Morgan Freeman once said that he liked to play characters who were his absolute opposite. His logic was that when his real self was hidden away, he could let a new character fill the emptiness.

But the real Morgan Freeman, who turns 81 today, is a man of many complex characters himself.

Born June 1 in Memphis, Tennessee, he had an unsettled childhood. He was raised by his grandmother in Mississippi and moved many times in his youth.

He joined the Air Force after high school to become a fighter pilot but soon realized that acting was his true calling. It’s a good thing he followed that passion because he has gone on to be one of he most respected actors in Hollywood.

The Actor

Whether you love him as Red in The Shawshank Redemption or Lucius Fox in the Dark Knight or even as God in Bruce Almighty, most women in our community have seen a Morgan Freeman movie.

Known for his deep, evocative voice and smooth, calm manner, Morgan Freeman has delivered incredible performances in a wide variety of films. These include The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Bruce Almighty (2003) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989).

Morgan Freeman was an Academy Award nominee five times and won the Award for Best Supporting actor for Million Dollar Baby. He was nominated five times for a Golden Globe Award and won the the Award for Best Actor in Driving Miss Daisy.

It is reported that he has over 100 acting credits to his name, and his films have grossed over $8 billion worldwide. He is the only African American actor to star in three Academy Award Best Picture winners.

The Voice

Of course, we all love his voice. Morgan Freeman has served as a narrator, commentator and has voiced-over numerous programs, series and shows.

He has shared his voice with two Academy Award-winning documentary feature films called The Long Way Home (1997) and March of the Penguins (2005). Freeman is now doing television ads and voice-overs that always grab your attention. He is immediately recognizable!

The Sportsman

Morgan Freeman loves to play sports and keep moving. Age has not slowed him down a bit. In fact, he earned a private pilot’s license at the age of 65.

In addition to his flying expertise, he is an avid golfer and sailor. He owns a Shannon 43 sailboat, which he apparently loves and cruises several times a year.

The Environmentalist

Freeman has many interests and cares very much about the environment. Concerned about the predicament of honeybees, he turned into a professional apiculturist in 2014.

It is reported that his 124-acre ranch in Mississippi houses 26 bee hives. This does not fit my mental picture of Morgan Freeman, but I am pleased he is using his notoriety and wealth to make a difference in the world.

The Music Lover

Morgan Freeman loves his music, especially blues. He co-owns Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. With a nostalgic gesture, he went back to his roots and the place he was born, opening the club in 2001 to celebrate the area’s blues traditions.

The Humanitarian

Freeman started the Rock River Foundation in 1990, which provides educational grants to students and schools from K1 to university levels.

He has been recognized for his inspirational work in all these areas. In September 2016, President Barack Obama presented Freeman with a National Medal of Arts.

He said Freeman was being honoured because his “iconic stage and screen performances have brought to life characters from the whole spectrum of the human experience… influencing countless young artists.”

Morgan Freeman is a wonderful example of a man who started his life with a tough reality. He followed his passion, worked hard, sought opportunities to express his talents and did good things to support others.

He deserves our recognition for the amazing gifts he has given the world of film and television. Let’s wish him a very Happy Birthday and let him know that he has filled many years of our lives with characters who made us think, feel and appreciate the complexity of our human experience.

Happy Birthday, Morgan Freeman! What Morgan Freeman films did you enjoy? Please share your favourites in the comments below.

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