The Shawshank Redemption star was handed the prestigious honour to mark a stellar career which has included a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, and an array of notable roles in movies including Invictus, Se7en, Driving Miss Daisy, and The Dark Knight.
He was made the 39th recipient of AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award at a special ceremony at Sony Studios in Culver City, California on Thursday, and several of his peers lined up to praise the veteran actor.
Presenting Freeman with the star-shaped honour, Eastwood said, “He is the most effortless person to be around and to act. I don’t know if it’s proper to love another man, but this is as close as I’m going to get to it.”
Poitier told guests at the event that Freeman is “a prince of the craft of acting”, Jackson branded him “the real thing”, and Forest Whitaker described the actor as an “adviser, a beacon, a confidant, a shoulder to lean on, protector, and friend.”
Tim Robbins, who starred alongside Freeman in acclaimed prison drama The Shawshank Redemption, added, “It was an honour being locked up with you, Morgan.”
After receiving the award, Freeman said, “This is easy to take but hard to believe. Where I come from in Mississippi, they call this walking in high cotton. For me, heaven has always been about acting in the movies. I’m proud to be an actor, although for this one night, you’ve made me feel like a star.”
During the ceremony, guests were also treated to footage of Morgan’s early performances, clips from his most famous movies, and musical tributes from Garth Brooks, Betty White, and Rita Moreno.