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Name: Adam Bernard
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Morgan J. Freeman on Making Mischa Bad
Friday, July 17, 2009

Film director and TV producer Morgan J. Freeman takes the occasional ribbing he gets for sharing his name with one of the great actors of our time in stride. “I’ve come close to changing my production company to Not That One,” he jokes. Freeman admits he’s mellowed a bit since he burst onto the scene in 1997 as the producer and director of the Sundance award winning Hurricane, a film which happened to feature former Adam's World Artist Of The Week Core Rhythm (credited as Mtume Gant). Freeman’s latest projects are the MTV docu-series 16 and Pregnant and the feature film Homecoming, which stars Mischa Barton (The O.C.) and Jessica Stroup (90210). With Homecoming hitting theaters today I sat down with Freeman to talk about the film and the decision to cast Mischa Barton in the bad girl role. We also discussed some of his TV work and the lessons he's learned coming up in the industry.

Adam Bernard: Let’s start by talking about Homecoming. When did this project start coming together and what were some of your original hopes going in?
Morgan J. Freeman: It probably started coming together about two years ago and it came to me through Austin Stark, who’s one of the producers. I’d met with him about financing for another film I was trying to get off the ground and that movie didn’t work out, but a couple weeks later he sent me this script. I started reading it and it was a very sound script, but I also kinda got sucked into this small town sweetie that gets obsessed with her ex-boyfriend and when I realized it was going toward a Misery kind of thing it just hit me that I wanted to do something that had this teen sensibility, but was a sort of rehash of the dynamics that were at play behind a movie such as Misery.

Adam Bernard: What aspects of the main characters were you most concerned with getting across?
Morgan J. Freeman: For me it was sort of the duality of a character who could play, outside the farm, a small town sweetheart and then inside the farm, this psychotic lunatic, and to almost pull it off. I was attracted to being able to work with somebody playing both sides of that coin and then just taking obsession to that level. I like the metaphor of how far will someone go to get their boyfriend back and bedding it in that teen, small town, world.

Adam Bernard: At what point did you say “we really need Mischa Barton wielding an axe?”
Morgan J. Freeman: {laughs} I think when the idea of her came up we saw all those moments like OK, let’s flip it on its head. The sorta no-brainer way to do it would be for her to play the Elizabeth role. Oh, she’d torture well, but the torturer seemed like a smarter way to go because why do what everybody’s expecting?

Adam Bernard: What made you think she could be such an evil character?
Morgan J. Freeman: It came from her wanting to cross that line within her own work and wanting to go somewhere a little darker and a little edgier and for me I respond to that kind of stuff because it’s always fun going somewhere the first time.

Adam Bernard: So she was pretty cool with work with?
Morgan J. Freeman: Totally. It was awesome. We were on this farmhouse out in the middle of Pennsylvania. She was a total trooper. It was freezing and it wasn’t a big movie so everybody had to kind of show up and not necessarily lug apple boxes, but work.

Adam Bernard: It definitely looked like the middle of nowhere. Plot-wise, I really liked a few of the twists in the film, twists that I can’t really say without giving away the ending.
Morgan J. Freeman: There were lots of little smart things in the script and without giving too much away, props become major transporters of plot points.

Adam Bernard: You’ve also done some production work with MTV over the years, from Laguna Beach to 16 and Pregnant. Incidentally, with just those two shows you have a helluva range. When it comes to producing TV versus directing films… aren’t these two totally different things?
Morgan J. Freeman: Yes, absolutely. Producing TV and directing a film are almost polar opposites. For me it’s a way to sorta stay busy year round. My bread and butter comes from the TV series and then I can go devote 6-8 weeks on a smaller movie that really, you don’t really make enough to make ends meet on these films.

Adam Bernard: You kinda hope to break even?
Morgan J. Freeman: Yeah, basically break even and each film is an investment in hoping that one of them causes a stir, to a point, or is the right stepping stone to a larger project. I have no illusions about where I’m at and where I want to go and I’d like to do bigger studio movies. The show I have right now, 16 and Pregnant, if that keeps rating well and is a successful show and Homecoming can do some business, I think there’s a cumulative addition to those as far as being positioned for a larger movie. I also try to keep two balls up in the air, two different games.

Adam Bernard: Because you need to have both of those balls in the air to have the potential opportunities.
Morgan J. Freeman: Exactly. I have the six features under my belt, but I also enjoy the docu-series. 16 and Pregnant, for me, it’s been the first show where there’s really been an emotional connection to some of these kids and the show itself is being positioned as actually having a viable purpose out there, to show kids what it’s really like at that age to have a kid.

Adam Bernard: That’s fantastic. Now, to end things on a lighter note, everyone in Hollywood needs a good tabloid scandal. Take this opportunity to write your own. Morgan J. Freeman found where, with whom, doing what?
Morgan J. Freeman: You know, I spent a lot of years trying to shake the bad boy reputation…

Adam Bernard: Why did you have a bad boy reputation?
Morgan J. Freeman: I got myself in some trouble after the first couple movies. Just an over-inflated ego, some trashed hotel rooms, some publicly failed relationships that I’d prefer not to rehash up but that were definitely like a crash course in growing up and a crash course in how to treat people with respect and a crash course in gratitude for the opportunity because it’s not easy in this business.

Adam Bernard: There’s certainly no handbook for having success.
Morgan J. Freeman: No, I don’t think there is and who knows, maybe this is the most golden path of all of them.

Related Links

Homecoming Website: homecoming-movie.com
IMDB: Morgan J. Freeman

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