Morgan Freeman
Photo by Alex de Brabant

Morgan Freeman: “Strive for pleasure and peace”

Short Profile

Name: Morgan Freeman
DOB: 1 June 1937
Place of Birth: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Occupation: Actor

Mr. Freeman, aren’t you tired of working all the time?

I’m not digging tunnels, I’m not building buildings. My work is not hard, my work is refreshing, my work is pleasant. The more the better. Lying around and getting no job is debilitating.

It’s been a long time since you were unemployed… Do you even remember the last time you were looking for work?

I had a lot of bad jobs, but I think the worst was working at a food place. Just before that I had been working in an office as a clerk. I wanted more money but they refused. Then I auditioned for a show as a dancer, I got the job, and I quit my office job immediately. The bad thing was that my dancing job only lasted for three months and then the show shut down. So I found this job working in this little place handing out coffee and donuts.

That doesn’t sound so bad…

Well, one night one of the guys I was working with in the show came in. I tried to hide under the counter, but he saw me and asked me what I was doing there. After I admitted that I was an unemployed actor at the moment, he told me that he was on his way to his new show. That moment was terrible for me.

Montage from The Shawshank Redemption (1995)

Would you say you’ve lived more happy days in your life or more unhappy?

More happy days. I started working when I was thirty and I am still working, so that’s more happy days.

What was the best thing that somebody ever did to you?

I think the best thing somebody ever did to me was my mother opening her legs and squirting me out.

And the worst?

The worst thing hasn’t really happened yet.

That seems pretty positive.

I’m making a great effort because sometimes life is not enjoyable. Sometimes it's painful and sometimes it's stressful, sometimes it’s agonizing even, so I think once you get around those humps: strive for pleasure and peace.

Come on, are you really as Zen in real life as you seem on screen?

I am the Zen-guy.

Does it not even piss you off when you get mistaken for Samuel L. Jackson? I hear it happens quite often…

Yeah, Sam Jackson. Sam and I go through this back and forth.

Do you set people straight?

I was in Dallas, Texas one time waiting to change planes and a guy walked over to me. I was wearing my cap and sunglasses – not trying to hide from anybody but, you know, you dress the way you dress. The guy came over and said, “I know you’re trying to be incognito, but I recognize you, Samuel L. Jackson.” I said, “No, I’m not.” He said, "You’re lying, but I understand." Sam has the same story. People are always yelling out to him, “Yo, Morgan.” That's the reason why Sam will come on stage and he’ll say first off, “I am not Morgan Freeman.”

Are you friends with Samuel L. Jackson?

Well I’ve known Sam Jackson since the ’80s when we were working in public theater together in New York, so that's a friendship I’ve held onto for many years. But as friends we’ve never hung out together. I live in Mississippi; Sam lives in L.A. I don’t want to live in a place like that.

“Believe me, you don’t know how much you appreciate your privacy until you don’t have it.”

Why did you move back to Mississippi?

I lived in New York for close to 30 years. I was like: get me out of here. I realized one day that I lived on the third floor in this apartment and it had no natural light in it. I didn’t know the people who lived across the hall. That's nothing for me.

Do you have a bit more privacy down there?

I live in a small town, I can shop there but I can't go to places where there’s going to be crowds, like Walmart, Target, any of these places. It's not possible to buy toothpaste and coffee without becoming an event. One of the shortcomings of high profile living is no privacy. Believe me: you don’t know how much you appreciate your privacy until you don’t have it.

Do people bother you?

Yeah, they want just something. "My mother, my wife, my husband will never believe that I met you. You’ve got to sign this!"

And, do you?

No. If your wife says you’re a liar, then you’re a liar, right? (Laughs)

One last question: do you have those earrings just for fun or do they serve a purpose?

Yeah these earrings are worth just enough to buy me a coffin if I die in a strange place. That was the reason why sailors used to wear them.