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Morgan Freeman Talks About "Levity"
by Rebecca Murray and Fred Topel

Morgan Freeman as Miles in "Levity"
Photo©Sony Pictures Classics - All Rights Reserved.

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Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman wears two hats for the film, "Levity." Writer/director Ed Solomon brought the script to Freeman years ago, seeking Freeman for the role of the tough but caring pastor, Miles Evans. Morgan Freeman signed on to the project as an actor, and along with Lori McCreary (Freeman's partner in Revelations Entertainment) also serves as an executive producer.

First-time director Ed Solomon had Morgan Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton in mind when he wrote the script, but didn't really expect to get actors of their caliber for this project. Freeman took a chance on the first-time director because he felt playing Miles would be quite a challenge. He was drawn to the role of Miles because of the character's enigmatic qualities.

In this interview, Morgan Freeman discusses working on this dramatic film, his dislike of cold weather shoots, and explains just what an executive producer credit means.


The mood on the set has been described as serious. Is that how you'd describe it?
Yes, because we're all freezing our behinds off and not happy.

And not getting paid much.
But that's not what governs life on the set. It can have an enormous effect because big budget movies can have big budget perks, and small budget movies have no perks, but what is the driving force, of course, is the script, and your part in it. However, if you're like me, a person who really detests cold, it's hard to work in those conditions. You can't get me warm if you get me outside. You can stuff me with all kinds of clothes and pour hot soup all over me, I'm cold and I don't like it, and you can't make me like it. So, there.

"Dreamcatcher" was cold, too. How did you deal with that? By drinking alcohol?
[Laughing] Let me be the first to tell you, drinking alcohol is the worst thing to do in cold weather. Hot soup is the best because the process of digesting food helps to warm you up. I know all of that, and it works for some people, not for me. I don't know how I cope. I just do the best that I can and sometimes I get sick and that gets me in bed and I can stay put for a while [laughing].

Did you realize when you signed on for "Levity" and "Dreamcatcher" that you'd be shooting in the cold?
Yes, but you try to overcome your own shortcomings.

What about this script intrigued you?
I was just discussing this whole question and answer thing with Ed [Solomon]. What we do and why we're in this game, to play as many games as we can, to find different kinds of games to play, how many different characters can we be believable as. Will you be fortunate enough to find good scripts? Will you put yourself in the position that these come your way, rather than just the everyday stock? I just realized this today, someone mentioned it, they said, "Was it a challenge doing this role?" I said, "No, I don't think it's a challenge." Acting itself is just acting. There is a challenge, however, and the challenge is getting yourself out of the way. So, how many times and how successful can you be in getting yourself out of the way?

You mean really being someone else?
Really being someone else, really. I borrowed this because someone was telling me that Jack Nicholson gave this answer to a question. He said what he does, what he has to do for every role, is to work at De-Jacking, getting Jack out of the way, and you recognize that that's the truth of it. That is the task. When you read it, you can see the character and the character isn't you. The character is the character. You want to shed all of whatever is going on here and just put on that suit and wear it constantly, which is why I don't like to see myself in the movies because myself is what I see. You can feel anyway that you want, you can try and hide any way that you want, but you're not going to hide from yourself.

When I was doing theater, I was very successful at believing that I was great, God's gift to the theater [laughing]. That's what they say. They come up and they say, "You were fabulous." Okay, that's good, but I didn't see "The Taming of the Shrew," and so I believe you. That's what I want. I want to believe you. I want to see myself through your eyes.

You can't see that when you watch yourself on screen?
No, no. I see every false move.

What kind of rehearsal and prep time did you have for this movie, since you were the executive producer?
Let me tell you about being executive producer. It is not a job, it's a title. Don't go around asking executive producers what they do because they don't do anything, alright?

They just supply more money?
They don't necessarily supply money. Did you see "State and Main?" Do you remember what they were always saying? "Let's give him an executive producer credit," because you don't really have to supply much of anything, just be involved. In my case, I'm involved from the standpoint that my company is involved in the development. My partner is a producer and she does the hard work. I just get the credit, an 'Executive Producer' credit [laughing].

Would you have forgiven Billy Bob Thornton's character in this film?
Oh yeah. Why? Well, I think that in the eyes of society... A little while back there was a woman who was on trial for having murdered her son. It wasn't really a murder, it was a mercy killing because he had one of those terrible, terrible diseases. She'd seen her husband die of it and her sons, they were all going to go. She was watching it, he was in the hospital, looking at her like, "Momma, I can't." So you know, I wouldn't even put that woman on trial because she's gonna pay, she's gonna pay. She did that out of all of the love that a mother could muster. I can't imagine what it takes to kill your own child. If she says, "Put me in jail," [then] okay, fine. "I'll put you in jail, I know what you're asking, but you don't need to this. You don't need to go. You're going to make yourself pay." It's the same thing with this guy. He was a kid and he never forgave himself and he needed someone else to say, "It's alright, you're forgiven." I don't think that this guy would be able to accept that.

What are your thoughts on Ed Solomon as a director?
I think that if he wants to continue to direct, I think that he'll turn into one of the good ones because he has this learning ability. He's in learning mode and [catching] on to what it takes to direct. The danger in being a writer/director is coming together with other people with other ideas and trying to impose that on them. You don't want a writer on the set. You've written it, we read it, we get it. You have to go away because what I get, you might not have ever have seen while you were creating [the script], and I need the latitude to perform it. Sometimes it's hard to do that with writers. Some writer/directors, particularly the one's with some mileage, get it and so they banish the writer. Others don't, you just manage to accommodate one another's needs.

Are you going to make more Alex Cross movies?
Oh yeah, yeah. I think that we probably have a couple in development right now. Definitely, we have script ideas in development right now.

Isn't it taking a long time? It seems like there should be one a year.
It seems like [that], but it's a lot more difficult than that, and you don't want to. You don't want them to be too prolific. It's better to leave people wanting more than have them saying, "Enough."

Will there be a follow-up to "Seven?"
There is no sequel to "Seven."

Do you get asked that sequel question a lot?
Oh yes, at every one of these [press junkets]. The answer is always the same. There is no sequel to "Seven" in any manner that I know about. If there is going to be a sequel to "Seven" and I'm supposed to be involved, then it would seem to me that I would know about it.

In "Bruce Almighty" you play God. What's it like to play that role?
It's no different than if I was acting as some Colonel in some military operation. It's no different than acting anything. You're pretending to be something you're not, no different. If it's on the page, it's easy to do.

What does having a star on the Walk of Fame mean to you?
How to quantify that? I was asked by someone on the day of, and he said, "You've probably been waiting all of your life for this." I said, "Truthfully, no. This isn't something that you wait for. This is a gift." Having a star on the Walk of Fame, it's one of those acknowledgements that you are where you belong. "Welcome to the Pantheon, people have gotten here and stayed a minute longer than fifteen." [Laughing] It feels good, it feels very good.

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