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Sunday, March 9, 2014
Morgan & Me
by Yu Shing Ting
Invictus director Clint Eastwood gives instructions to Morgan Freeman
and Matt Damon.
Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman returns to the big screen this week with a new movie Invictus, playing the role of Nelson Mandela in a true story of how the newly elected president joined forces with the captain of South Africas rugby team, the Springboks, to help unite their country as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup championship match.
Freeman will no doubt give a great performance. But what the audience wont see is his personal staff working beside him throughout filming, including local girl Cathie Valdovino, who works as his costume supervisor.
Freeman lives in Charleston, Miss., but according to Valdovino, his team, which includes a driver, security, makeup artist, stand-in, stunt double, hair stylist and assistant, are from all over the world.
This is the best job I ever had in my life, says Valdovino, 57, who is of Filipino-Scot-Dutch-Cherokee ancestry.
Morgan is the most honorable person Ive ever met. Hes the most respected person and hes easy to work with. People just love him.
Valdovino and Freeman spent 12 weeks in Africa earlier this year for the filming of Invictus. It was her first time to Africa, but working for Freeman has taken her around the globe. They worked together on Million Dollar Baby (in Los Angeles), Batman Begins and Dark Knight (Chicago, London and Hong Kong), Wanted (Prague), Gone Baby Gone (Boston), Bucket List (Virginia) and more.
Invictus executive producer Tim Moore with Cathie and Morgan in
Capetown, South Africa.
From the moment I arrive, the limo picks me up and its first-class all the way, says Valdovino on what these work trips are like. When my driver picks me up, he hands me a cell phone thats local and cash.
Valdovino and Freeman initially met through mutual friends. Then, when Freeman was in Hawaii to film The Big Bounce in 2002, he needed a new costumer, and Valdovino applied for the job.
She got the job, and the two have been working together ever since.
I called (Valdovino) and asked what she was doing and said how would you like to work for me? recalls Freeman. As my costume supervisor, she takes care of my costumes on set. Shes very into what she does, likes clothes and even designs some of the costumes herself. Weve become great friends.
For this exclusive interview with MidWeek, Freeman called at about 2:30 a.m. CST from Memphis, where he co-owns the nightclub Ground Zero Blues Club. Im a night person, he explains the late-night interview.
For Invictus, Freeman serves as one of the lead actors (along with Matt Damon) and co-producer. It also is his first film following a 2008 car accident in Mississippi where rescuers reportedly used a jaws-of-life machine to free him and a passenger from the car.
Im doing pretty good now, says Freeman. My bones and things have healed, but I suffered some nerve damage in my left arm and my left hand is paralyzed.
Despite the injuries, Freeman, 72, is not planning to slow down anytime soon - whether its in front of the camera or behind.
Ive been trying to get into movies just about all my life, so just the fact that you made it (is what Im most proud of), says Freeman. My goal is to continue to produce movies, primarily movies that impart unknown information like how Glory (about an African-American Civil War unit) did. Its my favorite movie because its just historically accurate and nobody really knew about it.
I want to do movies that entertain and teach a bit of history. And I always want one thing when I do a job, and thats that people come and see it and dont ask for their money back.
When hes not working, Freeman, who is not a fan of cold weather, is most likely sailing in the Caribbean.
Im a sailor and Hawaii does not have good sailing water, answers Freeman on when his next trip to Hawaii would be. But my friend Clint Eastwood (Invictus director) has a home on Maui and Im envious.
I just thought about it and (a trip to Hawaii) is not a bad idea. But I have no idea when that will be.
Cathie Valdovino at work in her Honolulu home.
Valdovino was born in Stockton, Calif., and raised in Sacramento before moving to San Francisco, New York and then finally to Hawaii in 1980.
At the time, Valdovino was working as an off-Broadway costumer in New York. A show she was with was scheduled to go to France, but then got canceled at the last minute. Unsure of what to do next, her father suggested she move to Hawaii to take care of an aunt whose husband had just passed away.
When she arrived, Valdovino struggled to get a job in the fashion industry and instead found work doing promotions for radio station KGU and later in sales for MidWeek.
Then she joined the Hawaii Local 665 (the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and eventually started working in the costume department for Hawaii Opera Theatre and then for Baywatch Hawaii.
Valdovino, the mother of four children - Auriel, Aiala, Samantha and Ken - now lives in Manoa with partner Terence Yorga.
When shes not on the road with Freeman, Valdovino works with various local productions, such as Lost. This year, she also worked with visiting shows Saltimbanco and Mamma Mia!
My dream is to win an Oscar, says Valdovino, who also works as a costume designer for Freemans company Revelations Entertainment.
In Invictus, Freeman has the most costumes and the most scenes. On set, Valdovinos responsibilities include prepping his trailer and getting all the clothes ready for him when he arrives.
And my job is continuity, she adds. I have to take photos of all the scenes because we dont shoot in order of the movie, we shoot by sets, so I have to make sure that the clothes are exactly the same from scene to scene. I have to make sure its the same outfit and Im responsible for putting it on him.
Working for Freeman is the best job ever. As a designer youre usually
alone, but with Morgan its a team. From the moment we arrive, its