Morgan Freeman talks to 50connect

Posted on: 07 October 2011 by 50connect editorial

Hollywood veteran Morgan Freeman reveals his career inspiration, love of the iPad and passion for sailing ahead of his new film, Dolphin Tale.

Dolphin TaleHollywood star, Morgan Freeman is a resolutley private man. When he is not filming or fulfilling media commitments, he enjoys nothing more than escaping to the seas on his own yacht. It is fitting, then, that his latest film tells the inspirational tale of  Winter, a bottlenose dolphin, who after almost being killed by fishing equipment, lost her tale - and was fitted with a prosthetic replacement. It sounds like schmaltzy fantasy, only this story is true.

Ahead of the release of Dolphin Tale on Friday October 14, we managed a quick Q&A session with Morgan (aged 74) to talk about the movie, the story and life in general for one of cinema's leading lights.

So what attracted you to the script in the first place?

Morgan Freeman:  It’s really a nice story. I think it’s inspirational not from the dolphin’s standpoint but from the young man’s standpoint that he found something that sparked his life and set him on fire. Really set him on fire when his mother was so concerned that he had no real passion.  To me that’s the inspiration. There is something for all of us.  There is something that galvanizes all of us into action and it’s a wonderful thing when you find it, if you find it.

In preparation for this role, did you talk to Kevin Carroll who specialized in constructing the prosthetics?

Morgan Freeman: No, I didn’t talk to him to prepare for the part. I happened to be working in his shop when we were shooting and I met him. But you know I got a script… we talked. He’s just a guy who did it, he was not a model for the character.

Did he tell you something about working with veterans who have these injuries and how he dealt with them?

Morgan Freeman: No. That’s a part of the script. I knew that from the script. That was a job. That was what he did. This was his passion.

What was your inspiration when you were younger?

Morgan Freeman: Acting.

Is it true you’re a bit of a sailor, that you have a passion for sailing?

Morgan Freeman: Yes, I discovered that when I was thirty years old.

Where do you go sailing?

Morgan Freeman: I have a rocky hand and a forty four foot boat which takes two hands to operate but my boat is in the Virgin Islands.

Do you keep moving it around the Caribbean?

Morgan Freeman: I used to when I was sailing I was all over the Caribbean, yes. I would go to Trinidad.

What was it about sailing that you enjoy? Can you describe the feeling?

Morgan Freeman: I developed a passion for it just by reading about sailing and watching movies about the sea.  The sea is an amazing task master. Implacable. Enemy.  A wonderful mistress. And you go out there and it’s just you and it…whatever the weather, whatever the situation, it’s just you and your boat.  If you can do it, there’s nothing else like it.

You must have encountered a lot of wild dolphins when you were out at sea…

Morgan Freeman: Oh heavens, yeah. I remember one day, it was one of those perfect days that you can’t tell anybody about. You had to be there that day. We had a 13 knot wind. It had been all plane sailing. The sails were up and everything was flying and the boat was kissing along on the barely calm sea, 13 knots of wind doesn’t stir the sea that much. And off the starboard quarter we hear ... a scratching noise. And there’s an entire school of dolphins coming. They come right to you and they go up and they ride the bywave. (Smiles)

And every now and then, one or two of them would go off about 50 yards or so and they would start jumping and dancing ... and they would come back as if to say:  “How do you like that?” It was just the most fabulous thing. They stay with you for about 20 minutes and then they’re gone.

Do you like to fish when you’re out there too?

Morgan Freeman: No. I’m always afraid that if I catch something it will eat me.

Can you describe your first meeting with Winter?

Morgan Freeman: Yeah. She’s in this tank where we were working and I walked in and I just sat on the edge. And they gave me some fish. They called her over and she comes over, she opens her mouth and you throw fish in there. You give her fish, fish, fish. Then I asked for a bucket of fish. You go over and you entice her, she’s like a little kid. She comes over and you feed her and then she’ll go away. Eventually she comes and she stays a while. Then you reach out and pet her ...  her skin is so smooth to touch.

So you weren’t frightened that she was going to eat you then?

Morgan Freeman: No, no.

You often play mentor figures, can you talk about the mentors in your real life?

Morgan Freeman:  Oh, can I, yeah.  I had one called Zes Walker. My biggest mentors were my mother and grandmother. I had an extraordinary teacher, she was my English teacher. Her name was Leora Williams. All these people were encouraging. They told me that I was somebody and I was going to be somebody if I kept going, so I believed it.  And guess what? I AM somebody! (Smiles)

Do you think this movie will change how people see people with disabilities?

Morgan Freeman: No. I don’t think it will change the way we see people with disabilities. What movies like this will do is just reawaken the awareness of things. But what can you do about it? You don’t get all involved in it. But you might get involved. Someone asked me if I went to the veteran’s hospital and I said no, but it just occurred to me with that question, that I could do that. I could just go in there, walk through there and shake hands and say hi, how are you doing? I have to put that on my list of good things to do.

You’re shooting Dark Knight Rises….I’m not going to ask you the plot but can you comment on how it’s going?

Morgan Freeman: (Shakes his head) I can’t tell you anything.  I really would have to kill you. We all took a blood oath.

When you read the script of Dolphin Tale, what suggestions did you make for your character?

Morgan Freeman: I didn’t make any suggestions to the director but we did talk about it.  And I told him who I thought he was and he said that’s fine. I told him I was going to be long haired, bearded and unkempt and he said, that’s kinda of the way I see him too. I guess that’s a suggestion?

How was it working with Austin Stowell? He said he was thrilled to work with you.

Morgan Freeman:  We had a good cast. We all enjoyed the work. When it’s going well and you’re all doing good stuff and the director seems happy, it’s great.

Austin said that you offered to run some lines. Is that the kind of thing you do with actors?

Morgan Freeman: Yeah, because….I’m old and I’ve been around a while, so young people may not want to come to you and ask:”Can we run the lines?” So that’s up to you to say to them, “Let’s go and rehearse.” They think maybe that I don’t need to rehearse.  (Whispers)  I need rehearsal.

You are like Anthony Hopkins. He says you just read the script and it’s like acting and reaction. You are similar to him? Do you become this way because you grow older and wiser?

Morgan Freeman: I don’t know if that’s necessarily so. I’ve pretty much worked the same I’ve always worked. When I was first starting, you’re a student. I mean a studious student. We are always students because there is always something to learn in your chosen profession.  But the learning process, you go through it reading about other actors, watching carefully how other actors manage. I’ve lived in the movies all of my life. All of my heroes are movie stars and you go to the set and you just watch the naturalness of it all. You just want to be a natural.

How has Hollywood changed in all of those years?

Morgan Freeman: I can work, that’s what changed. The biggest change in Hollywood was open casting. The Screen Actors Guild starting pushing for it and it got bought as a way to cast movies. So, now you don’t have to go up for a coloured part, you can go up for any part and that’s all of us. Unless the script calls for black, Asian, white… what have you, then all the bets are off, which is great.

Do you like to read a lot?

Morgan Freeman: I used to love to read but I have to do so much gun to the head reading (scripts) that I only get a chance to do pleasure reading when I go away, like in winter I go on the boat. I don’t go sailing, I just get on the boat.  But I take books. When I get there, there’s nothing to do but read. No telephones. No television. Just books.

The gun to the head reading is scripts?

Morgan Freeman: Yes. And books. They pile up. Sometimes the office will send you books because they can get the rights to this.

Have you tried the modern ways of reading like using the Kindle or the iPad?

Morgan Freeman: I have an iPad and that’s how scripts are sent to me on my iPad. I used to have to carry around 40 lbs of scripts to read but not now.


Dolphin Tale is on general release in cinemas from 14 October 2011.

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