Betty White has been stealing scenes for more years than most people can remember. In the new Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds comedy, "The Proposal," she stole a puppy.
"Oh, that little Samoyed was so adorable I just walked in for a rehearsal and just automatically, without even thinking about it, took the dog away from Ryan," White says with a chortle. "I thought, 'They're never going to let me get away with that.' But nobody said anything so that's the way we shot it."
There's something so natural about seeing Hollywood's most famous animal lover with a puppy, almost as natural as hearing something outrageous come out of that sweet, grandmotherly face.
White, 87, has been in show business for over half a century and may very well be the busiest she's ever been. She was just in "Love'N Dancing," just this week signed to co-star with Kristen Bell and Jamie Lee Curtis in "You Again," and lent a voice to the animated "Ponyo," due out in August.
"My life is divided absolutely in half - half is my animal work and half is show business. I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal charity work."
"The Proposal" has White as the too-helpful Alaskan grandmother of Reynolds' character, a man who has been cornered into marrying his boss (Bullock) so that she can get a green card. They don't make the work easier just because you're 80something.
"I had to learn a song in Eskimo. And that ain't easy, honey. There are no syllables that you can relate to. Learning the song was hard, and by the time we got to filming that dance scene it was 3:30 in the morning. It started to rain. Singing and dancing in the rain is fine for Gene Kelly, but it doesn't work at 3:30 a.m. in the woods."
The sassy act has stood White in good stead since the role that defined her, as snarky, man-crazy "Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." When she filmed "Love'N Dancing" in New Mexico, "even the Teamsters had their cameras out to get a picture with Betty," says Sylvia Caminer, a producer on the film. "She turned grown men into giggling schoolboys!"
But White's charitable side is just as evident. Her commitment to the animal healthcare Morris Animal Foundation goes back more than 40 years, as do her ties to the Los Angeles Zoo.
"Everybody who ever said 'I belong in a zoo,' I agree!"
Caminer witnessed that when she drove White to the Albuquerque Zoo on a day off during "Love N' Dancing."
"Word reached the zoo before we even arrived, and she was greeted like a rock star by man and beast alike," Caminer marvels. *