Morgan Freeman Interview – FEAST OF LOVE

     September 27, 2007

I’m a huge fan of Morgan Freeman. And since I started working on Collider, he’s one of those people that I’ve wanted to interview. From his work in “Unforgiven” to “Batman Begins,” he’s an actor that’s always great onscreen and one whose work I’ll see every time.

So opening tomorrow is “Feast of Love,” the new film from Robert Benton (“Kramer Vs. Kramer”) and it stars Morgan Freeman as a local professor named Harry Stevenson who witnesses love among the town’s residents.

From the die-hard romantic coffee shop owner Bradley (Greg Kinnear) who has a serial habit of looking for love in all the wrong places, including with his current wife Kathyrn (Selma Blair); to the edgy real estate agent Diana (Radha Mitchell) who is caught up in an affair with a married man (Billy Burke) with whom she shares an ineffable connection; to the beautiful young newcomer Chloe (Alexa Davalos) who defies fate in romancing the troubled Oscar (Toby Hemingway); to Harry himself, whose adoring wife (Jane Alexander) is looking to break through his wall of grief after the wrenching loss of a loved one…

So to help promote the movie, Morgan recently did a roundtable interview and I was able to participate. During our conversation he talks about making the movie and all the other stuff he’s working on. If you’re a fan of Morgan’s, you’ll dig the interview.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio as an MP3 by clicking here.

“Feast of Love” opens tomorrow.

Q: In the movie your character is the voice of reason and everyone comes to him for advice. Why do you think that is?

Morgan Freeman: Well because if you do represent the voice of reason, not wisdom, you didn’t say wisdom, it sort of follows that people will assume wisdom follows reason around. Not necessarily so. My character does not give out advice. If you go back and watch it, you’ll hear it. He doesn’t give advice. All the advice that he gives if I can remember is twice. He tells Greg [‘s character] to kind of count his blessings which is a suggestion rather than advice. And he tells Bat to stay away from this child. That’s advice.

Q: But they do all come to you for advice and they confide in you.

Freeman: They come to confide because he’s a ready and willing ear. He listens carefully. He listens quietly. He’s one of those people who just listens. You will notice that if you have a tendency to listen, people have a tendency to talk to you.

Q: Your character also has a tendency to observe. You were the only one who saw Bradley’s wife falling for someone else.

Freeman: Well she was certainly being intrigued by her. Yeah. But then that in the basic nature of the character that’s on page, he’s going through this script observing what’s around him.

Q: In your life, do you feel you serve that role?

Freeman: No. No. No.

Q: Do you think your character was too busy observing other people’s lives as opposed to living his own?

Freeman: That would be the $64 question in his case. I think that they managed to get their child grown up. He wasn’t a child. He was a professional so where does parental responsibility end? It does somewhere. So I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that was the case. But then you say then what was the case and I’d have to confess I really don’t know. But then that is the problem with the character. He can’t answer that question.

Q: Do you believe that houses have the ability to breakup relationships?

Freeman: No. I’m trying to be careful in the answer because that is one thing can be gibing wrong. In other words if you’re superstitious than it’s quite possible that you believe in ghosts and not even know that you do. But, I’m not superstitious.

Q: What brought you to this project?

Freeman: I like to work. It’s great fun to dance around with other actors so I do it on every opportunity that seems like the music is going to be good. Of course the music is sheet music that’s on the page. This was good music. There were good dancers involved so that’s a good drawl. Not to mention getting paid.

Q: I wanted to ask you about a couple other films you’ve done. “Wanted” and “The Dark Knight”.

Freeman: “Wanted” is directed by a Russian director whose name is Timur Bekmambetov. Timur , sweet man and is an interesting director. Is the first foreign director that I’ve ever worked with. It was an interesting experience to play in a movie that is described as a graphic novel. It comes from some place I don’t know. I’m very, very curious to see how it works out.

Q: Can you talk about your character?

Freeman: My character is not easily defined even by me who is a master of character definition. I play a guy who ostensibly heads up a fraternity of brotherhood of assassins. It’s like a guild of assassins. By guild we mean that it’s old. It’s been around for a long time. And they have peculiar abilities. In other words, one guy shoots a rifle from five miles away and hits his target. There’s no straight line in five miles. Is that informative?

Q: What was it like working with James McAvoy?

Freeman: Great. He’s a hard working kid. Maybe too hard. By that I just mean he overact, but this is an action movie and he got a little ill. But we were in Prague so I don’t really know. I remember working in Bulgaria, I also had the same affliction that he came down with. It was like an ear affection that’s really debilitating. Had something to do with the water I’m sure.

Q: An ear affection from the water?

Freeman: Yeah, I was submerged in an icy stream for awhile.

Q: On “Wanted”?

Freeman: No, on another picture called “The Contract”, which never opened here.

Q: What was Angelina Jolie like?

Freeman: What do you want me to say? Something good or something bad?

Q: Whatever you would like to say.

Freeman: First I’m going to say something bad. She’s already taken. She’s an excellent person. Excellent actress. A joy to be with, a joy to work with. She comes by it honestly. Whatever it is, she’s got it.

Q: Did she bring her family to the set?

Freeman: Oh yeah. They were all there. Brad is between so they stayed together as much as possible. He was there. I used to sing to her.

Q: What did you sing?

Freeman: (Singing) Angelina will you get up? She answered back I am not able. Angelina will you get up we need the sheets for the table. She laughed just like that.

Q: What were your experiences like working on the Batman sequel?

Freeman: The sequel. Alec Guiness remarked one time that he made more money on those two [Star Wars] movies that he was just featured in than he’d made in his whole career and had little or nothing to do. That’s what it’s like.

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Q: Have you finished your part?

Freeman: I haven’t finished. I’ve got one more day. I travel all the way to Hong Kong to do it.

Q: Who do you play?

Freeman: Lucius Fox. Lucius Fox is the designer of Batman’s toys – the Batmobile, all this utility stuff that he has, the cape which in the movie is really something.

Q: In Feast of Love with Alexa….

Freeman: Oh, you want to talk about what’s current.

Q: Do you have to put younger actors at ease.

Freeman: I don’t know if you have to. I have a maybe unfortunate habit of… I go on set just like I walk into this room, you know. Nothing special going on here. It’s just me and us. Because there is a tendency in us to maybe revere flesh and blood and always be like, “Oh my God, it’s…” and it’s not conducive to ensemble work. You want the person you’re going to be working with on the ground, not floating up here because they’re in the presence of something that may or may not live up to the expectation. So, yeah, I work on making everybody at ease, you know. I mean we’re not here to commit brain surgery. We’re here to have fun. We’re here to make a movie. Nothing in this world can be more fun than that.

Q: Do you get the “Oh my God, it’s Morgan Freeman” thing a lot in your personal life and on the set?

Freeman: I got on the elevator one day and a lady I thought she was going to lose it right there. Her expression was “Oh my God, Oh my God! Oh my God!” and then she started to laugh. “Oh my God, Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s you. I love you! I love you! This is my husband. I love you.” “Thank you very much. You’re very kind. How very sweet of you.” I can’t wait for the doors to open so I can get out of there.

Q: You talk about how much fun you have working, how you enjoy working in ensembles. Are there any movies over your career or even something you’ve just shot that when you think back you say, boy, that was such a great time?

Freeman: Yeah. I do.

Q: Anything you’d like to share?

Freeman: Both movies that I did with Clint Eastwood. I just finished one with Jack Nicholson and Rob Reiner. “Feast of Love” working with Benton, Greg, Jane Alexander – a complete, wonderful ensemble. Every day you wake up is “Oh, we’re going back to the set.” It’s not like, “Oh, when’s this going to be over.”

Q: I just want to make a comment. It’s not a question. I was at a piano store earlier today and I mentioned that I was interviewing you and the manager said he was really good friends with your best friend, a guy named Dennis.

Freeman: My best friend? A guy named Dennis? Okay.

Q: There’s no question or anything.

Freeman: I understand. Notice I haven’t gone anywhere with it.

Q: Is there a role you haven’t played in your career that you would like to play?

Freeman: Yeah, lots of them. I was asked this question just a little while back. There was a character, a historical and true character, whose name was Bass Reeves who was a deputy marshal in the 1870s and 80s, Oklahoma Territory, worked for Isaac Parker, the hanging judge, cleaning up Oklahoma Territory and making it safe for settlers, notwithstanding it was supposed to belong to the Indians. He was a very interesting character and the most interesting part about it to me is the fact that in all of the Westerns that you see, none of them seems to indicate that anybody was anything but white people and Indians and the Indians were always the bad guys except of course in “Dancing with Wolves.” So this would be an opportunity — and I have been working for close to 15 years on it — to at least be inclusive. One of the problems that we have as a nation is we don’t really know who we are because our history has largely been misrepresented. We all learn quite a lot of it by going to the movies or watching television. And I don’t care what you say or think, as a youngster, you buy it.

Q: What do you like to do on your sets when you’re not shooting scenes?

Freeman: Well I do different things. Right now, just not recently, I’ve taken… I was going to be – you know, you’ve got that sweater on that says Je t’aime – I was going to be facetious – but I’ve recently taken up golf. If I’m not working, I’m somewhere with a golf club in my hand chasing a ball off into the woods.

Q: How’s it going?

Freeman: Really bad.

Q: I’ve never met a golfer who doesn’t think it’s going really bad. Do you have a golf clause in your contract like Sam Jackson?

Freeman: Yeah, somebody told me “Oh, you’ve taken up golf. Well, you ought to be like Sam.” “What do you mean like Sam?” “Sam has a clause in his contract, wherever he goes he gets golf privileges. Oh yes, yes, it’s there. One of the things they always offer you is a trainer for your physical fitness, physical conditioning. Golf is better than having a trainer so they’re happy to accommodate you.

Q: Beside Hong Kong, what other films might you be doing later this year?

Freeman: I might be doing a very nice little film with William H. Macy called “Lonely Maiden.”

Q: Perhaps.

Freeman: Perhaps.

Q: Thank you.

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