Together: Did you have any hesitation in taking a role in this movie because it’s a remake of a classic movie?
Freeman: No! All the more reason to do it. It’s a reimagining of a story that’s already been told three or four times. At least twice before in movies. I worked with Timur before. I know he’s very innovative when it comes to special effects and stuff like that. I couldn’t see how it was not going to be an exciting adventure.
How much does the costume – in this case wearing the dreadlocks – inform your character?
I took the job mainly because I got to wear these terrific costumes and wear this extraordinary hair. You take work primarily because it’s going to pay you because that’s your profession. That’s how you do it. And it’s going to somehow fulfill something in you, work-wise. It’s all right to say I enjoy wearing the costumes. It’s part of the job.
Wasn’t it hot wearing the wig?
It wasn’t at all. It was very comfortable. The man who created the wig is the same guy who created for Driving Miss Daisy, interestingly enough. He’s one of those Italians whose family has been making wigs for generations. They’re very good at it. The first day I got to the set, you go and get your final costume fitting and get hair and makeup. I was going to try this wig on and see how I like it.
What was it like working with the horses? None of them got hurt, right?
No. Of course not. That would be an absolute no-no. Nobody is going to rent horses to you today with the idea that you’re going to do something (bad) to them. The ASPCA watches what happens on set. You can’t even hurt a cockroach on a movie set. Did you know that? When we were making Se7en, in the scene about the gluttony guy, I shone my light on the cockroaches, and there was a cockroach wrangler. You do not hurt anything that you use in a movie. If it lives, it had better be alive when you are done. I am as serious! That includes maggots!
There was a scene where you were shooting and the horses were misbehaving and you had to reshoot that scene?
The only animals I remember not cooperating were the camels. We were trying to shoot this one caravan scene. It was going to be a mile-long scene of donkeys, camels and people and the camels did not cooperate. (He laughs.) There were six or seven guys trying to control these camels and they were having none of it. It’s clear that they didn’t want to deal with humans.