Morgan Freeman talks reteaming with ‘Wanted’ director Timur Bekmambetov on ‘Ben-Hur’


Morgan Freeman and his iconic voice have been around for years now. His prolific career has seen him become God, a hitman, and the president, just to name a few. With Ben-Hur Freeman is reteaming with Timur Bekmambetov again and expanding on the Ilderim role that nabbed Hugh Griffith an Oscar back in 1960.

We got to sit down and ask the legendary actor a few burning questions including…

When asked if he reached out to them or if they reached out to him to be in Ben-Hur, Freeman said:
“No, they always reach out to me. It was Timur who called me because we worked before. Got along with him quite well. He likes me and I really have this respect for him. A marriage made in heaven.”

When he ever mentored the young actors on set, Freeman said:
“No, no, no, no, no. That’s taking yourself seriously. I do not presume for one minute to be able to call an actor aside and say ‘let me tell you how you can improve.’”

What about when actors look to him sometimes, Freeman added:
“No. I’ve had about two occasions to give a young actor a technique or something. For instance, hitting a mark. On the floor of a movie set, there’s a mark that you have to get to so that you’re in focus. How do you do that? So there were tricks to it. Sometimes I would find it beneficial to say to an actor, this is how Spencer Tracy used to do it. Things like that.”


Did Morgan Freeman have more freedom interpreting the Ilderim role since it’s been expanded on in the remake? Freeman answered:
“You could say that, but I won’t say that. I don’t think so. This version, for one thing, I think all three movie versions were actually adapted from the book. So the first adaptation then, another adaptation in ’59, so now here’s another adaptation. With each adaptation, the question is: What part of or how much of the book do you want to tell? What are you looking for? What’s the most exciting thing? The chariot race, of course. That’s Ben-Hur. When you think Ben-Hur you think of a chariot race. But Timur didn’t want that to be the actual story. This is a story that is really steeped much deeper in human existence than just that. That’s why I think we’re talking so much about tolerance, redemption, and forgiveness. That’s what actually resonates in this adaptation. Films, there’s a lot more to it. You say my character had a lot more to do than Hugh Griffith’s character… Yeah, I practically own the movie. I narrated it.”

When asked what was it like reteaming with Timur Bekmambetov after working together on Wanted, Freeman said:
“When you work with a director and you both pulled it off, so to speak. What I mean by that is you’re never at each other’s throats or at the point where you’re like, ‘you got this, I’m out of here.’ We got along quite well in Wanted. Now years later you get a phone call from that same director [who] says ‘I want you in this picture I’m going to do.’ Number one, you feel like, ‘okay I didn’t alienate this director. At all. As a matter of fact, he’s coming back.’ It’s a feel good thing, mostly. It’s a good role in a huge film at a good location. Boy, there were a lot of yesses there.”

When asked if there were any hesitation to join the project because it was filled with a lot of unknown actors, Freeman said:
“No, I think that’s meaningless. A long time ago, I came to the conclusion on my own that stars don’t make movies. Movies make stars. I knew who Jack Huston was. I didn’t know Toby, but they were hired by the same person who hired me. I trust his judgment because he called me. So I have no questions about who I’m working with when I’m on set. The question would only come up if an actor shows up and he doesn’t know what he’s doing. By that I mean, ‘what are my lines?’ That’s a dangerous sign.”


When asked what he hopes modern audiences takes away from the new Ben-Hur movie, Freeman said:
“I never have these hopes. I just couldn’t care less what you take away from it as long as you take something away other than the money that you brought with you. You know what I mean? Just don’t go out and ask for your money back because that means that we really, really, really screwed up. I always look at stories as like anything else. You can’t do a painting, any kind of painting, and then tell the audience what to come away with. 14 people were looking at the same painting and 12 of them will tell you something different. We’re all going to see something different. Something that our own personal life feeds into that story that gives them a return.”

When asked how his voice is able to mesmerize people, Freeman said:
“I don’t know. I don’t! There is no formula that I developed. I don’t know. I appreciate hearing that. I’m just a guy that wakes up in the morning.”

Check back this week as we’ll have more interviews with the cast of Ben-Hur.

BEN-HUR is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but an encounter with Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) leads him to the Crucifixion, where he discovers forgiveness and finds redemption.

Ben-Hur races into theaters on August 19th.

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