Born to be Wild - Morgan Freeman
Narrator Morgan Freeman © 2011 Creative Photographers inc

Morgan Freeman, who lent his voice to the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins, is back narrating the beautiful IMAX 3D movie Born to be Wild, which tells the inspired story of the remarkable bond between humans and animals.

The movie follows two incredible women, Dr Birute Mary Galdikas, who saves orphaned orangutans in the rain forests of Borneo, and Dr Dame Daphne M Sheldrick, who rescues baby elephants, rehabilitates them and returns them back to the wild.

I spoke with Morgan Freeman about his love of animals and conservation which is so prevalent in this movie.

You seem to gravitate to these types of films, is that true?

Yes and no. You get calls to do narrations, lots of them, and then once in awhile a project comes along that, to use an overused word, resonates. And when that happens, there you are, you’re hooked and you go with it.

Born to be Wild - Chimp
Chimp sleeping © 2011 Warner Bros

What is it about? What good is it? What use is it to anybody? This particular project is extremely important and well worth doing, because it highlights a couple of ladies whose courage and dedication really should be trumpeted, it also highlights the danger of what we are doing as humans in terms of the rest of the life forms on the planet.

We’re not aware as people what we’re doing, we’re just blithely 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 inherit danger in there that we need to somehow publicize that if we continue the way we’re going in eliminating habitats, eliminating other forms of life, we’re going to be eliminating ourselves. We’re just going to pay the price for that. People think that we’re dominant, so were the dinosaurs.

Has your feelings about animals in zoos or circuses changed since you started narrating these wild life movies?

Born to be Wild - Chimp
Chimp resting © 2011 Warner Bros

No, I long ago lost my childhood fascination with zoos, game reserves are bad enough. Zoos are inhuman, they’re really not for the animals, it’s for us to gawk at a tiger who is cooped up in a cage, there’s nothing good about it. S

o to answer your question, I could say, yes, but it wasn’t doing stuff like this. I don’t know what it was, but it was years ago that I stopped thinking that it was a good thing to cage critters.

Have you had any personal experiences with animals in the wild?

No, I’m an actor. I’ve not gone to the jungles, to Borneo, to Kenya, to anyplace and been involved personally in this, though friends of mine have. I’ve been to the Galapagos, but it was like an American Sportsman type stuff. Those 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.

When you were doing the narration, did you have visuals to look at?

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

What was your reaction to the movie?

Born to be Wild - Elephants
Elephants at the watering hole © 2011 Warner Bros

I think everything about this film is outstanding, I think the photography was 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.

The reason I think that their story is important is because it brings to light the absolute necessity of preservation of other forms of life, of their habitat for heaven sake. What are we doing? We’re turning everything on the planet into food for humans. That can’t be good in the long run. We’d better realize that.

You were talking about your disenchantment with animals in captivity. Would that include animal that perform? Because I know you just did Dolphin Tale, with a very special dolphin?

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 are not captured; they all have something wrong with them. There’s a set of otters in there, one of whose hindquarters is paralyzed. You can go there and visit them, and that helps pay for food, upkeep, but nobody went out and captured them and brought them back to do this.

How long did this take you to record, and do you approach a narration like an acting job?

Born to be Wild - Elephants
Elephants cool off © 2011 Warner Bros, Photo by Drew Fellman

No, when you’re acting in a film you have to memorize the lines. When you’re narrating you just sit in a studio with your glasses on and read. It took maybe an hour or an hour and a half to do. I liked to say it’s really difficult work, but it isn’t (he smiles).

As an actor on screen, parts of the Dark Knight were in IMAX, is there a difference for acting in something that huge?

No, it’s strictly up to the operators. They still have the same job, capturing whatever is going on, but you don’t have to do anything different as an actor.

What’s your favorite animal?

I’ve had a lot of dogs, but I had one dog who 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 as a kid, so when I was able to get horses I couldn’t stop. Some people collect cars, I collect horses.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.