Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Morgan Freeman - Biography

The Street Smart and The Shawshank Redemption star was born in 1937

Morgan Freeman smiling and making a peace sign with his right hand
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
Updated: 26 July 2023
Share this:

In the course of his lengthy career Morgan has certainly proved his versatility, moving from children's TV through song-and-dance man in Hello Dolly to Shakespearean thespian. But it is probably for his performances in a string of well-regarded movies, from Driving Miss Daisy to The Shawshank Redemption, that the actor is best known. 

Early life

Born on June 1, 1937, in Memphis, Tennessee, to father Morgan Sr, a barber, and mother Mamie Edna, a teacher, Morgan was still an infant when he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in Charleston, Mississippi. Upon her death when he was six, the actor spent several years travelling with his mother, moving from Chicago to Nashville, Tennessee, and finally to Greenwood, Mississippi, where they eventually settled down. 

Morgan's acting career began at junior high school, when he was forced to participate in the school's drama competition bid in punishment for trying to gain the attention of a girl called Barbara by pulling her chair out from under her. Much to the irony of his teacher's intended punishment, Morgan won the competition, and in doing so developed an interest in acting. 

However, he was still more set on pursuing his dream career of being a jet fighter pilot, and when he graduated from high school he joined the US Air Force. Eventually, disappointed at being limited to duties as a mechanic and radar technician, he bided his time until demob day and then headed for Hollywood to discover whether acting might be his thing after all. 

Hollywood career

Success was initially slow in coming to the talented article. He took acting classes from which, by his own admission, he gained little, before moving to New York in the early 60s. There, he supported himself with a series of day jobs while auditioning for theatrical roles. A part in an all-black edition of Hello Dolly in 1968 finally gained the actor attention, and led to him winning the role of hip, good-humoured Easy Reader on the US children's TV show The Electric Company, in which he appeared from 1971 to 1976.

In 1980, Morgan landed a part opposite Robert Redford in Brubaker and seven years later won his first Oscar nomination for a supporting role as the volatile pimp Fast Black in Street Smart. Then came 1989's Driving Miss Daisy. Morgan's portrayal of the good natured chauffeur, a character he had also played on stage, brought him a Best Actor Oscar nomination and finally made him a star. 

Stellar performances in hit movies such as Outbreak and Unforgiven followed and the actor picked up a third nomination for his portrayal of Red, a prison lifer in 1994's The Shawshank Redemption. His transition to lead was complete, and he went on to headline the 1997 thriller Kiss The Girls and its sequel Along Came A Spider in 2001. Along the way, he hasn't been afraid to take supporting roles in superior movies and won praise for his work in the 1996 thriller Seven and Steven Spielberg's Amistad the following year. 

His treatment of Eddie 'Scrap-Iron' Dupris in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby then garnered him the ultimate accolade, an Academy Award, in 2005. And he was back in the Oscar spotlight five years later, when his captivating performance as Nelson Mandela in Invictus put him up for a best actor trophy. He has since starred in Wanted, Oblivion, Now You See Me and Lucy, and has also leant his famous voice to documentaries such as The Story of God with Morgan Freeman and Our Universe.

Personal life

Career success has allowed Morgan to indulge his favorite hobby of sailing, and he has piloted his 38-foot yacht throughout the Caribbean and North Atlantic. He also owns a pilots license and has in the past owned and flown private aircraft. 

Morgan has been married two times, first to Jeanette Bradshaw from 1967 to 1979 and Myrna Colley-Lee from 1984 to 2010. He has four children, and several more grand-children.

More Profiles

See more