Historically, presidents have generally only interrupted television broadcasts when something of critical importance to the nation has taken place, but sometimes they just do it because they’re excited about a really cool idea they had for a movie and they can’t wait to talk about it. Here are 5 times TV broadcasts have been interrupted by presidents who were super stoked to explain a new concept for a movie they came up with.
1. When Barack Obama announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden and then came back on TV a few minutes later to announce the plot of a rom-com he thought up called ‘Grandma’s Got A Secret’
On May 2nd, 2011, millions of Americans had their evening television broadcast interrupted by a dramatic press conference where President Obama announced that US Navy SEALS had located and killed Osama Bin Laden. After President Obama’s announcement programming returned to normal for 7 minutes. Then Obama came back on TV to say, “One more thing. I’ve been thinking lately about how there really aren’t any films that explore the romantic lives of senior citizens. I think I’ve got an idea for a movie which could help change that. It’s called ‘Grandma’s Got a Secret,’ and it’s about an elderly widow who tries to hide her new lover from her family because she’s afraid of how they’ll handle it. In the end, it turns out her fears were unfounded, and her family welcomes her new lover with open arms despite him being 30 years her junior. The big difference about ‘Grandma’s Got a Secret’ is that is it doesn’t treat the sex lives of old people as a punchline. Sure, there are laughs, but they don’t come from the assumption that the sensuality of the elderly is a gross or uncomfortable thing. I think ‘Grandma’s Got a Secret’ could not only help spur a larger conversation about aging and sex, but become a blockbuster as well.” Obama then gave a quick recap of his earlier speech about the death of Osama Bin Laden in case people had just tuned in, left the podium, and the broadcast returned to normal.
2. When President Donald Trump came on during ‘Judge Judy’ to describe a movie scene he came up with where a firefighter is attacked by his hose
When President Trump haphazardly interrupted ‘Judge Judy’ to talk about an awesome scene he thought of for a movie in May of 2019, it was a truly Trumpian moment. The camera was slightly out of focus, a random staffer stood on camera awkwardly before quickly dashing out of frame, and he gave no indication he was going to be talking about a movie scene. Instead, he launched directly into a long-winded, disjointed description of what he kept referring to as ‘the hose scene,’ as if the millions of television viewers watching were already familiar with what he was referencing. “So, it’s the hose scene,” Trump began. “And the hose is attacking the fireman, and firemen, they have an incredible job. They always do a nice job, firemen. But this fireman, his hose…it’s got it out for him. And it’s not silly, it’s scary. You see a lot with the hoses where the water makes them shoot around like that and it’s a goofy thing but frankly, this is not a funny scene but a scary scene and we will make it very gory and the hose will do incredible damage to the fireman, and honestly, I believe when we shoot the hose scene the fireman is not going to make it. But they have a hard job, firemen, and not all of them can survive a thing like this.” The feed then abruptly cut away as Trump began to speak again and the broadcast returned to ‘Judge Judy.’
3. When JFK kept referencing a nonexistent movie he thought up called ‘War Police’ as if it had already been made during his speech announcing the Cuban missile crisis
JFK had a lot of cool ideas for movies in his tragically short presidential career, but he only talked about one of them during his somber speech announcing the presence of nuclear warheads in Cuba. Throughout that speech, President Kennedy kept referencing a film he had come up with called ‘War Police,’ and on October 22nd, 1962, everyone who had their TV sets turned on to listen to the horrifying speech witnessed JFK on a podium surrounded by poorly-drawn mockups of ‘War Police’ theatrical posters, which depicted a marker sketch of a man’s face split down the middle, one side being a soldier wearing a helmet, the other side being a police officer wearing a uniform cap. The posters had several crossed-out but still visible slogans on them, including ‘From the jungle to the street, War Police never sleep,’ ‘For some soldiers, the battlefield is a police car,’ and ‘Policemen are like the Army.’ JFK spoke of his idea as if it was already a real film, pausing his explanation of the threat that the Russian nuclear arms deployed to Cuba presented to the country, stating, “My new film, War Police, has been released today nationwide to critical and commercial success. The story of handsome police on the gruesome, crime-ridden battlefield of war, it’s a gritty, two-fisted action picture starring myself as Sergeant Captain Crockter Bullows of the War Police. I have prepared for you today a special screening of the first scene.” At that point, JFK walked to the back of the stage, unfurled a movie screen, paused for a moment, began making a sound like a film projector spinning with his mouth and acted out a gun battle without dialog while making shooting and explosion sounds. He then paused again as if he expected applause, then finished his speech on the existential threat Russia now posed to the US.
4. When George H.W. Bush busted onto ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ set to give an impassion speech about his idea for a sequel to ‘Willow’
When George H.W. Bush interrupted Fresh Prince to give his pitch for a sequel to Lucasfilm’s 1988 fantasy epic Willow on the White House steps, he delivered it with more urgency and fiery intensity than any of his other presidential speeches. “Nation,” he began, “for months, I have been horrified at the prospect that we as a country may never see a sequel to Willow unless drastic measures are taken. That is why I have taken it upon myself to envision Willow 2: The Road to Drantcantia. 5 years have passed since small farmer Willow, swordsman Madmartigan, and their Brownie friends, Franjean and Rool, rescued a Daikini child from the evil General Kael. But a curse from a dark wizard named High Cleric Fornchlarndia has turned Madmartigan evil from his castle in the world of dark magic, Drantcantia. Now, with the help of a mythical wand named Orntbrandia, Willow must travel to Drantcantia and defeat the foul magic that has imprisoned the mind of his best friend. Then, at the end, he fights a giant.” Bush then concluded his pitch by shaking hands with the members of the press who were present, as well as all the Fresh Prince cast members. Then he walked off-camera and the episode of Fresh Prince resumed.
5. When Richard Nixon interrupted an episode of Columbo with the idea for Star Wars
Of all of the presidents who have interrupted TV broadcasts to talk about their cool movie ideas, Richard Nixon is the only one who succeeded in having his idea go on to actually get made. On September 17th, 1972, Nixon interrupted a broadcast of the detective series Columbo to deliver a succinct and engaging pitch for a film which he at the time called “Star Empires.” In his speech, Nixon laid out the details of the original Star Wars film, such as the character names and descriptions, specific lines of dialog which went on to be used verbatim in the actual film, and a brief synopsis of the Jedi mythos. Whereas other presidents’ interruptions of TV shows to share their cool ideas for movies were ignored due to how boring they were, viewers thought Nixon’s movie sounded amazing. After Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate scandal, he found himself with enough free time to focus on turning his dream into a reality and Star Empires was released in 1977 under its new title, Star Wars.