What Betty White Had to Say About Turning 100 (Exclusive)

ET spoke with the late actress ahead of what would have been her 100th birthday about the major milestone.

Betty White had just one wish for her 100th birthday -- to spend it with Robert Redford. While the actress and comedian sadly died on Dec. 31, 2021 at the of 99, she was looking forward to the big day and possibly spending it with the All The President's Men actor.

In ET's last interview with White, she spoke about the momentous milestone and shared how she was feeling ahead of her 100th birthday celebration on Jan. 17.

"[I'm] amazed," the Golden Girls actress said. "No, seriously, I’m the luckiest broad on two feet to be as healthy as I am and to feel as good as I do!"

In fact, White said she felt so good that she was planning to celebrate her birthday with a once-in-a-lifetime movie event, Betty White: A Celebration. The film, which was set to premiere on White's birthday Monday, will be released as planned (for one day only).

Betty White: A Celebration, will debut in 1500 movie theaters nationwide on Monday at 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. (all times local). While additional times may be available, Fathom Events encourages fans to check their participating theater for showtimes. Tickets to the celebration are available at fathomevents.com.

White teased her excitement for the film in a press release last month, in which she announced the project.

"Who doesn’t love a party?!? This one is gonna be GREAT!" she said. The film will take a look at her long and successful career with new interviews with White herself, behind-the-scenes clips of her work, funniest moments on The Golden Girls, hosting Saturday Night LiveHot in ClevelandThe ProposalThe Mary Tyler Moore Show, and a lost episode from White's very first sitcom.

It'll feature a host of special guests that include Ryan Reynolds, Tina Fey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Leno, Carol Burnett, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Valerie Bertinelli, James Corden, Wendy Malick and Jennifer Love Hewitt, among many others.

The film also gives insight into how White wanted to be remembered. In a clip from the celebratory movie, White shared that she wants to be thought of as an optimist, like her late mother, Tess Curtis White.

"She was a cock-eyed optimist," White said of her mother. "She always made the point that if you look at those negatives, you spoil all the good stuff, and it goes by and it's gone and you haven't tasted it. And I really believe in that philosophy. If you don't at least notice it and accentuate the good stuff, when the bad, really tragic stuff comes along it makes it tough to handle."

"When you find something let's say funny or enjoyable, the whole body has a different attitude, it relaxes," she continued. "And that's gotta be healthy to have that aspect as opposed to the tension and the worry. I think optimism has a lot to do with it. And I learned that at my mom's knee, and my dad's."

While the documentary will still be celebratory in nature, the film will shift a bit from its original incarnation as a birthday celebration into a tribute to White's incomparable life and career. The film's producer, Steve Boettcher, said that it will show fans a side of White that was genuine and personal.

"I think what's fun about the film is that it shows Betty in kind of quiet moments. Betty at home, Betty with a few friends, Betty with animals, and it kind of shows maybe another side of Betty. Off the stage and out of the limelight, but still the Betty we all know and love," Boettcher said. "You know, what I think really defines Betty is how genuine she is and I think it's something you can't fake and in a business that's sometimes maybe challenging, she has risen above it all. I think she's genuine with her fans, genuine with cast members, and I think that really has served her well."

Home is where White spent her final days, and her final years, as she weathered the pandemic from her Los Angeles residence. Her longtime agent, Jeff Witjas, told ET that's where she was most comfortable. "She really is a homebody, so towards the end of her life, she spent most of her life at home, almost all of it. She was very comfortable. It was her home," he said.

When asked if White understood how much she was loved by all, Witjas said, "I think she had an idea, but I kept cementing it into her, to be honest, because I would get a lot of emails and calls about her and I would tell her, even during the COVID period, I said, 'Betty, I am still getting calls for you for offers, the fans are still clamoring for you. You are loved.'"

It's something White knew, deep down, and something Witjas always assured her of.

"People say about Betty that she is a national treasure. I say she's an international treasure because people all over the world loved her, and she knew," he relayed. "I made sure because I did not want to feel during those down days being home that she felt lonely that no one really cared about her anymore. And I would not have that, and I always told the truth to Betty, always."

Just days ahead of her death, as part of the documentary film, White filmed a final message for her fans, thanking them for their love and support all these years.

"On Dec. 20, she did a short little video for us... it was kind of a tribute to her fans that were going to be with her at the event," Boettcher shared. "It's kind of a shout-out to her fans that she did 10 days before she passed away."

"She looked amazing, she loved getting 'glammed up,' as she calls it, in her hair, makeup, she was just striking and beautiful," Boettcher said of the video White recorded. "She was smiling and really she wanted to thank her fans sincerely, from the bottom of her heart, for all the support over the years."

As far as her legacy, White's agent said that it's really in how she was able to bring people from all walks of life together to laugh and be happy.

"Her legacy would be bringing people together in many ways because young people, older people, all different races all loved to watch Betty White," he marveled. "You can sit in front of the television and watch whatever she did because it was funny. She never looked at herself too seriously, which is probably a good thing that a lot of us should do. We have to have humor, and that's what she had and she was serious at times. She had thoughts about what was going on in the world, but she kept it to herself and she brought laughter and happiness and a lot of love to a lot of people."

For more on White and her legacy, check out the video below.



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