President Barack Obama isn’t pleased that Morgan Freeman frequently plays presidents in his movies.
The Oscar-winning actor was among this year’s recipients of the National Medals of Arts and Humanities but was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony at the White House. In explaining Freeman’s absence, Obama joked that he “undoubtedly is off playing a black president again.”
“He never lets me have my moment,” Obama added, drawing laughs from the audience.
Each year, the president awards the medals to influential cultural figures, who are recognized for their contributions to the arts and humanities, as they “lift up our identities and make us see ourselves in each other,” Obama said at Thursday’s ceremony. “Today’s honorees each possess a gift for this type of creative empathy ... to identify with our collective experience as Americans.”
Interestingly, Freeman has only played the president once, in the 1998 science fiction film “Deep Impact,” though in 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” he plays House Speaker Allan Trumbull, who becomes acting president when the real president is taken hostage.
Freeman, however, frequently portrays authoritative characters. Last year, he played the chief justice of the Supreme Court on the TV series “Madam Secretary.” He also played God in “Bruce Almighty” and its sequel “Evan Almighty,” and his distinctive “voice of God” lands him roles narrating documentaries and commercials, including campaign ads for both Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
In addition to Freeman, this year’s medal recipients included comedian Mel Brooks, journalist and historian Isabel Wilkerson, actress and singer Audra McDonald, composer Philip Glass, chef José Andrés, and the host of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Terry Gross, known for her probing interviews of cultural figures.
Brooks, the director of legendary comedies like “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles,” naturally had a joke prepared. When he went to receive his medal, Brooks pretended to pull Obama’s pants down.
Introducing Gross, Obama quipped that the honorees were “Terry Gross, and a whole bunch of people who Terry Gross has interviewed.”
See photos from the event below: