Anyone researching into the early life of Morgan Freeman – a man who, in his riper years, would go on to play Nelson Mandela (Inivctus), The US President (Deep Impact) and even God himself – twice (Bruce Almighty/ Evan Almighty) – will soon stumble across a 37-year-old Freeman depicting Count Dracula on The Electric Company - Sesame Street's little remembered sister show from 1974. In one clip, lying in a casket full of soap suds and flowers, Freeman sings “I love to take a bath in a coffin”. As far as ignoble “before they were famous” roles go, only Brad Pitt’s stint roaming the streets of Hollywood dressed as a giant chicken to attract customers to El Pollo Loco trumps it.
It would be another 13 years before Freeman would make serious waves in Hollywood - in 1987 when, aged 49, he played a hot-tempered flesh peddler opposite Christopher Reeve in Street Smart. Coming 16 years after his first credited film appearance, Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow? in 1971, it was a canny, nuanced and sinister portrayal that netted him a supporting actor Oscar nomination.
These days, of course, Morgan Freeman’s southern-fried baritone is as much a part of modern cinema’s sensual arsenal as the smell of popcorn and the feel of scratchy, ice cream-stained upholstery. Further Academy nominations have been netted by his performances in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and Invictus, and he’s accumulated enough clout amongst his Hollywood peers to make quips about using the Statuette he took home - in 2005 for Best Supporting Actor with Million Dollar Baby - as “a doorstop”.
So how did age bolster Freeman’s career so profoundly? What was it, over those years being a successful performer off-Broadway (having spent four years with the U.S. Air Force after attending Los Angeles City College), that made him such a natural silver screen star once his youth was a dot in his rear-view mirror?