Moments after accepting his lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes -- the Cecil B. DeMille Award -- Morgan Freeman stepped backstage and spoke with the press about the honor. He was his usual affable self, but at the same time, was incredibly reflective and it was easy to tell that he was immensely moved by the honor, particularly receiving it from longtime idol Sidney Poitier and his Red co-star Helen Mirren.
“Sidney Poitier represents my guiding beacon light,” Freeman said of what the trailblazer means to him. “When his career cranked up I was a teenager and felt certain seeing him that there would be room for me. I have always said to him, and the world at large, that most of us need something to guide ourselves -- something to hang our hopes and dreams on and Sidney has been my guiding star. I always tell him that. I always make him understand that. I am so honored that he thinks of me as a friend.”
One of the most memorable parts of the Golden Globes broadcast was when Mirren took the microphone to honor Freeman and gave him a good ribbing about only appearing with her onscreen once in his esteemed career. As for what was going through Freeman’s head, he simply said, “I too was so chagrined that I only got to work with her once. I’ve been a big fan of hers since the time she was doing Prime Suspect on English television. I’ve given anything to have a shot at her more than once. She’s an extraordinary actress… extraordinary. I’m working on getting something together to work with her again.”
Freeman waxed poetic about working on stage all those years before getting his big Hollywood break and what he meant in his acceptance speech about not feeling like he has ever truly worked a day in his life when he adores his profession so much.
“No, I’ve never felt like I was working. Rehearsing… kind of,” Freeman said and laughed. “I remember doing a little play in New York when I was doing what we call dungeon theater. That was where you find a basement somewhere, or somebody’s living room, and put on somebody’s play. I remember making $5 per performance and we were going to do three performances and going to rehearsals in a snow storm. That was work.”
When asked about a moment in his career that stuck out, Freeman didn’t hesitate. “In 1986 I won an audition for a movie called Street Smart. I played a pimp, movie didn’t do all that well, but I got a nomination for it,” he said and laughed. “I have all my life wanted to be in the movies. When my career started to move along, it started on stage. I was 20-something years on stage, most on the New York stage. Every time I did a play, my friends would say, ‘This is the one that is going to take you to the coast.’ But it wasn’t until 1987 when Street Smart came out that I got to the coast. That would have been the catalyst for me. That’s the one big boost.”
Octavia Spencer spoke of the role film has in reminding Americans of their history when she accepted her Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for The Help. Freeman shared her sentiment and clearly felt that in some small way, his illustrious career may have influenced some as well.
“When I was growing up, and I think it’s still true, one of the more effective avenues for learning American history was movies. I was always a big reader as a kid, but movies are so impacting,” Freeman said. “I would like to think that because of the trajectory of my career that I might have had a little input in some of America’s history and some of the changes that have taken place in our industry.”