IRL: Indy 500: Morgan Freeman press conference transcript, part 2

88th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Morgan Freeman Friday, May 28, 2004 Part 2 of 2 KING: To talk about you for a couple of minutes and clearly the art of acting, you have I think more than 60 feature credits as far as feature films, and...

88th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference
Morgan Freeman
Friday, May 28, 2004

Part 2 of 2

KING: To talk about you for a couple of minutes and clearly the art of acting, you have I think more than 60 feature credits as far as feature films, and you've produced, you've been executive producer for another half dozen or more projects. As I mentioned to you earlier in the Pace Car luncheon, many of the drivers that will start in the race on Sunday list 'The Shawshank Redemption' as one of their favorite movies. What's your favorite movie that you have appeared in?

FREEMAN: 'Glory.'

KING: Really?

FREEMAN: Yeah. I get asked that a lot because a good 90 percent of the people I meet, maybe 95 percent of the people I meet who mention that they like anything that I've done say it's 'The Shawshank Redemption,' and then they go down from there. Sometimes it's 'Seven,' then 'Driving Miss Daisy;' and sometimes it's 'Driving Miss Daisy' and 'Seven.' And some say 'Glory.' But 'Glory' -- my idea about entertainment is it works best if it teaches you something as well as entertain you. And the best job that I've done in that area was 'Glory' because that was a history lesson for all Americans.

KING: My wife said that she would strangle me if I didn't say thank you for being Easy Reader on 'Electric Company.' You have apparently touched a lot more people certainly with your work, you know, from the time -- that was 33 years ago.

FREEMAN: And I'm trying to locate all those people who say that I taught them this or taught them that because --

KING: There's a lot of them.

FREEMAN: -- I want to send out invoices. (Laughter)

KING: Is that something, do people bring that up a lot to you?

FREEMAN: Oh, yeah, yeah. I think that was a really good show. For years after it shut down, the actual production of it -- I run across it sometimes -- and we had such a great cast. We had so much fun doing it. We all knew what the outcome was supposed to be, but just the doing of it, we had so much free to. You should have seen some of the outtakes.

KING: I can imagine. Any more questions.

Q: Morgan, do you and Ashley get a chance to talk racing much on the set, she'd give you an update on Dario? And do you expect to see her? I assume she's going to be here Sunday.

FREEMAN: I expect to see her, yeah, absolutely. If I don't see her I'm going to be upset, very. Who asked that?

Q: Right here.

FREEMAN: The problem is, when you have a microphone your voice comes from --

Q: What did you find the most interesting visual perspective on the track? Was it Turn 1 or coming through (Turn) 4 down the front straight away in that real narrow pit lane or the backstretch?

FREEMAN: Visual perspective? To me it's Turn 1, because Turn 1 looks impossible to do. All the rest of them are OK. You're coming off the front straightaway at an incredible rate. And I'm talking about me now, I'm not talking about a seasoned race car driver. I'm talking about a guy who just got into a car on the track and has gotten his speed up to 130, 140 miles an hour and he's looking down at Turn 1. It's, what do you do, you know? And then, you know, you've got people over here who are either going to signal you or not, so you are kind of watching for that. So, yeah, I think that's what it is.

Q: Morgan, was there an aspect today when you were out on the track of the things you had to learn to do, something that kind of surprised you that you wouldn't have thought that this was part of it but it really ended up kind of important?

FREEMAN: Only driving with passengers in the car. That turned out to be important and something I didn't think that I was going to get to do.

Q: Did you enjoy it?

FREEMAN: Incredibly, yeah, yeah. Because every lap around teaches you something, you know. You get just that one-lap-more experience, that one-lap-more feel for the car and the road. So it's very important.

Q: Going into Turn 1, which Johnny Rutherford used to say was like turning left in a phone booth, did you find yourself able to keep your foot in it after the first couple of laps or were you lifting going through?

FREEMAN: No, lifting, lifting, lifting. One of the reasons I was lifting was because they have said -- I am once asked is it all right to -- should I let up off it if I'm going at a pretty good clip going into the turns? They said, well, we like to keep it down to about 100 in the turns, so I was up to about 110, 115 in the turns. So when I see myself coming down and I'm going to be into the turn at 120, I was getting off it, you know. Then watching the cars ahead of me sometimes I see brake lights. Well, OK, everybody is trying to adhere to the rule. By the time I was finished, I was going into Turn 1 at 120.

KING: I'm curious, Morgan, a lot of people see this track on television and it's difficult to gain a perspective just how large the place is.

FREEMAN: Yes, it is, it's very difficult.

KING: Were you surprised at all by the massiveness of the facility.

FREEMAN: The facility, yes, it just knocks me out what all goes on here and how it's laid out and where it all is. You can walk around here; there are just all kinds of things. I've been to tracks, of course, I've seen other tracks. But this is like a way of life. This is a city. This is a ship. This is an aircraft carrier. (Laughter)

KING: Other questions?

Q: How many laps did you get with J.R. training you, and how many more laps did you get in the ride-arounds today?

FREEMAN: Oh, heavens. J.R. and I went around about three times with him driving, and then we went around maybe five or six times with me driving, and he thought you've got the basics, you've got the hang of it and we'll come back and we'll -- because he didn't like the way I was leaving the track. A couple of times I was surprised that we were coming off at that time so I jerked the wheel and that makes him cringe, you know. Don't jerk the wheel. And I don't know how many people were lined up to take the ride and how many laps I got to do then, but that was a great learning part, just having a chance to go round and round and round.

Q: Morgan, of all the characters you have played over the years, which one do you think would have had the right mentality or right makeup for a race car driver?

FREEMAN: Of all the characters that I have played, which one would have had the right mentality?

Q: Or would have made the best race car driver.

FREEMAN: Probably Fast Black from 'Street Smart.'

Q: Right.

FREEMAN: That's what you thought?

Q: No, but I know the character.

FREEMAN: OK. Yeah. Competitive, pushy.

Q: Not easy to rattle?

FREEMAN: Not easily rattled.

KING: Let's take a couple more.

FREEMAN: Kind of like me. (Laughter)

KING: I just want to let the still photographers and videographers, I want to let you know that we will be doing a photo op in front of the Victory Podium. So we'll do it in front of the pagoda here in just a couple minutes. Let's take a couple more questions, though. Dick.

Q: Morgan, have you ever met Willy T. Ribbs that made the race here?

FREEMAN: No.

Q: Do you know anything about him?

FREEMAN: No. I'm sorry.

Q: He's a pretty good driver and a black driver and did quite well.

FREEMAN: What was the name again?

Q: Willy T. Ribbs.

FREEMAN: No. Formula One or NASCAR?

Q: IndyCar.

FREEMAN: Right here, IndyCar. See, there you go. He's not the guy that Bill Cosby was sponsoring with?

Q: Yes.

FREEMAN: Never mind. (Laughter) Yeah, I know, yeah. I've heard of him. I don't know him. We never met, but I've seen pictures of him.

Q: He mainly drove sports cars, Trans Am, things like that.

Q: Morgan, you might have noticed some young drivers walking around with helmets looking for jobs. As a young actor, you can't hang around the lots with scripts. What do young actors do to look for jobs?

FREEMAN: Well, as a young actor I went to where most of the jobs are, which is New York. The fallacy in thinking is that most of the jobs were in Hollywood, but they aren't. Most of the jobs are in New York. When Hollywood wants actors they go to New York. So if you want to be an actor, I think the trick is your best bet is to go to New York. If you're looking for advice.

Q: No. (Laughter)

KING: Let's go back to the back here.

Q: Do you think you'll ever be able to play another really serious, dramatic role, given the size of your smile, and having driven today?

FREEMAN: Well, I have one coming up, yeah, yeah. And eventually I'm going to play Nelson Mandela. Yeah, maybe I should sort of curb all this grinning, huh? (Laughter)

KING: Right over here.

FREEMAN: Got that answered.

Q: This being Memorial Weekend and all the history and pageantry and tradition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, what do you think you'll take away from this experience here?

FREEMAN: Hard to say what I'll -- it's hard to quantify it now. My life has been, is, I should say, a series of dreams coming true, and this will largely be another one. So I just put it on my wall of successes and dreams, you know. I tell my kids all the time, make sure you dream.

KING: That's a great way to end it right there. That is well said. One-on-ones in front of the Pagoda. It is interesting to note that you played God in 'Bruce Almighty,' and Jim Caviezel was the Pace Car driver two years ago, so two-thirds of the deity has been covered -- so we'll look anxiously for next year. Morgan Freeman, thank you very much, great to have you here.

FREEMAN: Thank you. (Applause)

Part 1

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Willy T. Ribbs , Johnny Rutherford