Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Kick Ass like Morgan Freeman: A Case Study

Three facts of life:  you got to slip Uncle Sam some green, you’re going to croak, and Morgan Freeman kicks ass.  Now, I don’t mean he can kick an MMA fighter’s ass or your ass or even your grandma’s ass.  At 75, if he tried to kick anyone’s ass, it would be probably his own when he slips and cracks his hip in a dozen places.

No, I mean Morgan Freeman kicked the ass of life.  Like Steve Martin in The Jerk, he was born a poor black child then became the type of person who deserves the second “very” in VVIP.  World-renown Oscar winner and penguin promoter.  Multimillionaire and dreamboat to ladies everywhere.  Granted, one of those ladies might be his own step-granddaughter, but hey, nobody’s perfect.  And lest you think I’m some sexist pig, imagine being a female Morgan Freeman—lolling in your mansion with Magic Mike painting your toenails and the Old Spice guy stroking your hand and cooing, “I love you just the way you are, darling . . .”

Now, why can Freeman have all this and you can’t?  Actually, you can.  All you have to do is play a vampire taking a shower in a casket.

Because that’s what Morgan Freeman did.  From 1971 to 1977, he was part of The Electric Company, a Sesame Street ripoff minus Sesame’s ratings or marketable merchandise.  Not a bad gig, sure, but when you aspire to be a star and can only get Vincent the Vegetable Vampire, it’d mess with your head.  It sure messed with Freeman’s for he began hitting the bottle hard and even his marriage went kaput.  When the show also went kaput, he was broke with zilch prospects on the horizon.

Morgan Freeman was 40 years old then.  He had been trying to become a serious actor for 15 years.

I wonder what he felt as he returned alone to his apartment, as the phone stayed silent and the doubting voices inside his head screamed.  What he felt about seeking success in an industry smitten with unlined skin, as the wrinkles on his face deepened and the gray began to fan across his hair.  As the years passed and he neared the big five-O with still no major roles, did he ever stare into the mirror and say, “You really screwed up your life, didn't you, Morgan?”

We’ll never know because in 1989, at the age of 52, he got Glory, Lean on Me, and Driving Miss Daisy, and the rest is red carpets, starlets, and respectability.

But what I want to know is this:  why hadn’t he thrown in the towel years, even decades, before 1989?  Like everyone else would’ve done in his position?  Was it some supernatural resolve?  Or insane belief in destiny?  Or just blind stupidity?

Actually, it was none of these.  Morgan Freeman didn’t quit because he’d purposely set himself to be incapable of getting any other kind of career.  As he’d said in an interview:  “I deliberately left myself nothing to fall back on. If you've got a cushion, where you land, you stay. You can't climb a mountain with a net. If you've got the net, you'll let go."

That’s it.  He’d not only burned his bridges, he’d dynamited them.  I’m sure if he had a direct line to the White House, he would’ve asked the president to thermonuclear- bomb them.  And if he hadn’t gotten Glory or Lean on Me or Driving Miss Daisy, he would’ve struggled on.  Into his 60s, 70s, 80s, forever.  He would’ve strapped on a pair of Depends and wheeled himself to auditions.  He would’ve only stopped when the casting agents carried him out in a box.

That’s why Morgan Freeman kicks ass.  That’s why he won.  And even if he hadn’t won, in that alternate reality where he’s a penniless, unknown 75-year-old actor, his life would still have meaning and fireworks in pursuit of a dream.

Now, we should do as much to chase after our own dreams, right?  If not, why not?  

I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping Home Depot has a lenient return policy.  So I could maybe return that net I bought from them all those years ago?

Now, before you go off and start kicking ass, care to help me kick some by checking out my book? 


  1. This was great! You're right, time to return that net.

  2. Nice article. But one thing you for got to mention. It was his turn in 1987's "Street Smart" that resurrected his career. He also did a memorable turn in the wholly forgettable 1989 film "Clean and Sober."

    But it was "Street Smart" that put him back on the radar in Hollywood -even though he worked steadily as a character actor in the early 1980s.

    Watch that movie, and be amazed. He resonates off the screen and showed us that there was something more to Freeman than just a stint on "The Electric Company," which was still an influential show, despite being in the shadow of "Sesame Street."

    1. Good point. I've seen Street Smart (Freeman as pimp, LOL), but the reason I didn't put it in my blog is most people have never heard of it.