Contributed by Krystal Clark, Entertainment Reporter for
April 2, 2011

What do actors Donald Sutherland, James Earl Jones, and Morgan Freeman have in common? They've each appeared on Broadway, they've all won Golden Globe Awards, and they're all professional narrators. Out of this distinct group, Freeman has become the most active, lending his pipes to countless commercials, television specials, and documentaries. He even replaced Walter Cronkite as the voiceover introduction to the CBS Evening News. Freeman exudes authority. When he talks, people listen, which is why he's become the go-to guy for films highlighting global and humane issues.

Freeman's latest labor of love is Born to Be Wild, an amazing 3D documentary about two women fighting to preserve elephants and orangutans within their natural habitats. The film is directed by David Lickley and follows the day-to-day struggles of Dr. Birute Galdikas and Dr. Daphne Sheldrick. Galdikas dwells in the rainforests of Borneo where she rescues, raises, and re-releases orangutans into the wild, while in the dry terrain of Kenya, Sheldrick applies those same principles to abandoned elephants. Both women focus specifically on injured and orphaned creatures that have been left to fend for themselves once their parents have been killed via poachers or forest fires.

Born to Be Wild was shot using 3D IMAX cameras, which fully submerges viewers into the exotic world these animals inhabit. The vibrant visuals paired with Freeman's striking vocals make for an unbeatable combination.

We recently attended the press day for Born to Be Wild, where Freeman happily discussed his passion for animals and the environment. Also, if you've been wondering how he chooses his voiceover projects, he finally revealed his highly selective process.

MEDIA: Do you naturally gravitate towards these types of films, such as March of the Penguins and Born to Be Wild?

MORGAN: Yes and no. You get calls to do narrations, lots of them, and once in a while a project comes along that--to use an overused word--resonates. When that happens, you know you're hooked and you go with it. What is it about? What good is it? What use is it to anybody? This particular project I think is extremely important and well worth doing because, number one, it highlights a couple of ladies whose courage and dedication really should be trumpeted. It also highlights the dangers of what we're doing as humans in terms of the rest of the life forms on the planet. We're not aware as people. We're just lightly going along eliminating habitats, killing off other creatures in order for us to have more room to grow, more food for more of us. There is an inherent danger in there that we need to somehow publicize. If we continue the way we're going, eliminating habitats, eliminating other forms of life, we're going to be eliminating ourselves. I mean, we're just going to pay the price for that. People think that we're dominant. So were the dinosaurs.

Has doing these films changed your opinion about animal actors being used in movies?

No, I long ago lost my childhood fascination with zoos. Game preserves are bad enough, but zoos are inhuman. They're really not for the animals. They're for us to gawk at a tiger cooped up in a cage. There's nothing good about it. But to answer your question, I could say, well, yes, but it wasn't doing stuff like this. I don't know what it was. It was many years ago that I stopped thinking that it was a good thing to cage critters.

Have you ever had your own personal, hands-on experience with a wild animal in a conservation situation?

No, no, I'm an actor, that's really all I do. I've not gone to the jungle, to Borneo, to Kenya, or to any place and been involved personally in this, though friends of mine have. But this is always by invitation, going to observe the gorillas. I've been to the Galapagos. I've been there but it's like American-type sports stuff. This is a place where those types of creatures are ultimately protected. You're not allowed to do anything there. You can go and you can look around, but don't deal with them. They don't deal with you either, so that's perfect.

What have you learned about orangutans and elephants while working on this film?

The only thing I've learned about orangutans I learned a long time ago, and that is that we are pushing them out--we're just destroying their habitats. There are just a few of them left and that's about all the useful information I have about orangutans.

When you were narrating, did you have any visuals while you were recording?

No, I don't recall that I had any visuals while I was narrating. It's hard to look up and read, and look up and read. I saw the film before I narrated it.

What did you think of the film after you saw it?

[jokes] Oh, it was nothing. It was meaningless. [laughs] What did you think of it? I think everything about this film was outstanding. I think the photography was just really, really beautiful, and I think putting it in IMAX and in 3D was inspired. I think the story of these ladies is so important to the rest of us. And the reason I think their story's important is because it brings to light a necessity. The absolute necessity of preservation of other forms of life--of their habitat, for heaven's sake. What are we doing? We're turning everything in the world into food for humans. That can't be good in the long run. It's going to be detrimental to us. We better realize that.

What issues or causes are very important to you?

Well, this is one. I read this guy named Daniel Quinn, he wrote three books: Ishmael, The Story of B, and My Ishmael. In these books, he introduces the term "the tyranny of agriculture." Think about that. The tyranny of agriculture that means what he says. We're turning everything on the planet into food for humans. We're cutting down the rainforests, the lungs of the planet, we're destroying in order to grow food for humans. Forget the other creatures that live there and what they need. We need to think about that.

You spoke about being disenchanted with seeing animals in zoos. Does that extend to using them in films as well? For instance, you have Dolphin Tale, which you've been working on. I imagine for that they used an animal that was trained to hit its mark...

No, that animal that we used was the animal whose tail was amputated and the prosthetic tail was created for. The creatures in this movie are all rescued. They're not captured, they've been rescued, and they all have something wrong with them. There's a set of otters in there whose hindquarters are paralyzed. You can go there and you can visit them and it helps pay for food, upkeep, and keeping their environment clean and stuff like that. Nobody captured them to bring them back to do this.

When you do a narration, how long does it take you to record? When do you record, and do you approach narration the same way you do acting?

No, when you're acting in a film, you have to memorize. When you're narrating, you just sit in the studio, put your glasses on, and read. It took maybe an hour, hour and a half to do. I'd like to say it's really difficult work, but it isn't.

Do you plan on visiting the two national parks mentioned in the movie anytime in the near future?

Do I plan to visit? I don't have any plans to visit. However, the first opportunity I get, I'm there. I've been to...I don't know if you've ever heard of the Okavango Delta in Botswana? It's a very interesting place. It's on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, but it's a place where when it rains in the mountains of Angola maybe two, three hundred miles away, that water filters all the way down into Botswana into this lowland and creates an oasis. And it happens, I think, annually. If you had a high view, you could see hoards of animals coming to this water. It's an amazing sight. It's an amazing place because of the diversity of critters there. Where there is food, there are creatures. That's the one place I've been.

As an actor, you've previously worked with IMAX in The Dark Knight. Do you approach an IMAX film differently than a traditional one?

No, it's strictly up to the operators. They still have the same job to capture whatever is going on. You don't have to do anything different as an actor. Ask the orangutans.

What's your favorite animal?

I've had a lot of dogs, but I had one dog that was a malamute, one of the smartest creatures on the entire planet. And I have horses. I love horses. I used to ride a broomstick when I was a kid, so when I was able to get horses, I couldn't stop. Some people collect cars and rare things, I collect horses.

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