June 1, 2012 at 10:50 AM ET
It's hard to imagine a time when there wasn't a Morgan Freeman on our screens. The Oscar-winning actor, who turns 75 today, has been performing since he was 9 years old and in the ensuing years he's used his sonorous, commanding voice and soulful, charismatic presence to play dozens of roles -- God, the president, a convicted criminal, a chauffeur and an easy-reading hipster, just to name a few.
Freeman has a versatility that can make him menacing, warm, superhero-like and an everyman -- he's never gotten typecast. Sure, he's played his share of sidekicks (sometimes while appearing with Thursday's birthday boy and friend Clint Eastwood in movies like "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby") but Freeman is the rare actor who can ease straight into the driver's seat of a film (literally in "Driving Miss Daisy"), and no one blinks.
Though he's made some headlines recently -- no, he's not going to marry his step-granddaughter -- there's no question that the Memphis-born Freeman remains one of Hollywood's most beloved actors. In the end, there's no question that you fell in love with his talent and abilities -- the question is only when it happened.
Happy 75th, Morgan Freeman!