CAIRO: During his first visit to Egypt,Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman addressed journalists during a press conference organized by the Cairo International Film Festival on Wednesday, in what turned out to be one of the best organized events of the festival.
Although this is Freeman’s first visit to Egypt, it is not his first to the Middle East – he attended the Dubai International Film Festival last year.
Through this visit, he became somewhat acquainted with Arab cinema. “I haven’t seen any [Arabic films] since I have been here, but I was in Dubai last year and I saw two extraordinary films, he said referring to Jehane Nougaim’s documentary Control Room and the Afghani film Osama.
He was repeatedly asked of his opinion on Egyptians,Arabs and regional cinema in light of current events. “You ask if I am afraid of Arabs. If I thought you were blood thirsty, no way you would have talked me into coming here, he said, adding that in Egypt he felt “embraced, noting the warmth he sensed in the country.
Since many Egyptian fans attended the event, most questions centered on his career, his choices and future plans. “I spent 20 years on the stage trying to get into the movies, Freeman said.
Now that he has made it into the movies, he is not turning back. He said he acted in about 15 plays and has over 60 credits as an actor on his filmography.
He has received four Oscar nominations for Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, with the last one earning him an Oscar for best supporting actor this year and is also featured in the festival.
He said his roles in Street Smart and Driving Miss Daisy were more deserving of the award – noting that Glory is the film closest to his heart. However, his process of selecting roles hasn’t changed since winning the Oscar. Noting that some expect Academy Award winners to look for roles that could earn them another Oscar, he said he doesn’t know what an Oscar caliber role is, and noted that his paycheck hasn’t increased either.
Questions concerned with his continuous roles as the wise or dignified man were also raised. “I’m probably offered these roles because, like you said, I carry them off okay. I satisfy the writer or the director in that area. I accept these roles because they are in stories that I like. These are not the only roles. I’ve played some desperate characters too, but they are not that many. These stand out. I don’t know, there is something about my persona for sure that makes these roles attractive to me and the director.
Freeman, however, is not just an actor – he has dabbled in other related fields and has one directing credit to his name. After his experience directing Bopha in 1993, however, he says he won’t repeat the experience. “I’m basically a lazy person, he said, explaining that as an actor he could do four movies a year. “Directing – generally it would take about a year and you only make maybe 10 percent of the money.
His career as a producer has often sparked questions about possible Egyptian-American productions. “The question is when this could happen.
Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. It can happen. It is a matter of making contact and coming up with a script that we like.
Freeman acknowledged the role of cinema in bridging gaps. “Primarily, I think cinema’s power is [that] people understand each other better when they exchange culture. I get to know more about you than just what I hear on the street.
“I think that the more we get to exchange in the movie industry the better we all are going to be. I really do. Because when I grew up I learned most of what I know from the movies, right or wrong.