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Invictus - Morgan Freeman interview

Morgan Freeman in Invictus

Interview by Rob Carnevale

OSCAR nominee Morgan Freeman talks about some of the challenges of playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus, meeting the man himself, and why he rates Clint Eastwood as his favourite director…

Q. How does it feel to finally play your friend on the big screen?
Morgan Freeman: It feels rather terrific. It’s a situation that was meant to be.

Q. Did you feel a lot of responsibility?
Morgan Freeman: No!

Q. Has Nelson Mandela seen the film and how did he react?
Morgan Freeman: Oh he smiled a lot and nodded! When I first came on-screen he leaned over to me and said: “I know this fella!” I got the impression that he wasn’t embarrassed.

Q. Did you consult him at all while making the film?
Morgan Freeman: No. I consulted film and tapes of him… stuff like that. But I didn’t go to him and say: “Madiba, how did you feel about this?” He’s 90-year-old now…

Q. How well do you know him? You say you’re friends…
Morgan Freeman: Not that well… I’ve run into him in different places in the world over the years. But it’s not like I’d call him up in the middle of the night and go: “Yo Madiba, how’s it going?”

Q. Having played God the natural progression would seem to be to move up to Nelson Mandela. But if you weren’t talking to him, how did you research him? And what did you find most challenging? The voice, the posture?
Morgan Freeman: The most challenging was the voice… the accent if you will. Everything else was easy and fell into place. I’d been watching him for years. Once I got the notion that one of these days I would be playing him on-screen, it became a question of paying close attention to him. That applied to whenever I was in his company or when I’d see him on screen, or anywhere. I’d watch him and think to myself: “One of these days, I’m going to have to do that.”

Q. Clint Eastwood is known for taking only one or two takes as a director. So, how does he compare in that regard to other directors you’ve worked with?
Morgan Freeman: I think that Clint is my favourite director because I respond very well to the one or two take director and he’s the most consistent in that area. There are directors who need 17 to 20 takes… but I don’t think they know what they want, and it certainly doesn’t help the actor’s sense of security when you have to keep doing something over and over and you don’t know why. You might say: “Well, what am I doing? What do you want?” And the director will go: “You’re fine… we just… we just… we just…” And they don’t have the just – but now you’re talking about wasting time and I’m not good about that.

Q. How important are awards to a film like Invictus?
Morgan Freeman: They’re just a pat on the back. The main thing about awards in movies is that they can serve as an economic surge for the film. If you’re movie gets nominated for any award it does it a big favour. People might go and see it again… they won’t give up on it.

Read our interview with Francois Pienaar