Morgan Freeman is one of those guys you feel compelled to wait on.
He’s one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, having won an Oscar for his role in “Million Dollar Baby”; playing the Almighty in the “Bruce/Evan Almighty” franchise and co-starring in a host of critically acclaimed films such as “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Unforgiven.”
Additionally, based on conversations I’ve had with him over the years, he’s chockfull of the kind of sage advice you’d expect from someone who recently celebrated his 70th birthday.
So, after his assistant escorted me into his suite, I sat down next to the Mississippi-born thespian with a passion for sailing, and waited for him to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle he was working on. He seemed so engrossed in it that it would have been downright rude to interrupt his flow.
So, I waited, trying to not to stare at the man sitting comfortably in a chair less than a foot away from me with his legs crossed and his right foot twirling to a beat that only he could hear.
And then I waited some more…
And then finally, after more than a few minutes of waiting on the mere mortal, the voice of God spoke: “I’m waiting on you.”
“Uh, I was just waiting for you to finish your puzzle,” I said.
“But I’m here,” he said, looking at me over the rim of his reading glasses. “I can multitask.”
A man for all seasonsIndeed he can. Freeman, who is currently starring in “Feast of Love,” is the quintessential man for all seasons and all genres. In his latest film, which hits theaters on Friday, he plays what he is — a sage senior citizen who has the ability to relate to people of all ages, ethnicities and peculiar dysfunctions.
It is also the first time he’s had a significant love interest on film. Jane Alexander, who is now starring in HBO’s “Tell Me You Love Me,” plays his wife. “From what I heard and what I felt, we danced well,” he said.
So, I figured that a married guy making a film about love with someone doing a show about love would probably know a thing or two about love and could drop some wisdom on a baby boomer still trying to figure the whole thing out.
But when I asked him what was the coolest part about being in love or being loved, Freeman’s soft brown eyes — which can be both warm and intimidating at the same time — looked as though I had just asked him to join me on “The Love Boat.”
“That is such a loaded, mixed-up question,” he said. “Who are you in love with? Are you in love with a person or a member of your family? I mean, what is it you love?”
When I couldn’t answer the questions, Freeman did what he does best on and off the screen. He began to self-analyze and came up with a gem — albeit one that was a little out there — that he was eager to pass on.
The nature of love
“You know I read somewhere, and I bought it completely, that there was just this really wire-thin line between love and hate,” he said while never taking his eyes off me. “Nature feeds us copious amounts of lust. In order to sustain that, I think we invented love.”
At that point Freeman paused to see if I was indeed buying into this theory. Before I could finish my thought, however, he had come up with yet another variation on the theme.
“Well, here I am with one, two, three attractive women so I could impregnate all three of you today,” he said without cracking a smile.
“That’s lust,” he said. “Now, while I’m lusting, I’m in the act of lusting, you say tell me you love me baby. OK, I love you.”
“That’s why I don’t really have a definition for love,” he said. “Love and lust can be very deep, but they both can be very fleeting. They don’t even live next door to each other, they live in the same closet.”
Pearls of wisdom
Freeman, who has been married twice, apparently knows of what he preaches.
“I’m an old — older guy who has gone through a lot of relationship stuff,” he says. “So, yeah, I’m informed by my own life. When you play a role like Harry, you have to come with something.”
That something has made what could have been just another ho-hum fall film about life, love and the pursuit of happiness into something that’s far more intriguing. Freeman is like the ultimate point guard dishing off to his teammates — Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Billy Burke, Selma Blair, Alexa Davalos and Toby Hemingway — and making them all better.
“This movie was about giving us these different aspects of love with these different couples — young, older, married and unmarried. It’s about them striving for happiness in their situations.”
So, what is happiness then?
“Happiness to me has fleeting moments like love and lust,” he said. “Happiness is something you need to offset unhappiness because without unhappiness you’re never going recognize happiness.”
Just as he finished that statement Freeman cocked his head, reared back in his seat and smiled.
“God, that was a pearl of wisdom,” he said emphatically.
Yes it was. That’s why I can say that everything I now know about love — and lust — I learned from (the dude who plays) God.
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.