There are few actors whose career has spanned over 40 years, let alone those who are still going strong since day one. Morgan Freeman is one of those gems of an actor, who is able to portray a mix of roles throughout his impressive acting career. He has portrayed God, prisoners, a chief executive officer, Detectives, and so many more, that it’s clear that he is a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and should be recognised as a true acting legend. Known for his smooth voice and cool demeanour, Freeman has won his way into the hearts of many as a true talent that commands attention on screen. With the release of Lucy, that sees Freeman taking up the role as Professor Norman, it would seem only insane not to take a look back at some of his great roles – a task which is overwhelming considering how many intense and excellent characters he has portrayed over the years.
A true classic, it seems only fitting that we start with the film adaptation of the play of the same name, Driving Miss Daisy. Freeman reprised his role as Hoke Colburn for the motion picture, having previously portrayed the character in the play, and his performance was as magnificent as ever. Managing to truly convey the struggles and emotions of the character, Freeman shone opposite the delightful Jessica Tandy, whose performance was equally glorious. In the film, Freeman portrayed Colburn, a chauffeur who is hired to drive Miss Daisy around after she wrecks her car. The pairing was exceptional, and the two actors shone on-screen, with their friendship being beautifully played out, under the vision of Beresford and the impeccable screenplay by Uhry. Sufficed to say, Driving Miss Daisy affirmed to everyone that Freeman was an undeniable talent blossoming in the industry.
In what world wouldn’t The Shawshank Redemption be included in Freeman’s greatest hits? Tim Robbins and Freeman were electric and their tale of their life in Shawshank State Penitentiary was so deeply touching and compelling that you will be hard pressed not to be moved by the entire film and its events. Based on the novella by Stephen King, the film was so powerful and realistic, and Freeman’s performance as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding so stirring, that it garnered the actor a nomination for an Academy Award (Best Actor). The true travesty is that The Shawshank Redemption failed to win any Academy Awards, despite being nominated for seven (sacrilege!).
1995 brought with it the neo-noir thriller Seven, which saw Freeman assume the role of Detective Lieutenant William Somerset, an officer who will be retiring soon, who becomes involved with the case of a serial killer who kills people in accordance to the seven deadly sins. In the film, Freeman is partnered with a young and short-tempered cop, Detective David Mills, who is portrayed by Brad Pitt, and this becomes another great on-screen relationship, as they work together to hunt the killer. Freeman’s meticulous portrayal of the older and more refined detective work in his favour, as he is able to bring a strong contrast to Brad Pitt’s character, whilst being particularly skilful in showing how the two men can work together and that they must not give up on this particular fight for justice.
Assuming the role of people who exist in real life can be tough, and Freeman took on this challenge in 2009’s Invictus, as he geared up to portray Nelson Mandela, in this biographical sports drama piece. In the film, Freeman acts out his role with full and determined conviction, in a manner that is both satisfying and heartfelt. Whilst the film may divide some viewers, Freeman’s portrayal of an iconic figure is both just and emotive, with the topics of racial animosity laden through the 133 minute biopic.
As if this even needs explaining. Million Dollar Baby was something else in terms of your classic sports drama film, and with Clint Eastwood at the helm, it certainly took off and allowed Freeman to truly shine in his role as Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris, an elderly former boxer who serves as Dunn’s gym assistant. Starring opposite Hilary Swank and (surprise, surprise) Clint Eastwood, Freeman and his co-stars were dynamic in their roles, with such strong and surprising characters, and its emotionally-heavy story; Million Dollar Baby makes for pretty captivating viewing. It’s no surprise that Freeman (finally) won an Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor (whilst Swank also won the award for Best Actress and Eastwood won the award for Best Director, and the film won for Best Picture).
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Lucy is out in cinemas now