OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
An upcoming movie special celebrating Betty White’s life will include her final appearance on screen.
Produced by Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, the Golden Girls star gave an interview 11 days before her death. The special will debut in theaters for one day only on January 17.
‘Betty shot a tribute to her fans on Dec. 20, which will be in the film,’ Boettcher said to the news outlet.
‘We’ve been asked to share it. We’ve been asked to put it on social media. The only place we thought was right was putting it in the film and sharing it with her friends, family and fans who are going to be there.’
The comedian died on December 31 of natural causes.
Trinklein and Boettcher described how she improvised without a script during her final interview.
‘It was Dec. 20, in her home. Betty loved getting glammed up, as she called it,’ Boettcher said.
‘The dress, the hair, the look — she just loved that. It’s probably about a minute or two long clip of just her looking directly in the camera as the graciously fun, warm Betty.’
He further stated, ‘She thanks all her fans over the years and for being out on the 17th to see the film. It’s just got that twinkle that’s Betty. The great thing about it is that she didn’t read it off the teleprompter or have a script.
‘She ad-libbed it, and that’s Betty to the very end. She’s spontaneous and has the wherewithal to go with it and do it live. She was so good at that. You can’t watch it for the first time and help but get goosebumps when you hear her. It’s just very, very sweet.’
Even though Betty was not actively involved in the special, the producers claim she provided them with a list of ‘near and dear’ people whom she said would make excellent interview subjects.
Carol Burnett, Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Valerie Bertinelli and Georgia Engel were among the stars that Betty listed.
‘The list goes on,’ Boettcher said. ‘All these people were really close to Betty.
‘We thought that instead of just doing people she met at an awards banquet one time, we’d find people who were close to her life.’
THR reports that the filmmakers also sought interviews with former and current members of her team, including her executive assistant and first agent from her time on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
‘Everyone we asked to participate and be interviewed agreed,’ Trinklein said. ‘No one gave it a second thought. Everyone was very gracious — when they heard about the project and Betty’s support for the project, they quickly wanted to be a part of it.’
Betty’s early career and TV drama roles will also be included in the film, including a lost episode of the sitcom Date with the Angels from 1957.
After the star suddenly passed away just shy of 100, Boettcher and Trinklein had to make adjustments to the film, originally titled Betty White: 100 Years Young – A Birthday Celebration.
‘The film was already done and distributed to theaters, and we pulled it back,’ Boettcher said. ‘The first thing we did was sit down and talk with our team and Betty’s team — should we just cancel?
‘Betty’s team pushed us on, like, “No, she would want this. Go forward. Go with this.” So that was the big decision that had been made that weekend. Then on Monday, we just started reshaping the film to reflect the news that had happened.
‘But we still kept that tone of celebration and everything Betty would want to do with it. We also retitled the film.’
According to him, ‘The original beginning of the film was A-list stars wishing Betty a happy birthday and jointly singing ‘Happy Birthday.’
‘We had to scrap all the A-list stars. It was like a five to seven-minute-long sequence. We had interview clips that we put in there that we had done that was, “Someday Betty will pass. What are your thoughts when that happens?”
‘Then Betty’s important message to her fans is what the film starts with. That was the crowning jewel at the beginning of the film.’
They weighed the potential of the film providing Betty’s final word to her friends and fans.
Boettcher stated, ‘We humbly sit in this seat of privilege to be able to do this project and have the breadth of the majority of her career, really, that she’s given us and shared with us.
‘I think the film radiates Betty’s heart, humor, and happiness. You can’t help but smile when you hear her name or see her on-screen. As we all know, Betty’s kind of a rascal, a troublemaker. I remember going places with her filming, and she would always say, “Oh, here’s Steven and Mike. They’ve been embedded with me for the last 10 years.” Then she would wink-wink. It was always her way of being playful and fun, and I think the film reflects that.’
Trinklein concluded, ‘On one hand, I want to say we’re not the final word because the final word plays out every single day when you can enjoy her work on various television shows.
‘At the same time, it is sort of the final encapsulation that she participated in. As Steve mentioned, she was part of the process for a long time, so it is a lot of responsibility.
‘But I think we handle that. Yes, there’s a tribute at the beginning, and everyone takes that somber moment to reflect, but then we kick back into what Betty would have wanted, which is the fun and joy and spontaneity of her life. I feel really good. This is a celebration of what she really was about.’