Morgan Freeman was the driving force to bring this movie to the big screen. I didn't realize until today that Freeman is co-founder of Revelations Entertainment. He uses this company to develop films that 'enlighten, express heart, and glorify the human experience'. Revalations Entertainment bought the rights to John Carlin's book, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, a few years ago. Freeman had been studying Nelson Mandela since they met over 12 years ago. He has been searching for the right project all that time.
"This was a labor of love," said Freeman. "I wanted to do a story about Mandela for a long time ... this was the right time ... this was meant to be. I'm a big believer in fate. I memorized the poem, Invictus, when I was in the 8th grade!"Freeman indicates that he wanted Clint Eastwood to direct the film from the very beginning. Villagers may recall that the Eastwood-Freeman team has been magical in the past on such films as Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
Mr. Freeman indicated that he was 'not intimidated' by playing a living legend in this movie. He noted with a chuckle that he is a 'professional actor'. However, he did acknowledge that there were some intimidating aspects in playing this role.
"I sent him (Eastwood) the script. He read it and called me back to say he would like to direct it", said Freeman. "Clint Eastwood is an actor's dream. He is a consummate professional. Quite simply, he is the best."
"There have been a number of actors, such as Danny Glover and Sidney Poitier, who have played Mandela before. I learned my lines in the script ... his walk ... the way that he talks ... then I add in the other nuances of Mandela. The biggest challenge is to remember to sound like him. If there is going to be an area where I fail in this movie it would be in whether or not my voice sounded enough like that of Mandela."I was struck by the passion that Mr. Freeman felt for this story and for Mr. Mandela. He talked about filming that took place at the Robben Island ... and how awestruck he and the other actors were as they realized the confined space that held Mr. Mandela for over a quarter-century.
Mr. Freeman indicated that Nelson Mandela has not yet seen the film. However, the staff of the Mandela Foundation did screen the movie recently. They were very pleased with the movie which was important to Freeman as the people closest to Mandela "are likely to be the harshest critics". Mr. Freeman will be in South Africa next week with Mr. Mandela. He is hopeful to have a chance to watch the movie with the former South African president.
Mr. Freeman noted that he doesn't usually watch his own movies.
"I don't watch my movies. I trained as a stage actor. I know whether my performance is good or not from the immediate reaction of the audience."
I asked Mr. Freeman to comment on the current state of affairs for the Black Cinema. Specifically, I was curious to hear what, in his opinion, the public ... villagers like you and me ... could do to improve the state of the Black Cinema.
"Tyler Perry is doing a great deal in this area right now with his studio in Atlanta. He is producing movies and showing others that it is possible to be successful with that formula. I imagine that others interested in advancing the Black Cinema would use Tyler Perry as a role model."Finally, I noticed that Mr. Freeman's career has him with scores of film roles ... however, I noticed that he only had one credit as a director. He directed the 1993 film, 'Bopha', starring Danny Glover. I wanted to know if Mr. Freeman planned on getting behind the camera again in the future as a director.
"I have no plans to direct. I prefer to be an actor. I like to get in to a character or a role ... finish it ... and move on to the next acting assignment. Directing requires almost a year of commitment with all of the pre-production, production and post-production work. Quite frankly, I'm too lazy to be a director!"Well, villagers, I must admit that I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Morgan Freeman. He was gracious and seemed to be very comfortable in his own skin. His movie, Invictus comes out next week. I plan to go see it. How about you?