Six facts you didn’t know about Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman wearing a white shirt and black jacket
Morgan Freeman at EDISON Premiere at Toronto Film Festival | Shutterstock

As one of Hollywood’s most legendary actors, Morgan Freeman is known around the world for starring in several iconic films. Perhaps his most memorable role came as Ellis ‘Red’ Redding, a fatherly, contraband-smuggling prisoner in The Shawshank Redemption, who unknowingly helps the film’s protagonist escape.

In Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman, the Academy Award winner covers eight of the most audacious and mind-blowing prison breaks in history. Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman delivers a fascinating and insightful look at each real-life story, including the infamous Alcatraz attempt, El Chapo’s tunnel, and James Earl Ray’s spell on the run.

To get you in the mood for the ground-breaking new show, here are six facts about Morgan Freeman that you don’t already know.

His first acting role was a form of punishment

A 12-year-old Morgan Freeman was punished for causing a disruption in class after pulling a chair from underneath the girl he had a crush on. It’s good to hear that even an A-Lister had the same flirting techniques as the rest of us when we were that age. His teacher instructed him to take part in the school’s drama competition as a unique form of punishment.

To everyone’s surprise Freeman won and thus began a lifelong love of acting. We all owe an incredible debt to the teacher who gave him a punishment that was a lot more useful than a lifetime sentence in the Shawshank State Prison.

Shawshank was the first film he narrated

Morgan Freeman is known around the world for his dulcet tones and soothing voice that many people can only dream of. In fact, his voice was one of the main reasons that he got his role in The Shawshank Redemption. In the original novella, penned by Stephen King, Ellis Redding was a ginger-haired Irishman, clearly a description that does not match Freeman.

However, director Frank Darabont always wanted him to play the part because of his deep and authoritative voice. The Shawshank Redemption is the first film that Freeman is credited as ‘Narrator’ on, but he has since gone on to narrate many documentaries and movies. These include March of the Penguins and War of the Worlds.

He is an expert beekeeper

There is a startling theory that if bees were to become extinct then the entire population of humankind would be wiped out within four years. Upon hearing this potentially devastating factoid, Morgan Freeman decided he was going to do his bit to help. In 2014, he converted a 124-acre ranch he owns in Mississippi into a dedicated bee sanctuary. It’s not known exactly how many bees live on the ranch, but it could be up to two million.

Freeman has promised that he has no intention of harvesting honey. In fact, the only time he visits the hives is to bring food. He also trusts the bees so much that he never wears a beekeeping suit or hat.

He is known for his never-ending charity work

The legendary actor’s charitable efforts don’t stop at looking after bees because he has also done plenty to help other people in need. He set up the Rock River Foundation to provide underprivileged children with the education and resources they need to pursue a healthy and productive life. Freeman has also led numerous fundraisers to assist in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Hurricane Ivan in Grenada.

As the very humble man that he is, Freeman has previously stated that he doesn’t view these efforts as charity. Rather, he feels his philanthropy work as a vocation and just something that he must do.

There was a time that he spent a brief stint in jail

You will probably be very surprised to learn that, despite Morgan Freeman’s ‘nice guy’ demeanour, he has actually spent time in jail himself. However, you won’t be surprised to hear that this only happened because he refused to abandon a friend.

During his time in the Air Force, Freeman and a pal travelled to Los Angeles while on permitted leave. They were hitchhiking due to a lack of funds when they were stopped by local police who suspected they were AWOL. Freeman had his pass, but his friend had left his in his room. The pair spent four days in jail, despite Freeman being given the option to travel on by himself, while their stories were verified. Thankfully, they didn’t try any daring escapes of their own.

He suffers from paralysis in his left hand

Morgan Freeman suffered a broken left arm, elbow and shoulder after being involved in a serious car crash in 2008. This led to him having paralysis in his fingers and needing to intermittently wear a compression glove to ensure blood doesn’t pool in his hand.

This isn’t the first time he suffered a noticeable injury in his left arm. While filming a scene for The Shawshank Redemption, in which his character is tossing a baseball, Freeman had to do take after take after take. In fact, the scene took nine hours to get right, and he was forced to throw the ball non-stop. Freeman is an incredible professional and didn’t complain once, although he did turn up the next day wearing a sling.