Morgan Freeman Pays Touching Tribute to Friend Sidney Poitier: He Was 'My Inspiration'

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Morgan Freeman, a revered actor himself, shared that he, too, was inspired by Sidney Poitier's grace and professionalism.

The 84-year-old Oscar winner paid tribute to the legendary actor who died on Thursday. Morgan took to social media and wrote, "Sidney was my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend. Sending love to Joanna and his family."

Morgan rose to prominence in the 1970s after appearing in the children's television show Electric Company. His breakout role, however, came in Street Smart, which earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1987 for Best Supporting Actor. By then, Poitier had long cemented his place in Hollywood as a driving force, with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 1958 for The Defiant Ones and, in 1964, becoming the first Black man to win in that category for his role in Lilies of the Field

With Poitier serving as his inspiration, Freeman would go on to earn Oscar nominations for Best Actor in 1989 for his role in Driving Miss Daisy, and again in 1994, for The Shawshank Redemption. Then, in 2004, Freeman scored his first Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Million Dollar Baby. The Oscar for Best Actor, however, proved elusive once more in 2009 (Invictus).

It was another Poitier admirer, however, who would become the second Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor. Denzel Washington notched the win in 2002 for his role in Training Day. Washington, in a statement to ET following Poitier's passing, said, "It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family."

On the night he accepted his Oscar, Washington stood at the podium and acknowledged Poitier, whom he presented with an Honorary Award earlier that evening. The acknowledgement drew a rousing ovation and brought Poitier to his feet.

"Forty years, I've been chasing Sidney," Washington said. "They finally give it to me, what [do] they do? They give it to him the same night." 

Halle Berry, the first Black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2002, also paid tribute to Poitier, saying, in part, "In your ninety-four years on this planet, you left an indelible mark with your extraordinary talent, paving the way for Black people to be seen and heard in the fullness of who we are."

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