The Magic of Belle Isle - Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen
Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) and Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) © 2012 Magnolia Pictures

In his new dramedy The Magic of Belle Isle, Morgan Freeman reunites with director Rob Reiner (The Bucket List), portraying Monte Wildhorn, an alcoholic writer, confined to a wheelchair, who has given up on his career and life.

When he rents a lakeside cabin in a small town in upstate New York, he encounters his next door neighbors, Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) and her three daughters, who help him find love and his inspiration again.

Was the chemistry between you there from the very beginning?

The Magic of Belle Isle - Emma Fuhrmann and Morgan Freeman
Finnegan O’Neil (Emma Fuhrmann) and Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) © 2012 Magnolia Pictures

Morgan: Virginia’s got my back, and I’ve got her back. That’s the way it was throughout the film. She’s a lovely woman, a great actress, wonderful to play with.

Virginia: There’s something about our performance together that became poetic. And that’s very rare. You have all different kinds of relationships when you work. And once in a while you get to the point where it feels artistic, where it feels like we’re flying. And he did that for me from day one.

How did being in a wheelchair affect your performance?

The Magic of Belle Isle - Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen
Wheel chair bound Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) and his dog © 2012 Magnolia Pictures

Morgan: It doesn’t affect the actor, it affects the character because part of his anger is that he’s stuck in this wheelchair when he was a very outstanding athlete in his youth.

He thinks it’s not worth it and he’ll just kill himself with drink. The main catalyst for his drinking and dropping out in general was the loss of his wife who he really loved dearly.

I loved the fact that when Monte and Charlotte’s relationship starts to evolve, nobody in the movie, even Charlotte’s children, raise objections to the fact of the racial difference. Do you think we’ve moved beyond that in movies now?

The Magic of Belle Isle - Morgan Freeman and director Rob Reiner
Morgan Freeman and director Rob Reiner © 2012 Magnolia Pictures

Virginia: I don’t think anybody will while watching the movie either, because it’s really about two people. This goes beyond race, beyond the handicapped, beyond age.

Morgan: The story doesn’t deal with it, because really it’s not there. It wasn’t written to be there, so why take it there?

Charlotte gives Monte a passionate kiss. I read the idea for that came from you, Virginia. Is that true?

Morgan: That’s all to Virginia’s credit and an example of what a creative actress she is. She was in the driver’s seat on that whole thing.

The Magic of Belle Isle - Virginia Madsen
Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) © 2012 Magnolia Pictures

Virginia: That’s what was happening in the scene. It was getting toward the end of production, and it was very emotional for me, and the scene was very emotional, because I saw it as a romantic love story.

As it started to become more and more of that as we were filming, it was apparent that there was a lot more weight to that scene than just a kiss on the forehead. This might be the last time that I ever see this man that I’m falling in love with. And it just happened.

Morgan: It was the perfect reaction to the moment.

On the kissometer, how is he?

Virginia: From one to ten, he’s an eleven.

Morgan: For her, eleven-and-a-half!

Judy Sloane

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