Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Freeman studied acting at Los Angeles City College after a five-year stint in the Air Force. A true Renaissance man, he has done it all, from Broadway to children's television, soap operas and finally, starring roles in big budget features. He made his Broadway debut opposite Pearl Bailey in an all-black revival of Hello Dolly in 1968, and later gained broad exposure as Easy Reader in Educational TV's The Electric Company. "I discovered at 12 I was born to pretend," he says. "I studied ballet, tap, jazz -- I could do all the moves. And I had singing lessons. I can do it all. I am show business!"
On the big screen from the early 1970s, Freeman made his breakthrough into big budget films with Brubaker (1980), starring Robert Redford. He won the National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Award for Street Smart (1987), and was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his inspiring performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and although he didn't win the statuette, he won a Golden Globe award for his work in the film, as well as a Silver Berlin Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival, an Image Award and a National Board of Review award. "I don't think of acting as a creative endeavor," Freeman says. "We're more craftsmen, because we don't create from nothing."
For his role as Red in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Freeman received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. He won an Empire Award as Best Actor for Se7en (1995), and in 2000, he received an Outstanding Achievement in Acting award at the Hollywood Film Festival as well as the Joseph Plateau Life Achievement Award at the Flanders International Film Festival. From the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, and got a well-deserved Star on the Walk of Fame on March 18, 2003. Now in his sixties, Freeman continues to work non-stop, winning awards and critical acclaim for nearly every performance. For Million Dollar Baby (2004), he received his fourth Oscar nomination and his first win.
Married to Myrna Colley-Lee since 1984, Freeman has two children with her and two children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1979.