Morgan Freeman Once Opened Up About The Consequences Of Becoming Too Famous

 Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption.
Credit: Warner Bros.

Morgan Freeman has been an iconic Hollywood figure for over five decades. The actor’s diverse career is prolific, exploring roles in serious dramas, laugh-out-loud comedies and several action films. With such a varied filmography, it’s hard to imagine Freeman fearing being kept in a box career-wise, but the Oscar winner feels differently. Freeman opened up about the consequences of immense success in the movie business, especially when it comes to being offered roles.

The 86-year-old actor recently gave a candid interview to El País, where he discussed his viewpoints on his image as the non-traditional Hollywood actor, his rise to fame as one of the few Black actors landing roles when he first started his career, and the roles he is being offered at this point in his career. He explained that while he has been able to experiment with many types of characters in his lifetime, diverse roles became few and far between as he got more famous. Freeman said:

When my film career started, I wanted to be a chameleon. Like De Niro’s very different roles when he was younger. But as you get older in this business and become a star, you’re pretty much screwed in terms of being a character actor. You’ve played the same role too many times. The people who hire you say, ‘I want Morgan Freeman,’ and you live with it.

From his perspective, once you become a movie star, people are no longer interested in you being an actor, but rather an archetype. While this may be harsh, considering the kinds of roles he’s been able to play, it’s hard not to see his point.

Freeman’s earlier roles were much more varied, taking on character actor parts in movies like Unforgiven and Driving Miss Daisy. Even The Shawshank Redemption, one of Morgan Freeman’s best films, was somewhat of a departure from his previous work. However as he got older, he was cast in many similar roles, playing the role of a leader or a president several times, often typecast as a calming, steady presence amidst chaos. Then, of course, his memorable voice voice has made him a staple for playing God on film.

Even if some of his later work has been similar, Morgan Freeman is awfully good at these roles, which is why people want him to continue playing them. Even Robert De Niro, who, Freeman name-drops in his quote, has taken on “Robert De Niro” parts in recent years. He has played a mobster and a criminal numerous times, and has another gangster flick coming up. He also often works with the same co-stars and directors repeatedly. While audiences can’t get enough of this, it’s understandable how this can be limiting for a star who is looking to work outside of their comfort zone, even after their legacy cements them in history.

This doesn’t mean that experimentation in acting isn’t possible for “typecast” actors later in their careers. Henry Winkler was known for sitcom comedies for years before taking on his darkest role yet in his 70s for HBO’s Barry. Jack Nicholson also surprised everyone when he brought arresting sensitivity to About Schmidt in his 60s. Morgan Freeman may be in his 80s, but his legend cements him as a Hollywood staple. There’s always time to be cast against type.

You can see Morgan Freeman this year in My Dead Friend Zoe, which premiered at South by Southwest and is expected to head to theaters in November. For more information on other movies coming to cinemas in the near future, make sure to consult our 2024 movie release schedule.