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Morgan Freeman Wants To Play Legendary Lawman Bass Reeves

by Cynthia Reid
December 27, 2011 3:44 PM
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Morgan Freeman and Bass Reeves pic

Here's some info I stumbled upon recently.  It seems actor Morgan Freeman has attempted, for at least five years now, to get the story of famous lawman Bass Reeves to the big screen.

So who was Bass Reeves you ask? He's believed to be the first black U.S. Deputy Marshal.  Born a slave in 1838, he was one of the first black federal lawmen west of the Mississippi River that became a legend for his ability to catch criminals under trying circumstances arresting over 3,000.

Here's more detailed info from :

Bass Reeves redefined our perception of a true American hero. Born a slave to a Texas farmer and politician, Reeves fled to Indian Territory in the 1860s to avoid the usual punishment of death for fighting with his master. Reeves lived among the Seminole and Creek Indians until the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing African-Americans from slavery and oppression. Settling in Van Bure, Arkansas, Reeves married, began a family, and tended his farm.

In 1875, Isaac C. Parker - a newly appointed federal judge - set out to tame the Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. James Fagan, the tenth U.S. Marshal appointed the the district, began recruitting 200 deputies to capture fugitives so that Judge Parker's court could administer justice. Bass Reeves was a natural choice because of his intimate knowledge of Indian Territory, his skills in multiple dialects, his markmanship, and his tenacity.

By the time Reeves retired in 1907, this former slave had served 32 years as a federal peace officer, arresting more than 3,000 felons. Reeves finished his law enforcement career as a member of the Muskogee, Oklahoma Police Department.

Reeves was the first African-American inducted into the Great Westerners Hall of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1992.

So far, there's only been one low-budget production depicting the famous frontiersman.  Independent film producer Sharon Ray, also director of the Bare Bones Film Festival in Oklahoma, is in the early stages of developing a project as well.

In 2010, a member of the Bass Reeves Legacy Intiative, a non-profit created to support projects commemorating the life and times of Reeves, had a chance to talk and meet with Freeman which you can see in the video posted below.

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  • Randy | June 26, 2014 8:59 PMReply

    I have a (old origional) cabinet card pic. of Bass Reeves ARMED with 4 indians-may sell at auction--------

  • Marie Gantenbein | September 6, 2013 7:09 PMReply

    I've read a great deal about Bass Reeves through the years. I used him as model for my students for years also when I was a reading teacher. Reeves is one of the finest American heroes we have to put before our youth. Not only was he probably the greatest lawman in the old west but he was also a successful business man. He was able to buy a farm at the end of the Civil War. How? He hired out his tracking skills to the army and the lawmen during the war. This was while he was hiding from possible slave catchers. He had his farm and he bred and raised fine horses that were noted in his area as some of the finest. Then when he became a Deputy Marshall in 1875 he went about it in such an efficient manner that he sometimes made as much as 5-6,000 dollars per trip into the Indian Territory. He paid to have a prison wagon built and hired young men to watch over the wagon and prisoners in the territory while he was hunting criminals. Other marshals had not thought of this. Bass Reeves a great man.
    I would so love to see Mr. Freeman in a film about this hero.

  • Armando Stavole | June 7, 2013 9:46 PMReply

    Weak up and move, or by the great Morgan Freeman or by the other great Denzel Washington( before they get too old), but they have to make this movie in a nice and realistic way. His life history is already a legend of a brave, ethical and straight forward man, doesn't need Tarantino's stretching or "Die hard" action. He is an other great and good example of those ones of the black community. So join forces and do, no more chats!

  • arelious knighton | September 29, 2013 12:54 AM

    Yes both men would be great to play U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves.In this case I will give my nod

    to,Mr.Freeman.Good luck in the selection process.

    Arelious knighton

  • JAH | December 17, 2012 4:17 AMReply

  • James A. House | December 17, 2012 4:16 AMReply

    Bass Reeves Movie

  • Suzanne | April 18, 2012 11:53 AMReply

    Wow, I just learned about Reeves via a podcast ("Stuff You Missed in History Class: 'Who Was the Real Lone Ranger?'"). Five minutes in I was asking myself "Why isn't there a movie about this??!?" I find that there is, but not what I had in mind. This is an amazing story that deserves to be B - I - G. Big stars, big budget, big studio, and big promotion. No big effects, just great acting and drama. I hope Reeves gets the treatment he deserves. I will be first in line to see it!

  • Jug | February 22, 2012 6:57 PMReply

    I love Morgan, but he's wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong for this. Bass was 37 when he became a Federal Marshall. 37! And his career lasted 30 years & he brought 3000 felons to justice, even his own brother. The dude was young & no damn joke! Maybe Morgan circa STREET TIME, but now?!

  • B | May 9, 2012 7:38 PM

    I don't think Morgan will play all of the move as Reeves if it ever goes to production. You know the time line thing they do when the person being portrayed was young then they fast forward to a older him. This makes sense since most of what the Honorable Reeves did was in his later years in his career. I hope this goes to production soon and more actors such as Will, Denzel, Morris, Spike, etc. get on board of this and get some of this.

  • Jug | February 22, 2012 7:57 PM

    But upon further analysis, I think hes just trying to get it made. THAT Im all for, as Im reading a novel about Bass now & hes on my radar. But Morgans trying to be the guy, then my previous statement stands LOL

  • Jug | February 22, 2012 7:35 PM

    Its sad to see a situation where movies won't get cast with a lick of sense and also wont be made to boost a young actors career. Denzel & Morgan should say thanks that CRY FREEDOM and LEAN ON ME didnt go to Sidney.

  • Jug | February 22, 2012 7:33 PM


  • Kathy Calhoun | February 22, 2012 6:22 PMReply

    I think Morgan Fairchild does do a movie on Reed l think it would be fantastic.

  • Miles Ellison | December 29, 2011 8:38 PMReply

    Who would watch this?

  • etomi | December 27, 2011 7:15 PMReply

    If Morgan Freeman is truly interested in honoring this hero - he has the where-with-all to fund this project himself. According to the web, he has a net worth of $90 million. Let me say this again: NINETY MILLION DOLLARS. Nuff said.

  • Donella | January 4, 2012 3:42 PM

    I've given this some thought. I agree that Morgan Freeman has the wherewithall to produce this project. Whether he plans to remain a producer or to produce and portray the lead... either way, he more than anyone else is capable. Perhaps the Bass Reeves Legacy Project, Sharon Ray, and Morgan Freeman could form a stronger coalition together than apart and thus create a more attractive package for investors. Any number of qualified actors (and crew) in the industry would line up to participate. Freeman carries enormous weight in Hollywood due to longevity, talent, and professionalism. He is universally admired in the industry. For example, several years ago, two enormous mainstream projects filmed in Chicago concurrently. Freeman was a supporting actor in both projects. Because Freeman's participation was so important to both projects, the directors created their shooting schedule around Freeman (not the lead actors). Freeman has the wherewithall to produce this project. I truly hope he is successful.

  • Micah | December 28, 2011 5:02 AM

    If Morgan Freeman is worth that, he could possibly put up a few 4-10 mil of his own to get it started but he'd still need some other sold investors. I can't think of any Hollywood-budget level western film being made for less then about $40 million. This story is epic enough to justify that treatment. After that you have to factor in P&A and how you will convince distributors and theater owners that people will pay to see a black western. Maybe if gets Will or Denzel attached they'll go for it. I'm not saying it's impossible but in this day in age it's still a large task. Otherwise we'll have to suffice with another low budget film. It's very difficult to make a quality PERIOD PIECE that may have a lot of solid action in it for a low amount. Authenticity doesn't come cheap. I sure he's counting the cost and trying to work the angles to make it happen.

  • Donella | December 27, 2011 4:42 PMReply

    Now we'll see how the West really was one! I hope Morgan Freeman is successful because it will open more doors for similar stories based on historical fact. Maybe a motion picture on Frederick Douglass won't be too far behind.

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