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LAist Interview: Morgan J. Freeman

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Ten years ago Long Beach native Morgan J. Freeman was minding his own business in film school back east. Doing what everyone else in his class did, he submitted his thesis film "Hurricane Streets" to Sundance for competition. Not only was it accepted - alongside the "real" movies - but it won three awards at the festivall: Morgan won best director, the cinematographer won for best cinematography, and the film got the audience award for best dramatic film.

Tonight IFC premieres "Hurricane Streets" at 7:45pm, and since I went to college with Morgan back in the day, I emailed him some questions whaddya know he emailed back answers. He also emailed some stills from his latest film "Just Like The Son" that re-unites Freeman with Brendan Sexton III, and Hurricane producer Gill Holland.

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LAist: "Hurricane Streets" is hitting its 10 year anniversary. Is that why the Independent Film Channel is premiering it tonight or was it a happy accident?

Morgan J. Freeman: I have no idea. Either way, I'm stoked to see my first born is playing in the streets again. Especially because the distributor, MGM/UA, has not released the film on DVD yet so it's not readily available for most homes anymore. The film is only available on VHS. I'm hopeful they'll release it soon.

This was your first feature after grad school or did you do this while at NYU?

I made it as my thesis film. We were instructed not to make features as our thesis, but I'd been watching a lot of anti-hero films like "Easy Rider" and "Bonnie and Clyde", so I decided to go against the norm. I kid, sort of... the project just fell together in a way I couldn't deny.

You grew up in Long Beach and got your undergrad degree at UC Santa Barbara. Was it difficult for you to place these kids in the NYC setting that is pretty different than the environment that you knew best?

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No. I took the characters from my Long Beach teen years and transplanted them into my current NYC East Village neighborhood. Nearly all the locations in the film were places I frequented. Lucy's bar was my local watering hole. Marcus' apartment was my apartment. His roof was my roof. The school was on my corner, etc. But the coming-of-age themes were lifted from the west coast.