Mississippian takes supporting-actor Oscar

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – Mississippi native Morgan Freeman won the supporting-actor Academy Award on Sunday for his portrayal of a worldly wise ex-prizefighter in Clint Eastwood's boxing saga “Million Dollar Baby.”

Freeman, who resides in the Clarksdale area, became just the ninth black actor to win out of nearly 300 recipients in the 77-year history of the Oscars, joining such supporting-performer winners as Cuba Gooding Jr. for “Jerry Maguire,” Whoopi Goldberg for “Ghost” and Louis Gossett Jr. for “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

“I want to thank everybody and anybody who ever had anything at all to do with the making of this picture. But I especially want to thank Clint Eastwood for giving me the opportunity to work with him again,” said Freeman, who previously co-starred in Eastwood's “Unforgiven.”

Freeman's win set up a record-tying night for black performers, with Jamie Foxx expected to take the best-actor prize for the Ray Charles tale “Ray.” It would be only the second time blacks have won two of the four acting Oscars, following Denzel Washington and Halle Berry's triumph three years ago for “Training Day” and “Monster's Ball.”

Unlike last year, when “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” dominated the awards as expected and flat-out front-runners took all four acting prizes, the 77th Oscars shaped up as a mixed bag, with only Foxx a virtual lock to win.

With no huge hits among top nominees, Oscar organizers worried that TV ratings could dwindle for the live ABC broadcast. The Oscars tend to draw their biggest audiences when blockbusters such as “Titanic” or “Return of the King” are in the mix, stoking viewer interest.

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