Morgan Freeman explores majesty of endangered species in 'Island of Lemurs'

Actor Morgan Freeman arrives at the premiere of 'Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar' at California...

Actor Morgan Freeman arrives at the premiere of 'Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar' at California Science Center on March 29, 2014 in Los Angeles. Angela Weiss/Getty Images/AFP

Mark Daniell, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:26 PM ET

Morgan Freeman is everywhere these days. Not only did he voice Vitruvius in The Lego Movie, he’s narrating Island of Lemurs: Madagascar - a documentary from the same team that brought you 2011’s Born to be Wild - out in select IMAX theatres April 4.

He’ll also be seen later this month alongside Johnny Depp in the sci-fi thriller Transcendence. And oh yeah, he stars opposite Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s action film Lucy this summer and has a sequel to Dolphin’s Tale on the way.

So, he’s a busy guy.

“Well, it doesn’t take very long to do all of them,” Freeman says. “People come to me and ask, ‘Morgan, would you mind doing this part in this movie? It’s only going to take a week.’” At that rate, “you can do 52,” he adds with a grin.

But when writer-producer Drew Fellman and director David Douglas called to ask the Oscar-winning actor if he’d narrate a story about primatologist Patricia Wright’s struggle to save the lemur population in Madagascar, Freeman blocked off a few of those 52 weeks.

“If we’re going to be doing something that might give some attention and consideration to the other life forms on this planet, I’m happy to do it,” Freeman says of his work on the documentary that shines a light on the wide-eyed creatures. “It’s an obligation.”

Freeman makes escapist entertainment, but threaded throughout his work are big picture questions he hopes people in the audience think about as they exit the theatre. Transcendence (out April 18) is a popcorn ride, but also warns of how dangerous technology can be, he says.

“Hopefully, there’s a lightbulb that’s dimly on, at least,” he tells QMI Agency. “I’ve always thought the most effective tools we have for disseminating information is television and film… I have this belief in disseminating useful information concerning the planet and the diverse biology in it. So I’ve dedicated myself to being available for anything that helps that along.”

Island of Lemurs follows Dr. Wright’s 30-year struggle to help preserve the lemurs, which have lived, and until recently, thrived in Madagascar. Deforestation and hunting threaten their survival. With stunning 3D, including the first-ever aerial IMAX shots, the film is at once a history lesson (little factoid for you: the lemurs floated to the island nation off the coast of Africa after the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, so they’ve been around for over 60 million years) and a message in conservation.

“I think few people (know the story of the lemurs). And until this movie comes out, few people care,” says Freeman. “I have known for years that we are encroaching on every other living thing’s habitat. We’re slashing and burning the forests… either we’re eating everything or we’re just moving them out.

“The amazing thing about Madagascar is, there were no humans when the lemurs got there. So they flourished, as life does, without us.”

Freeman first got keyed to the idea of making nature documentaries after he was asked to narrate 2005’s March of the Penguins.

“Telling that story was so engrossing and such a learning trip. I had no idea”

That led to his work on the science documentary series Through the Wormhole, Born to be Wild and Island of Lemurs.

“Once you start learning about not just the creatures these people are trying to save, but the creatures themselves; their habitats, what they need and require to live… (you realize) documentaries that deal with this subject matter are important to do.”

FREEMAN ON THE PREMISE OF ‘TRANSCENDENCE’: IT COULD HAPPEN

When it comes to working with Hollywood’s who’s who, Morgan Freeman has checked pretty much every name off the list. Well, almost. This month he’s appearing alongside Johnny Depp in the sci-fi actioner Transcendence, scripted by Jack Paglen and directed by Christopher Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister.

In the thriller, Depp stars as an A.I. researcher whose consciousness is uploaded to a computer program after he is shot by an anti-technology terror group.

Things go horribly awry when Depp’s Will Caster develops a thirst for power that could destroy mankind.

"If we don't stop him, it will be the end of mankind as we know it," warns Freeman's character in the film’s trailer.

Freeman says the concept isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

“Technology could very well end up replacing us,” Freeman muses in an interview with QMI Agency. “We’re talking about artificial intelligence, robots and cyborgs... But what’s going to happen when we start creating robots that will do more work than the current robots? We’ll do it. But then what? What happens when the technology gets truly intelligent? That is to say, it can replicate itself and it has a sense of itself. What then? It will surely decide, like the Hal 9000 did in 2001 (A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke) ‘I’m better at this, so you are not needed’... It’ll happen,” Freeman adds, with an ominous pause.

“Transcendence is the realization of how dangerous technology could be... for all of us."

Twitter: @markhdaniell

mark.daniell@sunmedia.ca

 


Videos

Photos