Morgan Freeman

On this date in 1937, actor Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tenn. He got his start in drama at age 12 when, as a punishment for teasing a girl in class, he was forced to participate in a drama competition. He was a natural and continued to be involved in theater throughout middle school and high school. Although he loved acting and was very talented, he initially chose to enter the Air Force after school. But after a few years, he realized it wasn’t a good fit and began to pursue acting professionally, first in Los Angeles and then in New York City.

Freeman’s first big break as an actor came in 1967, when he was cast in an all-black Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” He continued to appear in theater productions throughout the 1960s and ’70s. He made his television debut in the children’s TV series, “The Electric Company.” It wasn’t until the late ’80s that Freeman began to appear regularly in hit movies, including “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994) and “Deep Impact” (1998). In 2005, Freeman won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Million Dollar Baby,” directed by Clint Eastwood. He teamed up with Eastwood again in 2009 to play Nelson Mandela in the movie “Invictus.” He has over 100 film credits to his name.Freeman was married twice, to Jeanette Adair Bradshaw from 1967-79 and to Myrna Colley Lee from 1984-2010. He and Colley Lee adopted his step-granddaughter from his first marriage and raised her as their daughter.

Although Freeman portrayed “God” in the 2003 comedy “Bruce Almighty,” he does not consider himself religious. The actor has been very open about the fact that he does not believe in a higher power: “Well here’s a scientific question: Has anybody ever seen hard evidence? What we get is theories from our earlier prophets. Now, people who think that God invented us think that the Earth can’t be more than 6,000 years old. So I guess it’s a question of belief. My belief system doesn’t support such a creator as such, as we can call God, who created us in His/Her/Its image.” (Interview, The Wrap, June 2012)

He hosted "The Story of God With Morgan Freeman" that aired on the National Geographic Channel from 2016-19 and explored various cultures and religions around the world. Along the way, he told the Hollywood Reporter (June 10, 2019), after long identifying as agnostic he discovered his religion: Zoroastrianism: “It is a belief system that is intrinsically me: ‘Good thoughts, good words, good deeds' pretty much sums it up.’ " 

CNN published an investigation in 2018 in which eight women accused Freeman of being "overly flirtatious" by "making inappropriate comments" while on the set of films or at his production company. He responded: "Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent." The Screen Actors Guild took no action against him, and further allegations haven't surfaced since then as of this writing in 2020.

Freeman in 1998 at the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor event; John Mathew Smith photo under CC 2.0.

“The highest power is the human mind."

PARADE: Do you believe in heaven and hell and in afterlife?
FREEMAN: I don’t think there is anything after life except life. Life and death are [a] continuum. You die in order to feed life. If there is an afterlife, it’s because life feeds on death. That is my desire — put me in something that will rot real quick and let me become worm food. Worms enrich the soil, and plant something nice, something that’s going to last — like an oak.

—Interview, The Daily Beast, (Jan. 28, 2014); SECOND QUOTE: Parade magazine (March 7, 2019)

Compiled by Dayna Long and Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement