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Hollywood icon and beekeeper Morgan 'God' Freeman turns 83

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1937, Freeman always had a deep love for acting and struggled many years before becoming the star he is today.

Hollywood icon and beekeeper Morgan 'God' Freeman turns 83
Cover Image Source: (L) Instagram/Morgan Freeman, (R) Morgan Freeman backstage during the American Black Film Festival Honors Awards Ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 23, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The legendary Morgan Freeman, aka Hollywood's go-to man when a movie requires some divine intervention, celebrated his 83rd birthday on June 1. Even as the calendar marks another year of his glorious existence on this planet, the Se7en star radiates the same confidence and charm with which he climbed the rungs of Tinseltown. Giving new meaning to the expression "Aging like fine wine," Freeman is as divine today as the day his fans first fell in love with his silky smooth voice.


Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1937, Freeman always had a deep love for acting. However, according to Biography, his foray into the world of thespian arts came a bit later in life as he joined the Air Force after high school to become a fighter pilot. It took him a while to recognize his true calling but once he did, Freeman surrendered his life to the craft. After years of small parts and limited success, when the world finally recognized his unmatched potential, he landed a number of big roles which paved the way for him to become one of the most respected actors in the industry today.


Explaining why he chose to leave the Air Force, Freeman once said in an interview: "I had this very clear epiphany. You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this." He left the Air Force in 1959 and moved to Hollywood to see if he could make it as an actor. However, he struggled to find work and so in the early 1960s, he decided to try his luck in New York where he again found more petty day jobs and nighttime auditions. Freeman's big career break finally came in 1967—the same year he married Jeanette Adair Bradshaw—when he landed a part in an all African-American Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! starring Pearl Bailey.


Although this was followed by some national exposure through a stint as a regular on The Electric Company, a public television-produced children's TV show that focused on teaching kids how to read, Freeman found television far too grueling and demanding for his liking. When the show was canceled in 1976, around the same time his marriage began falling apart, the actor saw himself staring at a career that was far from grounded. Freeman's fears briefly dissipated a year after his divorce in 1979, when he bagged a role as a crazed inmate in the 1980 Robert Redford film, Brubaker. However, the steady stream of film work he'd hoped for did not materialize and he found retreated to television for two more years.


The now-legendary Hollywood icon's fortunes changed in 1987 when he was cast in the film Street Smart in a role that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. More accolades followed close behind—a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and a second Oscar nomination—cementing Freeman's place in Hollywood by the 1990s. In 2005, he took home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and the Cecil B. DeMille Award for "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment" at the 2012 Golden Globes.


"I like being eclectic," he previously said of his film choices. "The more varied the better; the wider the range. I've been sucked into a kind of mold of a good guy and that's actually almost beyond my ability to control. But other than that, a good story and an interesting character are all I am looking for." One of the most important milestones in his career came in September 2016 when President Barack Obama presented Freeman with a National Medal of Arts. Speaking of the veteran actor at the ceremony, President Obama said the thespian was being honored "for his outstanding work as an actor, director, and narrator. His iconic stage and screen performances have brought to life characters from the whole spectrum of the human experience, moving audiences around the world, and influencing countless young artists."


However, Freeman's public persona took a hit in 2018 after CNN reporters An Phung and Chloe Melas published an investigative report in which eight women accused the actor of harassment and inappropriate behavior,  including sexually charged remarks and unwanted touching. The celeb responded to the claims with an apology to "anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected." He later denied the allegations more strenuously, claiming that his attempts at humor had been misunderstood. "I did not create unsafe work environments. I did not assault women. I did not offer employment or advancement in exchange for sex. Any suggestion that I did so is completely false," he said.


Apart from being a world-renowned actor, director, and philanthropist, the 83-year-old is also a beekeeper. As we previously reported, during an interview with talk show host Jimmy Fallon in the summer of 2014, Freeman revealed that he had taken up beekeeping as a hobby. The actor, who converted his 124 acres ranch into a bee sanctuary, explained that he had imported 26 hives chockfull of bees from Arkansas to his ranch, where he feeds them sugar water.

"There is a concerted effort for bringing 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 a lot of flowering things, and I have a gardener too," he said. "As she takes care of the bees too, all she does is figure out, ‘OK, what would they like to have?’ So we have got acres and acres of clover, and we have some planting stuff like lavender, I have got like, maybe 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms." As environmental activists fight to save our planet, it is heartening to know that those with economic and celebrity privilege are doing their parts too.


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