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We halved the property on a footpath hypotenuse apparent only to him, gazed at his pond and his band of horses from the white, white rails of the fence line, visited his parents’ grave site, peered at the house they once lived in, surveyed the trees he’d planted to soak up the drainage, walked the berm he created from earth he himself moved, regarded his ever-growing inventory of farm equipment (he with some consternation), then ambled back through the uncharged cool of his house out to his patio to settle side by side in lounge chairs on nylon cushions air-dried in the noon heat of a spring day in Mississippi. It was there that Morgan Freeman said, “Well, everyone lives somewhere.” Not a particularly meaningful line, not by itself. Everyone lives somewhere. If you repeat it out loud — you, that is, just say it right here and now before you read forward — it will sound glib. Everyone lives somewhere. Displaced from this venue, the spread of Morgan Freeman’s bucolic estate outside the tiny hamlet of Charleston, Mississippi, the vast tumble of his house with its seven gabled roofs, the words will likely sound arrogant, fatalistic, callow. But when Morgan Freeman says it, the words somehow minister. In his voice, in the familiar tone of a thousand voice-overs, it becomes a kind of punctuation. Everyone lives somewhere. Not to say that he meant for it to be anything very deep. He’s not that manipulative. He was just saying. So, Morgan Freeman, uttering an unrehearsed breath line of regret and realization. You can hear him. This happenstance Zen, a plaintive caesura. He can’t help it if everything he says sounds like a pregnant pause waiting to happen. He’s saying only what’s on his mind — that he’s never really left, that he can’t do as much as he used to, that it’s comforting to have a home that lasts. He just doesn’t want to utter these fat little muffins of truth. Morgan Freeman is far too grumpy for truisms. And that’s probably why I can’t hear the next thing he says at all; he must be explaining himself when his voice drops out. He never really stops talking, but sometimes his voice just vanishes.
They call Morgan Freeman the Magical Negro, which is one hateful trope. The Magical Negro is a white man’s narrative chestnut, a stereotype, in which a black character — often socially powerless, physically infirm or disabled, overly humble — provides comfort to a white protagonist by helping him discover who he truly is. Obama gets the Magical Negro tag from time to time. Freeman more so.
And in some ways, you can see why. Freeman affably taught half a generation of white kids on The Electric Company in the seventies. He drove Miss Daisy, saved — and was later saved by — the pasty Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, played a friendly God for Jim Carrey and Steve Carell and spirit guide to Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List, and won an Academy Award as a battered cornerman for Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby. This summer he returns as the soft-spoken, benighted corporate frontman for Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne in the third Batman installment. In some ways, then, the Magical Negro lives.
Question being: Where does the power of his words come from? Wisdom? A trick of resonance? Or a white man’s wish? The answer has already been stated by the man himself: Everyone lives somewhere. Morgan Freeman lives in Mississippi. This is where he started, and this is where he’ll finish up. His work takes him elsewhere; his body brings him home.
Driving point-to-point, Mississippi to Mississippi, always feels like a jag across nowhere. And it’s that kind of drive, along three edges of a parallelogram of highways, from the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale to Charleston, where Freeman’s compound sits. This is mid-spring, farmers are burning off the winter wheat. Storefronts, restaurants, gas stations stand empty and peeling. On Freeman’s property, the road skirts a forest on the left and an untangled spread of fence line, where horses drift dopey in the rising heat. In the low wet spots, cedars fist-grip the ground. There is a sign, near one pole barn, that reads: PUPPIES CROSSING. But there isn’t a dog in sight.
Freeman does not answer the door, his assistant does, but he’s up behind her right away, in a loose cotton sweater, looking thin but just a bit schlumped against what little weight he carries. He circles me in the alcove, looking me up and down, checking to see what I’ve brought with me, what he can hang or closet for me. No coat, no satchel, not even a cell phone: empty-handed, really, which seems to please him.
We sit in his living room, beneath a clerestory window, under a ceiling honeycombed with recessed can lights.
Where are the dogs?
“Got no dogs,” Freeman says. “If a dog shows up, oh fine, that’s fine, he can stay just as long as he wants to. But all a dog does around here is disappear, or end up where I find them out on the road. Or it might be coyotes. I don’t seek out dogs. It would feel selfish if I did. There just too many ways for a dog to meet its end out here.”
And the sign? Puppies crossing? “That was my wife’s work. She insisted on having small dogs before we split up. She had a litter out there in the barn, and you don’t pen them up out here, but those little dogs were always wandering around. And they found their ways to disappear. I’m going to call it a ‘critter crossing,’ because it’s more a danger to geese than anything else. We have a lot of geese. However, they never seem to have much trouble. Not like dogs.”
So, no dogs. And yet throughout that first sit-down, Morgan Freeman tells stories about dogs — his wife’s dogs, dogs that happened upon him, dogs he had when he was younger. An hour later, he’ll stand just beyond the pond and point to a six-by-six cage, rabbit-wired on every side, and say, “You see that cage? My wife got a couple of puppies one time. Wanted to keep them in there. Look at it. It just wasn’t right. All this land, all this space, and you build this cage to keep them. Not right.” He says more then, which I can’t hear very well.
Did you say you let them go?
“I turned them loose,” Freeman says. “Better off like that. Left to their own.”
This is the essential motto of the man: Leave it alone. He wants the world unmolested. So he’s all: no dogs, to protect his heart from their demise. And then he’s: yes dogs — as in respecting their centrality as animals, creatures inherently free, so much so that they ought to be left to their own devices.
There are other contradictions in his heart. In the way he thinks about his career, his family, his businesses, his opportunities for film. He works. Two movies this summer, the massive Batman offering — The Dark Knight Rises — and a small Rob Reiner film, The Magic of Belle Isle. He’s not keen to talk much about either one. “What can I say? I haven’t seen the ending of either one,” he says. “I know the endings. I just don’t know which one they’ll choose.”
He whispers then, once more. Or mumbles, though I’m loath to call it that, words from the throat of a man who made his living by annunciating. It’s more a rapid shift in volume.
“Sometimes I don’t like what I do, you know?” he says, recessing his chin, giving me the Morgan Freeman half nod of complicity. This in the first fifteen minutes, before we walk the land, before we take one step outdoors. “Not the job. I like that fine. I’ve always worked, like most folks. It’s watching myself, you know? Not that many people have to watch themselves work, bear witness to their job performance. That can be punishing. That’s why I always preferred stage work, because there’s simply no way to watch yourself, no threat that I’ll ever have to see myself doing it.”
More stage work, then?
Freeman rolls out two words, deep and gravelly, stamped and trademarked with his own resonance: “No, no,” he says. Then he leans on the sentiment. “Hell no. That’s just too much, too taxing.” He smiles then, breaking into the relaxed, slack, and happy grin he’s got. “Films are easy, man. Really easy. You know it?”
The smile fades, though he’s not overserious.
“I’m very concerned about longevity. I don’t want to die because I’m stressing over bullshit. There’s lots of shit to do, so when I have a chance to do less, to do nothing, that’s what I do.” He says something else, low and guttural, and once again, I cannot hear him. He grabs his left arm, winces through what appears a supreme flash of pain.
Still, he’s not reticent; he didn’t stop talking. He just seemed to roll over atop his own intonations. He spoke to the soil, or to the air, to himself, and not to me. His voice would not cease; it would just vanish. And it was worse outside, when we walked. He simply could not be heard. The torpid green, the dim coffin-smelling gloom of forests — his forests — oversweet with murk and the once-bloomed spring, muffled him. We walked his land. I recorded it. And the voice, not ceasing, into and then out of the long intervals like a stream, dense and unclattering, a whisper full up, bore itself down like the storyteller he sometimes was, then became a trickle running from patch to patch of dried sand, with the shadowy docility as if it were the voice that he haunted.
I admit, the better part of that passage is lifted from Faulkner. Absalom, Absalom! — a book I found in Morgan Freeman’s impressive library while I waited for him to change, after I’d availed myself of what he called the comfort station. Every book therein dog-eared from his readings. I thumbed my way along the shelves until I came to fiction and the clutch of Faulkner novels there. For no reason at all, I plucked Absalom, Absalom! and flipped it open to a page on which I came across that single sentence, which read like an augury: His voice would not cease, it would just vanish.
We walk. First to a large pond, big enough that I would call it a small lake. Freeman dug this pond himself, before the house was built. “I finished it July 4, 1996,” he says. “And it started to fill that very day.” It looks pretty homemade, rough-hewn, scrappy at its edges. There Freeman stands on the bank, looking toward the details only the pond maker can see. It’s hard not to watch him watching something else. The man stares into the distance better than anyone, ever. I ask: Are there fish in here?
“There were fish in here days after it filled,” he says.
I nod. “So you stocked it.”
“It stocked itself. The world takes over pretty fast.”
Another paradox. A man-made pond, left to settle into the ecosystem of its own device, as if it were a citizen of the natural world rather than a collection pond scraped out of the earth by a movie star.
“I built it for protection,” he says. “My land sits on the very edge of the delta.”
He gives me a look then, stern and a bit wide-eyed, then speaks as if he’d just cleared his throat. “The delta doesn’t flood.”
“Not out here?”
“Not from the river, anyway,” he says.
“I didn’t know that,” I allow.
“This isn’t a floodplain,” he continues. “I wouldn’t build on a floodplain. I’d be a fool to do that.”
He breathes out a little tick from his throat then, another kind of growl, narrows his eyes, and sighs. Maybe I should have known as much. Or maybe he’s just torqued because, as he says next with some annoyance, “Someone scraped off my island.” He’s staring at a lump of ground about the size of a beaver lodge, about fifty feet out in the water, which — against all odds — seems to have been mowed to its nubs. Someone, some overbusy groundskeeper, has taken a scythe to it. Or rowboated out a push mower. Freeman tsks. “I built that island. And I just let it go wild. It’s hard to keep things protected like that. Now someone decided to mow it down.” He pans the situation, making notes for the landscapers. Leave my island be. Don’t stock my pond. Do as little to these things as need be. He tells the story about his ex-wife’s dogs just then, hints around the expensive divorce, about the period he was forced by injunction to stay away from this place, his house, the land where his mother and stepfather are buried. “I had to leave this place once,” he says, “though it was no choice of my own. I won’t leave it again.”
We head toward the horses.
Every so often he grabs his left shoulder and winces. It hurts when he walks, when he sits still, when he rises from his couch, and when he missteps in a damp meadow. More than hurts. It seems a kind of agony, though he never mentions it. There are times when he cannot help but show this, the fallout from a car accident four years ago, in which the car he was driving flipped and rolled, leaving Freeman and a friend to be pulled from the car using the Jaws of Life. Despite surgery to repair nerve damage, he was stuck with a useless left hand. It is stiffly gripped by a compression glove most of the time to ensure that blood doesn’t pool there. It is a clamp, his pain, an icy shot up a relatively useless limb. He doesn’t like to show it, but there are times when he cannot help but lose himself to a world-ending grimace. It’s such a large gesture, so outside the general demeanor of the man, that it feels as if he’s acting.
“It’s the fibromyalgia,” he says when asked. “Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Excruciating.”
This means Morgan Freeman can’t pilot jets the way he used to, a hobby he took up at sixty-five. He can no longer sail as well. There was a time when he would sail by himself to the Caribbean and hide out for two, three weeks at a time. “It was complete isolation,” he says. “It was the best way for me to find quiet, how I found time to read.” No more. He can’t trust himself on one arm. He can’t drive, not a stick anyway, not the way he used to — which is to say fast, wide open, dedicated to what the car can do. And he can’t ride horses as much, though once he rode every day.
He never mentions any of it as a loss, though how could it be anything else? He never hints around about the unfairness of it. “There is a point to changes like these. I have to move on to other things, to other conceptions of myself. I play golf. I still work. And I can be pretty happy just walking the land.”
Wait. How can he play golf with a clipped wing like that? How can you swing a club when you can’t lift one of your arms?
“I play one-handed,” he tells me. “I swing with my right arm.”
How does that work out for you?
“See for yourself,” he says. “I’m playing at 3:00 today.”
Walking the land, point-to-point in Mississippi, it becomes clear that family is something of a tangle, a jagged path of its own. He stands before a tract of land that runs several hundred yards from the main house. “This is all part of the land my father bought,” he says. “I say ‘my father,’ but I mean my stepfather. He was a gambler, a hustler. I liked him a lot. Everybody liked him. He was a very charismatic man, a capable man, whereas my biological father was one of the most incapable people you’d ever want to meet. Not a person I ever liked or wanted to be like. I did not want to grow up to be like him. I had to fight not to.”
The tangle pulls tighter as he speaks about the family he created. He seems without regret, void of doubt. “Alfonso, my first born, he came out of a situation where I met this woman who had three kids of her own, started foolin’ around, and she said, ‘I’m pregnant.’ So I left town. So we didn’t hook up until he was nineteen years old. Immediately after that I left town, I went to New York and I ran into another situation. Another kid, and I left town again. Eventually I married, so I have a stepdaughter, whom I adopted just as soon as I could. There was some sort of legislative action at the time … that stood in the way of adopting a girl. I don’t remember. And the lady I first married, we had a daughter. And that’s family. I guess you’d call it dysfunctional, I don’t know.”
He declares his past, never apologizes for it or dresses himself down. He’s like the place he built. He declares the way he sees it.
“But I’m the patriarch. I have the money. And every now and then if they’re going to fight, it’s going to be about legitimacy. I tell them, Stay away from me. You people gonna fight, then stay away from me. Stay over there.
“Soon it’s gonna be my birthday, and they’ll say, Oh, yes, we want to see you for your birthday. Can you give us money so we can fly in to see you? And that’s how my birthday becomes something else. That’s the patriarch.”
We approach the horses across an unfenced meadow. Freeman points at the ground, speaks right to the earth at our feet. “Now this is coastal Bermuda grass we’re walking on,” he says. “Eight percent protein. Not too rich.”
“That’s right,” he says. “Not like alfalfa, which is 12 percent. It’s got to be cut down eventually, baled. We sell it to farmers who feed it to their cows in winter. Cows have a different digestive system, different stomachs. They don’t move as much. They don’t need.”
This is him. A bit imprecise in his storytelling, anyway, on the structure and history of his family, but highly precise on all matters livestock.
He knows things: Mosquitoes are attracted to exhaled carbon dioxide, native wildlife controls the algae in the pond just fine, horses need not be stabled, one should know the protein makeups of various types of grass. As we walk to the house, Freeman names the trees we pass, describes their function and life spans. “This was all farmland,” he tells me. “Every tree that stands away from the woods, we planted. All the cypress you see, in the various ponds and streams? We planted those. We put willows back into the lowland forest, because they’re so good at soaking up the drainage. People say they fall all the time, that they’re too soft, that they break and they fall over. But they are a solution. If they fall over, they fall over. We just plant more, because they soak up the extra water. This is the battle of where I live.”
Freeman part owns a blues club in Clarksdale, a city uniformly crumbling from curb to sidewalk to storefront, a little city that acts as a tourist destination for the traveling blues fan, about an hour from Freeman’s farm. When I ask him does he like Clarksdale, he says, “Yes, it’s all right.” Which sounds like two answers, of course. “I’m just a partner in the club,” he says. “I have very little to do with the day-to-day running of things.”
A British couple at my hotel had told me the night before that they’d seen Freeman at the club that past Saturday and that he’d been dancing with a covey of women. I consider this less gossip than a kind of due diligence on the local hero. So I ask.
“Do you like the club?”
“I like it fine,” Freeman says. “Just fine.”
It’s an old storefront at the end of a long city street, broken down, covered with posters, with old furniture on the stoop, wall slathered in Sharpied messages from drunken patrons. Good food. And before I can ask one word about the women, he says, “I was out there on Saturday, and they had a pretty good setup going. There were four women with me, and they were getting right up and dancing on me. Didn’t mean much, wasn’t much really. When I was married, my wife and I worked very hard on becoming dancers. We were really excellent dancers. One of these women, she just kept pushing the other three aside. And I just ignored it. In the end, she really got it all going. They were pushing each other.”
It is no struggle imagining the seventy-five-year-old Freeman being pulled on the floor by four women. He’s lived a lot of lives, with many women, lived a man’s life, still conveys that he is ready at all times. He might have outdanced them all, too. It’s no particular panic picturing him in dancing lessons with his ex-wife, either. He’s diligent. He’s got a sense of what’s sacred, a grip on elegance.
Yes, his left side is shut down, his left hand pretty useless. In some ways, he’s just pure old. He looks a little stiff when he walks, but some would argue he’s made a career of that gait. And yes, those women could have hustled him onto the dance floor, but he wouldn’t have gone out if he couldn’t have handled it. The man believes he can outdance any one of them.
“Women will just do this,” he says. “And it’s not a bad fight to be in particularly. Not from my end of things. Dancing is a pretty damned good thing.” He smiles then, then belly-laughs the sentiment home, dimly clicking out the cadence of his yucks. He’s old enough to know he’s lucky for his troubles. Before we move on, he looks at me and raises his eyebrows twice very rapidly, a gesture made for a character I can’t quite recall.
His cook sets out a lunch plate for the two of us and one for Alfonso, Freeman’s eldest. Alfonso is a talker.
“I hope the interview went well,” he says.
Freeman chews on some barbecued brisket. “It’s not an interview,” he says. “It’s much more of a conversation. A series of impressions.”
“I see,” Alfonso says, taking a forkful of cabbage. “Are you going to talk about Batman?”
The elder Freeman half nods and turns his fork hand, and he has only one, open-palmed to the sky above. He gives the Morgan Freeman lower-lip routine then, which says, He imagines not. What can he say about Batman? He wants Alfonso to leave it alone.
Alfonso rattles on through lunch, in and out of a short treatise on The Avengers, which doesn’t seem to interest Morgan Freeman in the least. He just chews and watches his son speak, with a kind of milky amazement behind his eyes.
Eventually Alfonso turns to a declaration of his attitude toward drinking and drugs. “I’ve just learned,” he says, “that I don’t want to — excuse my language — fuck my life. I just don’t need any part of that.” Eventually he makes a vaguely spongy assertion about getting high. “I look at a sunset and I feel the exact same feeling. It may not be as intense but it acts exactly like a drug to me. Go to the beach, look at a sunset. I get a high for a while.”
It’s pure hoo-hah, and I’m listening politely, not closely, before I see that Freeman starts swinging his chin at all this. “What I see,” Morgan Freeman says, “is that you want to be an actor but you don’t test your limits very well. You don’t get to the edges of things. You don’t push back.”
It’s a weird moment, a father arguing a self-congratulatory truism with the son who uttered it. He’s using Alfonso’s story to gain traction on advice he clearly feels is overdue. This is some serious reverse Magical Negro shit going on here. He’s ministering to his own. And Freeman isn’t talking about drug use or drinking. He’s not advocating anything except working harder when you’re young. He’s talking about shrinking. It’s a very precise
life lesson. He’s warning his son about making his life small before it needs to be.
The intercom sounds. And Freeman’s assistant comes to the table to ask Alfonso, “Are you expecting a Laura to feed the horses?”
He looks at me, then to his father.
“We’re just going to feed the horses.”
Freeman pulls a chicken bone from his mouth. “Feed the horses?” And the first word is as deep and resonant as the bark of a bullfrog. It is not the voice of God; it is the voice of Dad. The word feed sounds scary and legalistic like a trap. “You don’t feed the horses,” Freeman continues.
Alfonso stammers a little: “You don’t have any of the oats or anything?”
“Yeah, but don’t give them no oats.”
Alfonso asks why, though it’s hard to imagine he hasn’t absorbed his father’s concern with not interfering with the way a place can take care of things. Everything they need is right where they live, he had told me as we stood by the fence, watching the horses.
“It’s too hot. It’s too rich for them. It’s not good.” He looks at me and speaks in an aside. “Like giving children sugar.”
I speak then, only to take the attention off Alfonso: “What’s the protein level there? Higher than in the grass?”
“Much higher,” he says. And again, deep audio cave of his first syllable. Much. “You remember that freaking palomino out there? Useless. They used to feed him a half cup of oats a day.”
“We only give them a handful,” Alfonso explains.
“Don’t give them a handful,” Freeman says straight to him. He looks at me then. “We gotta go if we’re gonna make this golf game.”
We stand, clear a couple of plates. Freeman goes to his bedroom and changes outfits remarkably quickly. He says it will take him “eight minutes.” It takes four. I’m all set to follow him to the golf course to watch a single one-handed shot. “I should have asked you about Batman,” I say.
“I’m sure you’ll like it,” Alfonso says from the kitchen.
“Oh, yes,” says one of the cooks.
Freeman shrugs. “What do you want me to say about Batman?” He locks eyes with me, smiles his heavy-lidded grin, and twitches his eye, conspiratorially. He can knock out a line about Batman, right then and there. I don’t call for it. I, too, am sure I will like it. So, too, is the patriarch. He nods this out when I don’t ask.
Freeman’s golf course sits across the road from a rash of corn, which even now, in April, is taller than I am. The windows in the house are black, no one’s in the gravel parking lot. Freeman pulls past all of this to a series of stage units where the members store the carts, which they own. The first tee is across the county road, where the rest of his foursome is waiting for him.
“I’m not playing,” I say. For a moment I’m unsure what his plan is. “Am I?”
He’s rushing, fumbling for his keys. But he still has time to look up at me and do a mock stare-down. “No, no,” he says. “You’re not invited.” He knocks out that last word, those last three syllables, on the sweet spot of his intonation, enough that we both have to smile. “You have no clubs. You have no shoes. No balls.”
“That’s true,” I say.
“At this point, you’re a hanger-on,” he says, clucking. “Nothing more.”
He isn’t tricking me, not even with his resonance. And he damned sure isn’t ministering to me. He’s done his measure of that today. Right now he’s busting my balls in a Morgan Freeman voice-over. But it’s time to get out of there. It’s time to leave him in the place where he lives — on the dirt near his home, the dirt that provides a bed for his fields and his bent willow trees, the dirt pounded by his horses’ hooves, the dirt that flies around the music he dances to late at night as the sweat pours down, the dirt he chose to leave in the days when he met women and fathered children, the dirt from which the law once barred him, the dirt he will never leave again. Knowingly or not, a man chooses a home because of who he is. Freeman’s choice of a home is full of who he is — every certainty and every contradiction. The purposeful coastal Bermuda grass with the 8 percent protein, and, just over the hill in the pond, the little island he lets grow wild. The trees he has chosen and planted so carefully, the children who first came without any planning at all and who now show up from time to time, among the cedars that stand firm in a row and the willows that soak up the drainage and keep the ground firm until, one day, they break and fall over.
He feels at every moment the simple tug of age, the limitations of a man whose injury will not heal. He’s lost a little control of his own autonomy, his ability to escape. He roams free on an expansive piece of land, and yet Freeman seems roped in — by family, by change, by people beginning to disregard the choices he made years ago — and now he wants everyone to leave the land, the animals, the past, alone.
As we cross the road to the first tee, I can make out the other players, one of whom is a heavy young black guy taking his swings.
“Miracle of miracles,” Freeman says softly. “A black golfer on the tee.”
There are handshakes all around. Freeman approaches the tee, takes one look down the fairway, and swings. All right arm — his left arm hangs slack, never touching the grip of the driver — straight through the ball, nice and smooth. The shot runs about two hundred yards and a little right of the fairway. All in all a good shot for a guy coming right out of the parking lot without a warm-up. And with one arm.
“Aw, they don’t even notice anymore,” Freeman says, and walks out through the Mississippi grass.
THINGS MANY PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT MORGAN FREEMAN
• Freeman performed as a dancer at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
• His first acting job was as a member of a touring production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun. He was then seen off-Broadway in The Niggerlovers, about the civil-rights-era Freedom Riders.
• His Broadway debut was in a 1967 all-black version of Hello, Dolly! with Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway. He returned to Broadway forty-one years later in The Country Girl.
• As a member of the original cast of The Electric Company, alongside Bill Cosby, Freeman famously sang about a bath in a casket as one of his most well-known characters, Count Dracula.
• Sidney Poitier presented him with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2012 Golden Globes.
• “The Morgan Freeman Chain of Command,” a Web page that traces a hierarchy of his characters, starts with God and goes through U. S. president (Deep Impact), South African president (Invictus), brigadier general (Outbreak), sergeant major (Glory), and high school principle (Lean On Me), all the way down to Miss Daisy’s driver.
• His name is trademarked.
• Freeman on his earring: “When I was a kid, I saw a pirate movie with Burt Lancaster [probably The Crimson Pirate, 1952], who wore an earring. I thought that was sexy.”
• Freeman’s son Alfonso — whom he did not meet until the boy was nineteen — played his son in The Bucket List. He also appeared in Seven and The Shawshank Redemption.