One thing I have in common with Morgan Freeman: we both flew into Florida to head to the Clearwater-based set of Dolphin Tale 2. The difference is that he was flying in on his private airplane after playing golf in Guatemala, and I … was not. Luckily, Freeman was able to squeeze in an interview with our group of visiting journalists before joining his co-stars on set. He talked about the pleasant surprise of returning for the sequel, his reunion with Winter the dolphin, how his character’s expertise is tested again in this film, and a glimpse of just what it’s like on set. Freeman also comments on the passing of Nelson Mandela, who died just a few days before this interview.
Writer-director Charles Martin Smith’s Dolphin Tale 2 opens Friday, September 12th, and also stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Austin Highsmith, Austin Stowell, and the dolphins Winter and Hope. Hit the jump for the full interview, and click here for more from the film.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Apparently that dolphin remembers, because now I walk up to the pool and she’s like, “Hey, don’t we know each other?” She opens her mouth and I get it, ’cause I had my hands on her last time and I have a good touch. Nice touch.
Can you tell us about your character in this film? Is there another side of him you get to explore in the sequel?
FREEMAN: My character is sort of an irascible guy. He creates prostheses and in the last one the kid comes to him and tells him to look at this dolphin and he gets intrigued with the whole idea to make a prosthetic tale for a dolphin. Now he’s all wrapped up in it, he’s very concerned about what happens with “this fish” as he calls her. Lorraine says, “She’s not a fish!” He says, “Look, if it looks like a fish and smells like a fish…”
Since you play a prosthetic designer did you get a chance to meet with wounded people to prepare for the role?
FREEMAN: No. The only thing I have to do to prepare for a role like this is learn the script. So that’s about all I do. I met the real doctor who did actually design the original prosthetic. I have a wonky arm, he has a wonky leg, he’d been walking around on this prosthetic leg for about 30-years. We have that much in common. The fingers are paralyzed on this hand, but I got all this pain, fibromyalgic pain. He says the same thing, that he gets phantom pain. He’s amputated at the knee but he feels his foot. It hurts.
Is your character enhancing Winter’s prosthetic in this film?
FREEMAN: He’s got a new one, more streamlined, probably going to be much more effective for Winter to get it so she enjoys wearing it rather than taking it as, “Damn, I gotta put this thing on?” (laughs)
Did you ever think you’d be reprising this role after the first one did so well?
FREEMAN: You never think that, it’s always a wonderful surprise to say we’re gonna do it again ’cause it did well. That’s fine, all for it.
What’s your day on set like?
FREEMAN: Have you seen any of the shooting? It’s a very repetitive day. When you shoot a scene, if it’s got more than one person in it, you have to cover each person, sometimes you get two. It’s a lot of moving around so anyone who has anything to say is on camera to say it. You don’t move them around, you move the set around, you have to change the lighting, all that stuff. You do it over and over and over. I take it as rehearsal time.
FREEMAN: It depends. Some directors shoot a lot so that they have a lot of choices to make when they get into editing. Other directors know what they want and how they’re gonna edit it. They’ve got a lot of stuff going on ahead of time, Charles Martin Smith is one of those, so he’ll only shoot 2, 3, 4 takes at the most and you’re moving along. A lot more fun.
After shooting “Dolphin Tale 2” do you still eat fish?
FREEMAN: I have had to cut back on the amount of fish I eat. I used to be a fish eater and would only eat red meat maybe once or twice a week. Now I’ve had all these tests and it turns out my mercury levels are dangerously high, so I’ve been taken off all deep sea fish altogether, and I can only eat freshwater fish once or twice a week. I have to find something else. I like chicken but it’s full of hormones. Red meat too. If you can find grassfed beef eat it. They put cattle in feed lots. They feed ’em the wrong kind of stuff, corn, steroids.
[Editor’s Note: Nelson Mandela passed just days before our set visit. If you’re interested in reading about Freeman’s thoughts on the late revolutionary, they follow below.]
Could you comment on the passing of Nelson Mandela?
FREEMAN: I got to meet him in the ’90s because I was originally scheduled to do his book “The Long Walk to Freedom.” So we became friends over the period of years we were developing. Ultimately I didn’t do it, but we did “Invictus,” another story about him, but during that whole period we became rather close. I told him when I met him that if I was gonna play him I need accents, and be close enough to hold his hand. He said, “That’s fine.” There we were. I’ve known for the past three months that he was on his way out. The first time he had pneumonia he was in the hospital, a brother was asking about him, I said, “I think he’s just negotiating his pass.” He probably got what he wanted before he left, which is what he usually does. This was a life that will go on. We will always remember, always, I don’t think anybody will ever forget him.