Earlier this week Tom Cruise, star of Oblivion and creepily enthusiastic bloke, appeared on “The Daily Show” this week and in between boasting about his stunt work and gushing over his director he took time to verbally jump the Oprah couch about his co-star Morgan Freeman. Calling Mr. Freeman “The Voice,” Cruise expressed how thrilled he was to be working with Freeman for the first time. When I was woken this morning at 3am PST by a phone call from a loved one on the East Coast and couldn’t go back to sleep, I remembered Cruise’s words and started to seek out some comfort from That Voice. In his 40 plus years in Hollywood, Freeman has become a go-to for inspirational speeches and stirring rhetoric. Some may cynically attribute his status to the regrettable “Magical Negro” trope that haunts so many films to this day. But just for today I’m willing to let go of that extra layer of criticism and swim around in his sonorous speeches until my fingers get all prune-y. I hope they provide you with similar solace.
Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris — Million Dollar Baby: The message here being, basically, every man dies, not every man truly lives. You’ll find it’s a theme on this list.
Detective Lt. William Somerset — Se7en: After wading amidst the Twitterpartee this morning, I found the notion of apathy in this scene really struck home.
God — Bruce Almighty: No impressive speeches here, but of all the actors working today, Freeman is the one I would most readily accept as a deity.
Principal Joe Clark — Lean On Me: Absolutely teeth-kickingly inspiring.
Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins — Glory: Denzel Washington’s firebrand performance may have won the Oscar but there’s something equally compelling about Freeman’s response here. Start at 1:15. I’m not one for warmongering, but this scene is incredible.
President Beck — Deep Impact: Not a great movie, but a great movie president.
Narrator — War Of The Worlds: If you think of it in a certain light, the epilogue to this story smacks of abundantly patriotic, post-9/11 rhetoric. But, of course, it’s Freeman reading H.G. Wells’ words verbatim. What better choice to take up Orson Welles’ mantle? Start at 1:15.
Azeem — Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves: Unfortunately, the entirety of this clip is not available. “English! English! Behold, I’m Azeem ibn Bashir Al Bakir! I’m not one of you, but I fight! I fight with Robin Hood! I fight against a tyrant who holds you under his boot! If you would be free men, then you must fight! Join us now, join Robin Hood!”
Nelson Mandela — Invictus: Reading one of my favorite spine-stiffening poems by William Ernest Henley.
Red — Shawshank Redemption: And this. Always this.