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Morgan Freeman admits being ‘so very envious’ of Denzel Washington

The Academy Award winner believes he was deprived of deserved roles during Jim Crow Hollywood
Morgan Freeman admits being 'so very envious' of Denzel Washington
Morgan Freeman (Photo credit: / Everett Collection)

Despite boasting the type of illustrious, award-winning career that some actors would sell their own family into bondage for, legendary actor Morgan Freeman admits that he harbors deep envy of fellow icon Denzel Washington.

On the surface, most fans won’t be able to discern where Morgan’s resentment or discontent could possibly emanate. Both are preeminent actors and are considered the paragon of their profession. Both have won Academy Awards (Freeman got his Oscar in Million-Dollar Baby, while Washington received his two for Glory and Training Day). Other A-listers in Hollywood consider it a humbling privilege to work on a movie set with either of them.

However, the younger Washington, 68, has been able to play risque and controversial roles such as Training Day, American Gangster and The Equalizer that were unattainable to Freeman when he began.

The 85-year-old actor said he felt “envious” of Denzel Washington’s career because “He’s doing what I wanted to do,” The Sunday Times reports. 

Freeman’s career started during the unofficial Jim Crow years in Hollywood called the “Hays Code.” The policy restricted the kind of content major film studios could show, and interracial romance onscreen, for example, was banned, according to NPR. The Hays Code reportedly lasted from 1934 until 1968.

If you recall, even Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her role as a docile and deferential maid in Gone With the Wind, had to sit in a segregated dining room before accepting her award — and this was in so-called “liberal” Hollywood. Freeman started his prolific and incredible career under these kinds of racial restraints.

Furthermore, Freeman had reached the advanced Hollywood age of 52 before he started getting starring roles that were multidimensional in scale and depth. After earning a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for Driving Miss Daisy in 1989, Freeman went on to star in over 100 films, including The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Kiss the Girls, Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, and Bruce Almighty. At one point in the early 2000s, Freeman was considered “America’s greatest actor,” as several industry trade publications attested. 

This was not the case early on, however.

“When I was growing up there was no ‘me’ in the movies,” Freeman said. “If there was a black man in a movie, he was funny. Until Sidney Poitier came and gave young people like me the idea that, ‘OK, yes, I can do that.'”

Moreover, “I spoke with Sidney way back,” and told him “‘I wanted to be like you,'” he added. “Generationally, though, I do think we’re moving ahead in leaps and bounds.

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