On April 25, The Film Society of Lincoln Center honored Morgan Freeman with its 43rd Annual Chaplin Award. The annual gala began in 1972 when Charlie Chaplin was honored. He famously returned to the United States from exile to accept the award. Recent honorees have included Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Sidney Poitier, Catherine Deneuve and Barbra Streisand. Last year’s recipient was Robert Redford.
Freeman began his career on Broadway, but went on to television (“The Electric Company”) and later film. Notable starring roles included “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2006 for “Million Dollar Baby.” Presenters on Monday evening included Robert De Niro, Matthew Broderick, Danny Glover, Helen Mirren and Jerry Schatzberg,
Director Christopher Nolan sent a video message. He said “Just for the record, working with Morgan Freeman is one of the most extraordinary displays of professionalism that a director could ever ask for and everybody on set simply raises their game when Morgan is around, which is wonderful in terms of the atmosphere of the motion picture you’re working on.” Matthew Broderick added “For singers, Frank Sinatra was the voice. But for generations of movie fans and for me, the voice is Morgan’s…In the almost thirty years that I have come to know Morgan, I have come to this conclusion: that Morgan Freeman does not sound like God, God sounds like Morgan.”
“He brings his intelligence, humanity, and gentle strength to everything he does, on and off screen, and he seems to have aged more gracefully than most of us,” Robert De Niro remarked. Helen Mirren also made an eloquent speech about Freeman. “It is incredibly hard work, it’s dedication, it’s getting up at four in the morning, it’s learning your lines, learning them so well that you are able to speak them with such unbelievable ease. I watch as a fellow actor of Morgan’s work and I look in great admiration. It is an incredible thing to witness. Morgan and I were in this movie ‘Red.’ It stands for Retired and Extremely Dangerous. Morgan? Retired? I mean hardly. He’s got four films coming out this year, it’s ridiculous—along with his television projects and god knows what else…So now that I have dismissed the retired part of the acronym, what about the extremely dangerous? Oh yes, Morgan is very dangerous. To women, he is extremely charming and flirtatious, but in a way that makes all women feel special and appreciated.”
In his acceptance of the award, Morgan Freeman said, “I worked to help keep Michael Keaton clean and sober, I turned Christian Bale into a very high-tech Batman, I drove Dan Aykroyd’s mother to school, I partied in Vegas with Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline and Mr. De Niro…worked to catch a killer with Brad Pitt, stopped a world epidemic with Dustin Hoffman and trained a prize fighter and rolled in westerns with Clint Eastwood…Knowing my name is now on a list that includes so many legends of cinema that I admire and venerate is something that I promise you I will cherish forever.”
Support for the 43rd Chaplin Award Gala was provided by Jaeger-LeCoultre and Hennessy Paradis Imperial.