Morgan Freeman arrived in D.C. for an awards dinner without anyone noticing

July 28
Actor Morgan Freeman and William “Bro” Adams, the newly appointed chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. (Photo Courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities)
Actor Morgan Freeman and William “Bro” Adams, the newly appointed chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. (Photo Courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities)

Cold e-mailing an uber-famous person is usually not only an exercise in futility, but could seem a tad stalkerish. That didn’t stop Judy Havemann, the communications director for the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was a shot in the dark, sure. But what was the worst that could happen?

“Then I got a call and this voice says, ‘This is Morgan Freeman,’ ” Havemann said.

After the initial shock, Havemann invited Freeman, a longtime supporter of the NEH (he narrated a 1999 short film about the government agency), to deliver the keynote address at a black-tie dinner celebrating the winners of the 2013 National Humanities Medals.

According to Havemann, Freeman’s reply was swift: “What time do you need me there?”

On Saturday, the Oscar winner flew to D.C. on his private plane, arrived at a local hotel and wrote the speech he would deliver on Sunday night to 100 guests, including the 2013 National Humanities Medals honorees and their families, at the Willard Hotel ballroom.

When someone suggested Freeman refer to the Oscar-winning film “Glory” in which he starred, the actor immediately nixed the reference. He wanted the evening to be about the importance of the arts and, most of all, the medalists–literary critic M. H. Abrams; historians David Brion Davis, Darlene Clark Hine, and Anne Firor Scott; East Asian scholar William Theodore de Bary; architect Johnpaul Jones, filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Jr.; radio hosts Diane Rehm and Krista Tippett; and the historical organization, the American Antiquarian Society.

Sporting a black-on-black tuxedo Freeman, who is currently starring with Scarlett Johansson in the film “Lucy,” shook hands and posed for pictures long past his call time on Sunday night, but missed Monday’s big photo opp with President Obama. Freeman skipped town ahead of the flashbulbs at White House’s official awards ceremony.

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