Inside Morgan Freeman's life - Granddaughter's tragic death to his big break

Lottie O'Neill November 20, 2022
Inside Morgan Freeman's life - Granddaughter's tragic death to his big break
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI

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Hollywood icon Morgan Freeman has starred in almost 150 various TV and movie projects, but before he saw his big break in his career, he led a very different life indeed. To celebrate his time in the movie industry, we take a look at Morgan Freeman’s life and the long journey he took to become the acting legend he is known for being today.

The Invictus star also led somewhat of a normal life before he found fame, and it was almost five decades before Morgan Freeman saw his big break.

Despite propelling into international stardom later on in life, Freeman has cemented himself into a beloved actor with a compelling performance on screen.

Scraping to get by

Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage

The Seven actor, born in 1931 in Memphis, Tennessee, was the youngest of five children. Born to a barber and schoolteacher, the household struggled with a low income, and the star was looked after by his grandmother in Mississippi while they looked for work.

Sadly, his grandmother passed away when he was just six years old, writes Biography. Freeman went back to his mother and after moving around a lot, they settled in Greenwood.

Due to their low income, he would scrap enough money together to see movies. Freeman enjoyed seeing the works of Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Gary Cooper. But his own relationship with acting only happened by chance.

In school, he was punished for pulling out a char from underneath a girl he had a crush on, according to reports, and told he had to join the drama’s competition as a result. However, he ended up proving he was a natural on stage and received top honors in the program.

Joining the US Air Force

After graduating from high school in 1955, Freeman actually tuned down a partial drama scholarship to join the US Air Force.

During his time in the military, he worked on the ground as a mechanic and radar technician and also came to the realization that he didn’t want to hurt anyone either.

He told AARP Magazine: “I had this clear epiphany. You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.”

Four years later, Freeman left the role and moved to Hollywood in a bid to make it as a star. However, it was a struggle to find work amid taking acting classes. In the 1960s, he tried New York City on his quest to be an actor and filled up his time with small day jobs and nighttime auditions.

Morgan Freeman’s big break

Photo by Castle Rock Entertainment/Getty Images

It wasn’t until 1967, almost ten years since leaving the US Air Force, that Morgan Freeman saw his big break. He landed a part in Hello, Dolly! an all African American Broadway show which starred Pearl Bailey. Then, four years later, he featured in a kid’s TV show which helped children learn how to read. Other stars from the show included Joan Rivers and Gene Wilder.

When 1980 rolled around, he caught another break with Robert Redford’s film Brubaker. But, despite his performance, he wasn’t being inundated with calls for new film roles, and went back to TV for two years. He was cast in the soap opera Another World for a stint.

Then we come to 1987 when his luck turned around with the movie Street Smart, where Freeman played pimp Fast Black. It even led to the star receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Fast-forward two years, he saw more recognition for his work for Driving Miss Daisy. Freeman won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and another Oscar nomination for the 1989 flick.

The 1990s saw his Hollywood transformation after he featured in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Seven (1995) and Deep Impact (1998). This leaked into the millennium, when he was cast as God in Bruce Almighty alongside funny man Jim Carey in 2003, as well as its sequel with Steve Carrell and Evan Almighty four years later.

Freeman won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby in 2005. He then nabbed a role in all three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Freeman will be remembered for his smart and witty portrayal of Lucius Fox in Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Not only that, but he rubbed shoulders with other elites from La La Land such as Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren for Red (2010).

In 2016, President Barack Obama presented the actor with a National Medal of Arts for his “outstanding work as an actor, director and narrator”.

Four children

The now 85-year-old is estimated to have a net worth of around $250 million dollars. It’s a striking contrast to his childhood upbringing.

Freeman first became a father in 1959 with his son Alfonso, who he shares with Loletha Adkins, writes Closer. The following year, he welcomed another son, Saifoulaye. It would be some time before he became a father for the third and fourth time.

Morgan Freeman has been married twice, first to Jeanette Adair Bradshaw between 1967 and 1979, writes Distractify. They share two children, Morgana Freeman and Deena (from Jeanette’s previous relationship), which Freeman eventually adopted as his own.

In 1984, the star married Myrna Colley-Lee, before they divorced in 2010.

Even though the Now You See Me actor keeps his private life away from the spotlight, he has opened up about his children in rare interviews. In 2014, he told The Telegraph that it took him some time to “become a father”.

He explained: “I’m not sure fatherhood changed me. You have to be married to be a father. I sired a couple of kids without being married, but that doesn’t make you a father.”

Freeman added: “It took a while for me to become a father. I was busy trying to be an actor, and the two didn’t really go together in my youth.”

And now he has great-grandchildren and enjoys watching his own children grow their own families.

Morgan Freeman’s granddaughter’s tragic death

However, the Hollywood star faced tragedy when his 33-year-old granddaughter was stabbed to death in 2015, reports the New York Post.

E’Dena Hines was sadly knifed 25 times outsider her apartment in New York by her boyfriend Lamar Davenport.

Hines, who was the granddaughter of Freeman’s first wife, Jeanette, was discovered outside her apartment in the early hours of the morning. Despite the medical team’s best efforts, she sadly passed away at Harlem Hospital, writes USA Today.

Davenport was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in May 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He was ordered that he would also face a further five years under supervision after his release.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr described her death as an “extraordinarily violent crime”. He said at the time: “Ambitious and driven, E’Dena Hines was deeply loved by family and friends before her life was brought to a horrific and tragic end by her boyfriend, Lamar Davenport.”

Freeman also released a statement over the tragic news. He detailed how her star “will continue to shine bright” following her death.

He said: “The world will never know her artistry and talent, and how much she had to offer.

“Her friends and family were fortunate enough to have known what she meant as a person. Her star will continue to shine bright in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. May she rest in peace.”

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Lottie is the Head of Audience for Entertainment and Gaming, working with the teams on HITC, Reality Titbit, The Focus and Freshered. She is passionate about news being accessible to everyone, and focuses on bringing audiences quality content that they enjoy. She loves the art of storytelling, whether that be news, movies or heavy hardback fiction.