Q & A with Morgan Freeman: "I want to play Satan!" (Video!)

"Is that necklace real?  Because if it is, let's get out of here!"  This was Morgan Freeman's first comment to me at the annual Gene Siskel Film Center Gala at the Ritz-Carlton recently.  He was a sheer delight, not only to me, but to all of the reporters on the Red Carpet.  Sadly, this isn't always the case....these kinds of interviews are always nerve wracking as you never know what to expect.

Academy Award-winning actor Freeman was the deserved recipient of the annual Renaissance Award from the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute on June 7.  Past honorees have included Robert Downey, Jr. (incredibly generous to reporters, especially with pics until his wife stepped in), Gwyneth Paltrow (nice), Reese Witherspoon (my least favorite because of her overly protective handlers) and many others.

You're usually allowed only 3 questions, but some reporters definitely cheat on this request from the organizers which makes it tough on everyone else.  A lot of times, the stars are tired of answering questions by the time they get to you.  The trick is to always try to say something to make them laugh first.  This usually changes the mood and helps you get some good answers.

Freeman was very generous with his time and always tried to come up with a good sound bite for each reporter.  What he loves best about Chicago--its food; his favorite film--Glory because of its little known historical aspect and when asked about creating the off-Broadway role of  the chauffeur, Hoke Colburn, in Driving Miss Daisy he said the film role was first offered to Sidney Poitier, but he turned it down.   He also said, his first take is always the best and he sees no need to "pump it" as some actors like Robert De Niro likes to do.   His favorite director is Clint Eastwood, because "he's quick and knows what he wants."  When asked where his confidence comes from as a child growing up in Mississippi, he said he's "always had it."  He's been acting since he was eight.

A highlight of the evening, which was called A Candid Conversation with Morgan Freeman,  was an hour long Q & A led by the actor's Last Vegas director Jon Turteltaub.  The crowd of nearly 350 enjoyed a retrospective of Freeman's career that included clips from Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Seven, The Sawshank Redemption, Batman Begins and Bruce Almighty.  For the film Invictus, Freeman was handpicked by Nelson Mandela for his portrayal.

This always exciting event generated more than $350,000 to support programming and educational initiatives for the Gene Siskel Film Center.

(To see more pics, please visit my Chicago Tribune column here.  Watch my Watch312.com video below and come to the party with me!)


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