An Actor In Love With His Craft

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Morgan Freeman was once described by The New York Times as the greatest actor in America, and his Seven costar Gwyneth Paltrow called him the sexiest man alive.

Freeman's new film, Nurse Betty, costarring Renee Zellweger and Chris Rock, opens this Friday. CBS News The Early Show Entertainment Reporter Mark McEwen says it's a film so different that even Freeman himself isn't sure how to describe it.

"I always just narrow it down to being a black comedy, no puns intended," quips the actor.

In the film, Freeman plays Charlie, a hit man who breaks the No. 1 rule of the job: He falls for the only witness, Nurse Betty.

"Strangely enough," explains Freeman, "I think that because of his job, he never gets involved with people. And in this situation, he gets more and more knowledge of…who he's dealing with. And once he gets to her childhood, that's it. He's a lost cause… He can't control himself anymore."

Comedian Chris Rock plays his sidekick, and Freeman calls him "a very intelligent young man. And he 's very professional. Very professional. The intelligence and that professionalism put him in a learning mode that is very effective, very quick."

Freeman recalls that the movie that put him on the map was Street Smart. He adds, "I called myself a successful actor because I was working in New York stage. Pretty good. Bu I always wanted to do movies. My whole life thrust was to be in the movies,and I couldn't seem to break...into that. And then along came this...this part."

His favorite movie, though, is Glory, because he views movies and television powerful teaching tools. Movies in particular seem to resound with history lessons.

Very few people knew that black soldiers had fought during the Civil War, or any other war before Korea, says Freeman. Glory taught the world the true facts.

"A movie like that just nailed it," he says. "And people set up real straight, said, 'Gosh. I never knew that.' That's powerful."

Ask him what makes him happy, and Freeman will reply that it is his work and the possibilities it opens to him. And, yes, he does feel like he is living a fairy tale.

"Sometimes, when I'm out at sea, and I'm on my sailboat, I remember sitting up in the apartment in New York, dreaming about doing just that, you know?" he explains. "Or I'm sitting on one of my horses, and I'm up in the woods, and it's just me and my horses. And here I am living this fantasy life."

FAST FACTS ABOUT MORGAN FREEMAN
  • Born June 1, 1937, in Memphis, Tenn.

  • Before studying acting, Freeman attended Los Angeles Community College and then servein the Air Force for five years.

  • Freeman made his acting debut in the mid-'60s in an Off-Broadway production of The Niggerlovers and on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! with Pearl Bailey and an all-African American cast.

  • Though continuing his success in varied stage work, he later moved into television, working from 1971 to 1976 on PBS' The Electric Company playing "Easy Reader".

  • In 1971, Freeman made his screen debut in the children's film Who Says I Can't Ride A Rainbow?

  • His first critical praise came in 1980, in the prison drama Brubaker.

  • Freeman also became recognized for his recurring role on the daytime soap opera Days Of Our Lives, in which he appeared from 1982 to 1984.

  • He earned his first Oscar nomination playing a pimp in 1987's Street Smart.

  • In 1989, Freeman reprised his award-winning stage role as a Southern chauffeur in the Jessica Tandy film Driving Miss Daisy. He earned his second Oscar nomination for his screen portrayal.

  • In 1989, he worked on the movie he still calls his favorite, playing a gravedigger who joins a regiment of black Union soldiers in Glory. Later that same year, he won acclaim for playing a high-school principal in Lean On Me.

  • Freeman is known for playing roles not necessarily written for African American actors, such as Kevin Costner's wise companion in 1991's Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.

  • Moving behind the camera for the first time in 1993, he directed Bopha!, the story of the effect of apartheid on a South African cop and his relationship with his son.

  • 1994 brought another famous portrayal in The Shawshank Redemption, with Tim Robbins as his costar in the moving prison drama. Freeman received his third Oscar nomination.

  • Next year, he will reunite with his Kiss The Girls (1997) costar Ashley Judd in High Crimes, though the movie is not a sequel.

  • Freeman has also been personally asked by Nelson Mandela to star in an autobiographical film about the political leader, which will begin shooting next year.

  • He is currently married to his third wife, Myrna Colley-Lee; he has four children, and is now a great-grandfather.
FILMOGRAPHY
  • Nurse Betty (2000)
  • Under Suspicion (2000)
  • Mutiny (1999)
  • Hard Rain (1998)
  • Deep Impact (1998)
  • Amistad (1997)
  • Kiss The Girls (1997)
  • The Long Way Home (1997)
  • Chain Reaction (1996)
  • Moll Flanders (1996)
  • Outbreak (1995)
  • Seven (1995)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • Bopha! (193)
  • Greater Stories Ever Told: The Savior Is Born (1992)
  • The Power Of One (1992)
  • Savior is Born (1992)
  • Unforgiven (1992)
  • The True Story Of "Glory" Continues (1991)
  • Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)
  • The Earth Day Special (1990)
  • The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990)
  • Johnny Handsome (1989)
  • Glory (1989)
  • Lean On Me (1989)
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  • Clinton And Nadine (1988)
  • Clean And Sober (1988)
  • Fight For Life (1987)
  • Street Smart (1987)
  • Resting Place (1986)
  • That Was Then…This Is Now (1985)
  • Marie - A True Story (1985)
  • The Atlanta Child Murders Part I (1985)
  • The Atlanta Child murders Part II (1985)
  • The Execution Of Raymond Graham (1985)
  • Teachers (1984)
  • Harry And Son (1984)
  • Death Of A Prophet (1981)
  • Eyewitness (1981)
  • The Marva Collins Story (1981)
  • Brubaker (1980)
  • Attica (1980)
  • Hollow Image (1979)
  • Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1978)
  • Who Says I Can't Ride A Rainbow? (1971)

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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