Morgan Freeman has starred in over 90 movies across over 40 years, and many have gone on to be enduring classics. From the likes of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, to Unforgiven, to The Shawshank Redemption, to Se7en, to Amistad, to Million Dollar Baby, to The Dark Knight Trilogy – Freeman has starred in some of the best movies of all time.
Morgan Freeman began acting in movies in the 1970s, but 1989 is the year that he broke out into stardom with two roles. One was the Civil War movie Glory which co-starred Denzel Washington and won three Oscars. And the other was Driving Miss Daisy, which won four Oscars including Best Picture. Freeman was nominated for the Lead Actor Oscar, but when speaking at a BFI event in 2000, Freeman referred to it as a “big mistake.”
“I think the big mistake was Driving Miss Daisy, actually. The character caught on – this wise, old, dignified, black man that once people get an iconic…some characters become sort of bracketed, identifiable – you and him. People come up and cry and stuff and everywhere you go they’re going to expect some aspect of that character out of you and if you disappoint them too many times…”
Freeman had actually previously been Oscar-nominated for Supporting Actor in Street Smart, which starred Superman actor Christopher Reeve. He’s been nominated a total of five times, and won for his role in Clint Eastwood‘s sports movie Million Dollar Baby.
Attitudes to movies such as Driving Miss Daisy have changed over the years. Black actors and actresses have often found themselves rewarded for playing slaves and servants – such as Hattie McDaniel for Gone with the Wind, Octavia Spencer for The Help, and Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave. Freeman plays a chauffeur to an old, rich, white lady in Driving Miss Daisy. Black actors and actresses are gradually finding a wider variety of roles available to them, and being recognized for playing more complex characters, but there’s still a long way to go.