Morgan Freeman, the Sage Voice of Wisdom

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Actor Morgan Freeman has become the go-to guy for certain weighty film roles, providing the voice of wisdom and, in some cases, the voice of God. Madeleine Brand reviews Freeman's "wise man" performances from The Shawshank Redemption to Bruce Almighty to the narrator of War of the Worlds.


Go to the movies this weekend, and chances are you'll see actor Morgan Freeman. He's usually authoritative, wise and preaching homey words of wisdom. In fact, here he is in this weekend's "War of the Worlds."

(Soundbite of "War of the Worlds")

Mr. MORGAN FREEMAN: By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms, and that right is ours against all challenges, for neither do men live nor die in vain.

BRAND: He's had some practice telling it like it is. There was "Bruce Almighty" in which he played God.

(Soundbite of "Bruce Almighty")

Mr. FREEMAN: (As God) Oh, I know quite a lot about you, Bruce, just about everything there is to know, everything you've ever said or done or thought about doing.

BRAND: Freeman knew all in "Amistad" as well. Here he is giving advice to the president of the United States.

(Soundbite of "Amistad")

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Joadson) I know you, Mr. President. I know you and your presidency as well as any man, and your father's. You were a child at his side when he helped invent America, and you, in turn, have devoted your life to refining that noble invention.

BRAND: Freeman told the president exactly what the country needed: freedom. He had the same idea three years earlier in "The Shawshank Redemption."

(Soundbite of "The Shawshank Redemption")

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Ellis Boyd Redding) I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

BRAND: And the same idea in "Bruce Almighty"

(Soundbite of "Bruce Almighty")

Mr. FREEMAN: (As God) People underestimate the benefit of good old manual labor. There's freedom in it.

BRAND: Well, sometimes people don't need freedom quite as much as other things.

(Soundbite of "Glory")

Mr. FREEMAN: The man needs shoes, Colonel.

Mr. MATTHEW BRODERICK: Yes, I know. I've been after the quartermaster for some time now.

Mr. FREEMAN: No, sir, now!

BRAND: Of course, they need shoes. They have to fight.

(Soundbite of "Glory")

Mr. FREEMAN: The boy was off trying to find hisself some shoes, Colonel. He wants to fight, same as the rest of us.

BRAND: But why would they want to fight Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby"?

(Soundbite of "Million Dollar Baby")

Mr. FREEMAN: (As Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris) There's magic of fighting battles beyond endurance. It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.

BRAND: But sometimes it's not about shoes or fighting or weapons.

(Soundbite of unidentified film)

Mr. FREEMAN: It's not about a weapon, Sam. When the president saw that within 48 hours, this violence could be crawling across the White House lawn, he gave the order.

Unidentified Man #2: I wasn't invited.

Mr. FREEMAN: Suppose you had been, Sam. What would have been your advice?

BRAND: Maybe the real question is: Morgan Freeman, what would have been your advice? Maybe we'll find out next weekend.

(Soundbite of unidentified film)

Mr. FREEMAN: I hope.

BRAND: More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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