When you reflect on all the classic films that Morgan Freeman has starred in during his career, it becomes even more impressive once you realize that he’s compiled all his most brilliant work after the age of 50. Though he broke through as a terrifying pimp in 1987’s Street Smart, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination, Freeman has become legendary for instilling scores of characters with his trademark sense of quiet dignity. His voice alone is the comforting sound of gentle authority, allowing him to portray Nelson Mandela, an embattled U.S. president, Batman’s confidante, and even God.
Freeman is one of our most beloved actors, and he’s still going strong. Ten days ago, the American Film Institute honored him with a Life Achievement Award at a ceremony that will air on TV Land tonight at 9 p.m. Certainly, there will be clips of Shawshank, and Driving Miss Daisy, and Unforgiven, and Million Dollar Baby, and Seven, and Glory, and on and on and on. But what is his greatest role? His colleagues were naturally split on the subject, when asked on the red carpet. “Street Smart,” said Samuel L. Jackson. “He was one mean pimp.”
“Invictus,” said Clint Eastwood, who also happened to direct that film. “He didn’t even have to act in that one because everybody thought he was Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela even thought he was Mandela. He was born to play that particular role.”
“The Shawshank Redemption,” said his Amistad co-star Djimon Hounsou. “There is a message of hope and friendship despite being in a horrible situation.”
“Glory,” said his Outbreak co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. “I love the 54th! That’s a piece of our history. Morgan is a piece of our history. I’m in awe of him.”
Freeman himself has a favorite, too, but I won’t reveal it until after you vote youself.
Vote? Good. As for Freeman, he said, “Like children, you love them all for different reasons, but I’d say [my favorite] was Leo Smalls Jr. in Street Smart.”
But what does he know?
(Reporting by Carrie Bell)