JACKSON, Miss. Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman was hospitalized in serious condition Monday after the car he was driving left a rural road in the Mississippi Delta and flipped several times.
Freeman, 71, was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., about 90 miles north of the accident in rural Tallahatchie County.
The actor "has a broken arm, broken elbow and minor shoulder damage, but is in good spirits," according to a statement from Donna Lee, Freeman's publicist. A hospital spokeswoman said Freeman was in serious condition but would not discuss his injuries.
"He is having a little bit of surgery this afternoon or tomorrow to help correct the damage," Lee's statement said. "He says he'll be OK and is looking forward to a full recovery."
Freeman, who won an Oscar for his role in "Million Dollar Baby," is among the stars in "The Dark Knight," now in theaters. His screen credits also include "Driving Miss Daisy."
Freeman and a companion were traveling on a dark, two-lane highway that cuts through the expansive farmlands of the Mississippi Delta when the car ran off the side of the road shortly before midnight Sunday, authorities said. The vehicle flipped several times but landed upright in a ditch alongside Mississippi Highway 32, about 5 miles west of Charleston, not far from where Freeman owns a home with his wife.
Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Ben Williams said rescuers had to use the jaws of life to remove Freeman from the car.
"He was lucid, conscious. He was talking, joking with some of the rescue workers at one point," said Clay McFerrin, editor of Sun Sentinel in Charleston, who arrived at the scene soon after the accident happened.
McFerrin said it appeared Freeman's car was airborne when it left the highway.
Bystanders converged on the accident scene trying to get a glimpse of the actor, McFerrin said.
When one person tried to snap a photo with a cell phone camera, Freeman joked, "no freebies, no freebies," McFerrin said.
Williams said Freeman was driving a 1997 Nissan Maxima that belonged to Demaris Meyer of Memphis.
"There's no indication that either alcohol or drugs were involved," Williams said. He said both Freeman and Meyer were wearing seat belts. The woman's condition was not immediately available.
Freeman was born in Memphis, Tenn., but spent much of his childhood in the Mississippi Delta. He is a co-owner of the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale.
"I'm definitely concerned," country singer and fellow Mississippian Steve Azar, whose video for his hit "Waitin' on Joe" featured Freeman, said Monday. The two have also worked charity events together. "He's been the best ambassador our state has ever had."
"He could live anywhere in the world and he came back home," Azar said. "I just think it shows a lot about him as a person and how grounded he is."
The hospital where Freeman is being treated is commonly known as The Med, and is an acute-care teaching facility that serves patients within 150 miles of Memphis.