He has played everyone from the US President to Nelson Mandela, and his charming voice and charisma are as memorable as his roles. It’s no wonder that Oscar winner, intrepid sailor, and Mandarin Oriental ‘fan’ Morgan Freeman is a Hollywood treasure.
The born-and-bred southern gentleman caught the acting bug as a child. But it wasn’t until 1987 that his film career really took off. Freeman is as busy now as he has ever been, and in addition to his acting work, he is also producing and voicing several TV and film projects, as well as devoting time to one of his favourite charities, the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Here, we meet the star.
Can you explain what you love about acting?
It’s all about role-playing—the same thing you do when you’re a kid, when you play with dolls or toys and make up stories. I never grew out of it.
Do you have a favourite film that you watch again and again?
I have tons of them, but one of the best movies I’ve ever seen is Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! Looking at it from every standpoint of filmmaking, it’s incredible. I also really like Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing a treat there.
You are known for your love of sailing. How did you get into it?
I’ve always been interested in the sea. I was an avid reader as a child and a young man, and I was fascinated by books about the sea. Then, one day, when I was 30 years old, a man gave me a boat. It was in a reservoir in Vermont and I learned to sail it. Then I was hooked on sailing. That was in 1967 and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Have you had any particularly memorable sailing trips?
There’s one trip that sticks in my mind. In 1979, I owned a 30-foot sloop that I sailed to Bermuda with my then wife-to-be, Myrna. On the way home, we hit a bad storm. It was October and the trip took seven days to get back to New York. As we approached the city, we could see it covered in snow. I think it was the first time it had snowed in October in 100 years.
Is there anywhere else you would like to explore on your boat?
I’d like to sail the South Seas into Indonesian waters. I wouldn’t fly to get there—if I’m going to be there on my boat, I’m going to sail there.
Do you like travelling when you work, or is it just necessary?
I’ve always liked travelling. I’m my mother’s child—she would go anywhere at the drop of a hat.
Do you have a favourite place that you have visited?
On breaks between filming, I usually go home to Mississippi. I have a boat in the British Virgin Islands, which is where I’ve been going every year for over 20 years. I love everything about those islands. The whole area is gorgeous and hasn’t been overly built on. It has old-world charm.
You support the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Can you tell me a little about that?
St Jude is an incredible children’s hospital at the cutting edge of cancer research. Any child can go to St Jude, whether you have money or none. It has the world’s best survival rates for aggressive cancers. Whenever I am asked to do something for them, I get involved.
Do you have a
favourite Mandarin Oriental?
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London is outstanding.
What do you like most about the hotel?
There are some terrific restaurants there, but mainly it’s the service and the people I love—the overall experience and how you’re treated. I go to Bar Boulud, London for dinner. I have my favourite table in the corner, which is very quiet, and I just enjoy the food and the atmosphere. When I stay in London, I feel that I’m really being taken care of.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group thanked Morgan Freeman for his participation in their Fan Advertising Campaign with a donation to Morgan’s chosen charity, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.