Until recently, Morgan Freeman was my favorite actor. Had been since I was kid. I used to call him “the god of acting”. Then he went and played God in Bruce Almighty. It was almost too perfect. Back when he actually cared about acting, any performance of his, no matter how small, was worthy of going out to the theater and watching. The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, Unforgiven, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Lean on Me are among my favorite movies of all time, many of them directly due to his performances. And I could name 20 more movies I love where he featured prominently (Kiss the Girls, Deep Impact, Nurse Betty, Under Suspicion, Amistad, Million Dollar Baby, the Nolan Batman films, Lucky Number Slevin, etc.).
Over the last decade or so, I’ve felt he’s been very lazy in the projects he chose, and it was becoming clear he had prioritized quantity over quality. It got so frustrating I dedicated an entire blog post to the topic (check that out HERE). And that was in May of 2014! Four years later and nothing has changed. He is simply not interested in taking interesting roles anymore. He’d rather sleepwalk through a third Olympus Has Fallen movie than work with someone like Paul Thomas Anderson. For some reason, in his 70’s he decided it was time to start taking on projects only for a payday. That’s the only way you can explain his choices recently. He hasn’t been in a movie I’ve loved since The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, which was by my count on his IMDb page was 18-20 performances ago. It’s to the point now where I haven’t even seen something he was in in a couple of years, when I saw the Ben-Hur remake out of pure morbid curiosity. I posted a picture of him with his stupid fake dreadlocks from that movie on Facebook with the caption “the face of artistic surrender”. He’s made me cry inside on multiple occasions. A couple of years ago, I officially declared Daniel Day-Lewis as my new favorite working actor, ending Freeman’s decades long reign. Then that fucker goes and retires! What is a movie lover to do? I had decided Morgan Freeman was off of my radar until he decided to try again. If he didn’t care about his work anymore, why the hell should I?
We never knew too much about the man behind the immense talent. I knew he was a licensed pilot and made his primary residence on a big ranch in Mississippi. His 30-year old step granddaughter was murdered in 2015 and there had been vague rumors that Freeman had some kind of inappropriate sexual relationship with her, but nothing solid ever came of that. He came across fine in interviews, if not a bit arrogant (when asked, he’s always said acting isn’t that difficult for him, which I always found a little offputting). His 2005 episode of Inside the Actors Studio was fun and informative. He didn’t inject political opinions into his public life, which I always appreciated.
Fast forward to this past week. I was deeply saddened to read CNN’s extensive report about his alleged sexual misconduct in recent years. It should be mentioned that he’s not on the level of people like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Charlie Rose or Kevin Spacey. He’s not been accused of sexual assault or rape, but it drives me nuts when men with money, influence and power abuse that power and see women as beneath them or being unworthy of respect and simple courtesy. Watch those creepy videos of the comments he made to those women who were interviewing him. It’ll make you ill. And who knows how long he was behaving like this prior to what he said to the people who have come forward. It certainly surprised me to see him join this shameful list, but I’d never heard anything over the years about him behaving like this off camera. Harvey Weinstein was a known asshole for years (but only a known abuser within Hollywood) and I’d heard the rumors about Spacey forever. I can say one thing for sure going forward; no name will ever surprise me again when it comes to people being named under these circumstances. These guys are coddled endlessly, never told no, and until last fall had no reason to believe their sins would come to light in this vivid detail. And clearly, many of them never believed they were doing anything wrong to begin with, which is just as bad. They could always count on these women not wanting to risk future employment in the industry by coming forward. No more. And that’s a good thing.
I absolutely loathed Freeman’s public apology about these incidents, which began with the following:
“I am devastated that 80 years of my life is at risk of being undermined, in the blink of an eye, by Thursday’s media reports.”
That’s just pure arrogance and selfishness. To begin an apology to people you “might” have made uncomfortable by lamenting how the whole thing has affected you. I didn’t like that at all. If he wrote this apology himself, he should’ve consulted a good PR firm to vet it first.
It remains to be seen whether or not Freeman will vanish from the industry like so many others have in recent months, but if that does happen, based on his recent output, we won’t be missing much. I’m not going to judge whether or not this ought to end his career, but I suspect at this point nobody putting up money for a project will want to deal with the stains attached to his name. That’s how this works now, for better or worse. That’s all it takes to end a career. I’ll have to act as though he has died at age 80, and look back only on the good years, of which there were many. Unfortunately, he’ll also now have to be one of these artists where you must separate the man from his work. And that sucks. Mr. Freeman, count me among the many fans of yours who you have hurt and disappointed.