Biden's SOTU prep: Calling on Hollywood's presidents for some tips

When President Joe Biden prepped for his State of the Union Address, he knew he needed that Freeman-rizz.
President Joe Biden in a Zoom call with Michael Douglas, Geena Davis, Bill Pullman, Morgan Freeman and Tony Goldwyn.
Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 07, 2024

Let's face it, if anyone can leave you in tears with their words, it's got to be Morgan Freeman.

So, when President Joe Biden geared up to deliver his big State of the Union Address, he knew he needed some serious inspiration, and tapped into his inner student and sought out wisdom from the masters of presidential speeches — well, sort of.

President Biden had a chat with some of Hollywood's finest — Morgan Freeman, Bill Pullman, Tony Goldwyn, Geena Davis and Michael Douglas, all of whom know a thing or two about playing fictional presidents on the big and small screens.

“I’ve never spoken to so many presidents all at one time,” President Biden joked. “Some of you might know what a big speech like I have to do is coming up, the State of the Union. Any advice you have for me in my delivering of my speech?”

As expected, Morgan, who played President Tom Beck in the 1998 film "Deep Impact," kicked off the lecture by delivering powerful words that, frankly, left me, the writer of this article, a bit misty-eyed.

"Well, sir, in my capacity as president, all I had to deal with was a meteor,” Morgan said jokingly. “One of the things that I came out of that within my speech to people — hope. Hope is the strongest force we have in this country. It is the most useful and the most effective. My advice is, just keep telling us how you’re working for us and building hope."

Naturally, chatting with a bunch of actors will always bring a dash of drama.

Goldwyn, the actor behind President Fitzgerald Grant III in the ABC series "Scandal," who was definitely no saint in the show, confessed straight off the bat: "Well, Mr. President, you know, looking back at my own presidency I behaved very badly in a lot of situations." He then brought out a gem of a quote from his time as a fictional president: "Tell them that you exist for them. Tell them that they make you a better man." However, being the mischievous character we love, he playfully suggested to the actual U.S. President that he should unwind with a glass of red wine, only to follow up with a quip about maybe sticking to ice cream instead.

"Commander in Chief" actor Davis joked that she knows the challenges of being president because she had a new crisis to handle every week during her tenure.

“I do feel I should just point out one thing, it always bears remembering,” Davis told Mr. Biden. “There’s no crying in politics.”

To which President Biden quickly replied, "Well, what I hope is my politics doesn't make anybody else cry."

Then it was time for Douglas, who played  President Andrew Shepherd in the 1995 film "The American President," and said that the most important thing he learned from his presidency was that having a "loving partner changes everything."

"Love and compassion as a leader are strengths, they're not weaknesses, and they're key to your character," Douglas  said. "So let that shine through in your speech. And don't forget to save a dance for the first lady in the East room."

To wrap up the lecture with a bang, Pullman, who portrayed President Thomas J. Whitmore addressing the nation during the alien attack in the classic “Independence Day,” joked that it was a relief to "watch somebody else have to get it all together" for a change instead of them.

While Pullman admitted that his speech wasn’t all that great, he did want to let President Biden know that “we can’t be consumed by our petty differences, and we will be united in our common interests. When people look at all that you’ve managed to do, they’re going to remember, time will remember, always, the importance of your words when you say that thing about, ‘There’s nothing that we can’t do when we do it together.'"

To see if those iconic vibes got under his skin, watch President Biden address the nation on the Capitol stage Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.