Renowned for his performances in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman has owned a 124-acre Mississippi ranch since the early 1990s. The much-loved actor actually built the property on land he purchased from his mother and father. But two decades on, Freeman decided to do something rather unusual about his home.
Freeman has had ties with the state of Mississippi since his infancy when he was sent to live with his paternal grandmother in the city of Charleston. The actor also called Greenwood his home during his high school years, before leaving for Hollywood. But while forging a glittering career amid the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown, Freeman realized he missed the simpler life.
So, back in 1991, Freeman purchased land from his parents that had also previously been owned by his grandparents. The popular actor subsequently helped to build a stunning hacienda-inspired property on the site near the Mississippi town of Charleston. And as a keen horseman, Freeman ensured the ranch boasted several mounts.
Freeman was asked by Garden and Gun magazine in 2012 just why he returned to the area in which he had spent his early years. The Academy Award winner replied, “I realized it’s where I was happiest. It’s where I belong.” Yet, just two years later, Freeman decided to make a drastic change to the property that brought him so much joy.
And what of that childhood? Well, the son of a teacher mother and a barber father, Morgan Freeman was born in the Tennessee city of Memphis in 1937. He lived a relatively nomadic childhood, spending time in Indiana, Chicago and, of course, Mississippi. But during this constant state of upheaval, Freeman managed to develop the talents that would later launch him to worldwide fame.
In fact, Freeman first took to the stage in a school production as a nine-year-old. Then, after winning a drama contest held statewide, he showcased his acting skills in a Nashville radio show. However, in his late teens, Freeman put his acting ambitions on hold to join the U.S. military. The future star subsequently spent four years in the Air Force, where he rose to the ranks of Airman 1st Class.
Then, following a move to the bright lights of Los Angeles, Freeman resumed his passion for performing. He enjoyed stints in the San Francisco-based musical theater troupe known as The Opera Ring and the touring cast of The Royal Hunt of the Sun. And in 1968 Freeman made his Broadway debut appearing alongside Cab Calloway and Pearl Bailey in an all-African-American take on Hello, Dolly!
After gracing the big screen for the first time in 1971 family drama Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow!, Freeman joined the cast of The Electric Company. He actually spent six years on PBS’s hugely popular kids’ TV show, playing characters such as Vincent the Vegetable Vampire and Mel Mounds the DJ. However, it was on the stage where Freeman’s career truly flourished.
In 1980, for instance, Freeman picked up a prestigious Obie Award for his performance as the eponymous lead in the Shakespeare production Coriolanus. He also repeated the feat for his turns as a preacher in The Gospel at Colonus and a chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy. Of course, it was the big-screen adaptation of the latter that cemented Freeman as a bona fide Hollywood star.
Yet Freeman had already received an Oscar nomination by the time Driving Miss Daisy hit cinemas. In fact, the actor had picked up a Best Supporting Actor nod for his turn in the little-seen drama Street Smart. But his reprisal of the role of chauffeur Hoke in Daisy was enjoyed by a much bigger audience – and led to him making the first of three Best Actor Academy Award shortlists.
And after impressing in American Civil War drama Glory as Sergeant Major Rawlins, Freeman hit something of a purple patch. He enjoyed box-office success in medieval epic Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, western Unforgiven, serial killer thriller Se7en and disaster movie Deep Impact.In 1994 Freeman also received more awards attention for his turn as prisoner Red in The Shawshank Redemption.
Then, in 1997, Freeman diverted part of his attention to behind-the-scenes craft, when he co-founded Revelations Entertainment with producer Lori McCreary. The star continued to rack up the film credits, too, and in 2005 he finally got the chance to make an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. Yes, Freeman was crowned Best Supporting Actor for his turn in Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama Million Dollar Baby.
That same year, Freeman lent his trademark booming baritone to both War of the Worlds and the hugely successful documentary March of the Penguins. In front of the cameras, meanwhile, the actor played God in comedy Bruce Almighty and Lucius Fox in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. And in 2007 Freeman starred alongside another Hollywood veteran, Jack Nicholson, in The Bucket List.
But following a return to the Broadway stage in The Country Girl, Freeman landed the role he was perhaps born to play. Yes, after years of trying to get a Nelson Mandela project off the ground, the actor finally got the chance to portray the South African icon in biopic Invictus. And Freeman was rewarded with a fifth Oscar nomination for his efforts.
Freeman then joined an all-star cast, including Bruce Willis, in the adaptation of comic book Red. And after adding to his Broadway credits with Dustin Lance Black’s 8, the star showed up in action movie Olympus Has Fallen, Tom Cruise sci-fi epic Oblivion and golden years comedy Last Vegas. Freeman also made a surprise return to television with a three-episode stint in legal drama Madam Secretary.
As well as appearing as the Chief Justice of the United States in Madam Secretary, Freeman also directed its second season premiere. And this wasn’t the first time that the star had sat in the director’s chair. Freeman had helmed Bopha!, the 1993 movie adaptation of the stage play set during apartheid.
And Freeman shows no signs of slowing down as he enters his 80s, either. He appeared in front of the cameras in Going in Style, Just Getting Started and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. The star also lent his familiar tones to historical adventure Alpha and hosted documentary series The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman.
On a more personal level, Freeman was supported throughout his early showbiz years by his first wife, Jeannette Adair Bradshaw. But the couple split in 1979 after 12 years of marriage. Freeman then walked down the aisle in the summer of 1984 with Myrna Colley-Lee. Yet in 2010 he once again headed for the divorce courts.
Things are a little more complicated when it comes to Freeman’s children, too. His firstborn, Alfonso, arrived as a result of the star’s affair with a woman named Loletha Polk-Adkins. Alfonso didn’t actually forge a relationship with his father until his mid-20s. But he still ended up following in his acting footsteps, with the pair sharing the screen in The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en and The Bucket List.
Freeman’s second son, flight instructor Saifoulaye, was born in the early 1960s following the star’s relationship with an anonymous woman. In 1971 the actor and his first wife, Jeannette, also welcomed their only child, daughter Morgana, into the world. Freeman and his second wife, Myrna, later ended up adopting his step-granddaughter, too. Tragically, though, E’dena Hines was found murdered in 2015 at the age of just 33.
Like many Hollywood stars, Freeman isn’t afraid to speak out publicly about issues he cares about. In recent years, he’s backed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. Freeman also voiced the claim that “we are at war” with the former Soviet Union in a video made by the Committee to Investigate Russia.
Freeman has put his considerable fame to good use as well. In 2004, for instance, he co-founded a relief fund in Grenada designed to help those whose lives had been impacted by Hurricane Ivan. This fund has since evolved into an organization named PLANIT NOW that aids residents across the world living in areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
In fact, the environment is a general concern of Freeman’s. He has even used his signature calming voice to narrate several clips for awareness-raising organizations such as One Earth. And in 2014 he joined forces with Louie Schwartzberg for What’s Possible, a documentary short about the dangers of global warming that was shown at the United Nations Climate Summit.
In 2007 Freeman told online green magazine Grist, “I don’t need any more press. I get enough when I work, but environmental causes is one place where you can get me to open my mouth. And put my foot in it if necessary. I think the only thing I do that gives me any bragging rights in terms of energy conservation is sailing. Just using wind power.”
Freeman also told the website that he’d been an environmentalist for quite some time. He said, “I don’t remember what year it was, but it was back in the ’80s, and I was in New York. A bus came up and then took off, and I had to hold my breath. And I thought, you know, that’s what it is.”
“And then you start looking at places like Santiago, Los Angeles, Beijing, Singapore – all of these places where people are literally dying from the air,” Freeman continued. “Mexico City, wherever there are densities of people, we have environmental problems, and now it’s pretty much global. So what are we talking here, about 25 years of concern.”
In 2019, too, Freeman proved once again how dedicated he is to the environmental cause. This time around it was the worrying bee population levels that the actor set his sights on. And he went above and beyond to do his bit. Yes, Freeman essentially converted his beloved Mississippi home into a bee sanctuary.
In fact, Freeman decided to import no fewer than 26 beehives to his 124-acre ranch in Charleston from Arkansas. The actor then fed the insects water and sugar as he got to work building a suitable habitat. This included planting fruit and magnolia trees, lavender and clover – which were all friendly to the pollinators.
Freeman had first talked publicly about his passion for beekeeping when he’d appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2014. The actor told the host that he’d only recently discovered an interest in the pollinators. And yet he already felt so comfortable in their company that he didn’t feel the need to wear a protective suit.
Fallon evidently felt slightly skeptical about his guest’s confidence in his bees, telling Freeman that such outfits are designed for a very specific reason. However, the actor insisted that he had nothing to worry about. He said, “I’m never going to get stung. They have the outfits for people who can’t resonate (with the bees).”
And Freeman had a theory as to why the pollinators have steered clear of him. He told Fallon, “They haven’t [stung me] yet, because right now I’m not trying to harvest honey or anything, I’m just feeding them… I think they understand, ‘Hey, don’t bother this guy, he’s got sugar water here.’”
Freeman went on to tell the host why he took on his beekeeping role. He said, “There’s a concerted effort to bring bees back onto the planet. We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation. I have so many flowering things, and I have a gardener too.”
And Freeman’s gardener has been vital to the actor’s conservation efforts. He said, “Because she takes care of the bees, too, all she does is figure out, ‘Okay, what would they like to have?’ So we’ve got acres and acres of clover, we’re planting stuff like lavender, I’ve got, like, maybe 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms.”
Yet while this beekeeping chat with Jimmy Fallon was fairly jovial, things got a little more serious when Freeman discussed the issue with Larry King two years later. In fact, the actor called out both the government and Monsanto, a farming conglomerate, in the interview with the legendary talk show host. He even claimed that they were responsible for a “frightening loss of bee colonies.”
And it’s true. The increased use of pesticides, not to mention man-made changes to various species of plants, has seriously threatened the natural environment of bees. At the end of the previous decade, in fact, beekeepers across America discovered that ‘colony collapse disorder’ had destroyed many of their hives. This subsequently led to the disappearance of millions of bees.
And this could all have disastrous effects on the world’s food supply. The bee population pollinates various plants, including those in the human food chain, that help with the health of the environment. So, as the number of bees dwindles, the number of agricultural and ecological issues continue to worryingly increase.
The efforts to preserve the bee population also took a blow in 2018 when Donald Trump’s administration rescinded a ban put in place by his predecessor. You see, Barack Obama had previously implemented a restriction on the use of pesticides connected with the decreasing population of wild bees. So environmentalists believe that by lifting the ban, Trump’s party has significantly increased the dangers posed to pollinators.
Still, beekeeping may seem like an unlikely hobby for a major Hollywood star to pursue. But Freeman isn’t the only A-list actor to show a keen interest in the insects. Scarlett Johansson, who appeared alongside Freeman as the leading lady in Luc Besson’s sci-fi thriller Lucy, is reportedly also a fan.
Johansson apparently took up the hobby after being gifted a beehive by Samuel L. Jackson for her wedding to fellow superhero star Ryan Reynolds. The glamorous pairing reportedly tended to the insects themselves, too. And Johansson even used the honey they harvested in her daily skincare routine.
Coincidentally, Freeman will share the screen with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in 2020. The star will in fact join the mismatched duo in the action-comedy sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. You can also see Freeman share the screen with Robert De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones in a remake of 1982 comedy The Comeback Trail.