences. It’s kind of exciting.
BE: Do you enjoy red carpets and interacting with the public?
Morgan Freeman: I was watching Jack Parr. Jack Parr was “The Tonight Show” host before Johnny Carson. One night, one of my movie heroes, Humphrey Bogart, was on. Humphrey was asked a similar question about pictures and autographs and the public. Bogart said, “I don’t owe the public anything, but a good performance.” I tried to take that to heart, but not quite so. Somebody once told me, “No, no, you belong to us. You’re in the public.” So, you can’t quite get away from it. I don’t do autographs. They’re a waste of time. Photographs stay. Touching someone’s hand, hugging a beautiful lady, all of that works out very well. So, I wanted to adopt Humphrey Bogart’s dictum, but it doesn’t work for me. I think I owe the public more than just a good performance. I owe them just a little bit of time…if I’m cornered.
BE: Also, what’s your idea of an ideal future?
Morgan Freeman: We would all live in trees. We would all hunt for our food. We would walk wherever we went. The planet would be rejuvenated. We wouldn’t be killing off all of the animals just to feed us. I would change it like that.
BE: Does Joseph Kosinski’s approach to filmmaking differ from some of the older directors you’ve worked with like Clint Eastwood and Rob Reiner?
Morgan Freeman: The two older directors that you mentioned happen to have a couple of things in common, speed being one of them. I like speed. Younger directors don’t seem to embrace that so much. As they get older and more secure with what they’re doing, they develop a lack of a need to spend more time shooting more film. You kind of know when you’ve got it. Nowadays, you may not know when you’ve got it. If you’ve only done two or three movies, you don’t want to go back to post and have your editors go, “Why did we do this or that?” It’s a see/why type thing. I give them credit for that.
BE: Do you embrace the role you’ve had over the last few years as the voice that explains the plot or provides exposition?
Morgan Freeman: It’s just the way shit works out. (laughs)
BE: What do you look for in scripts these days?
Morgan Freeman: I don’t know. It’s different things. I can’t say. If you sat down and wrote a script, you may write something that’s way beyond what you’ve ever seen me do, but if you thought of me to do it, I would be flattered to be asked to do something other than be wise.