Morgan Freeman to Receive AFI Life Achievement Award

Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Morgan Freeman, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Clint Eastwood's wise old pal in the boxing melodrama Million Dollar Baby (2004), will be the 39th recipient of the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

Freeman, 73, became a star playing wise, dignified black men – the skin color of his (nearly interchangeable) characters is usually emphasized, however subtly – in a whole array of movies, from Glory (1989) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989) to the aforementioned Million Dollar Baby and Invictus (2009).

The timing of the AFI announcement couldn't have been more propitious, as it provides free publicity for Red, which opens next Friday, and in which Freeman appears opposite Helen Mirren and Bruce Willis.

Freeman, I should add, is the second black performer to receive the AFI Life Achievement Award, following Sidney Poitier in 1992. Women haven't fared much better – only six winners since 1973.

The AFI ceremony honoring Freeman will take place on June 9, 2011.

Previous recipients of the AFI Life Achievement Award include John Ford, Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Al Pacino, James Cagney, Barbra Streisand, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, Kirk Douglas, Mike Nichols, Jack Lemmon, Martin Scorsese, and Barbara Stanwyck.

Photo: Warner Bros.

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