How Betty White's Movie 'A Celebration' Was Reformatted After Her Death

In December 2021, the world was gearing up to celebrate the 100th birthday of one of television's most iconic stars, as well as one of its first stars. Betty White spent eight decades making audiences at home smile and laugh as she came into our living rooms via the small screen in small parts, before landing her own series that she starred in and produced called "Life With Elizabeth" (via Biography).

While audiences remember White in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as Sue Ann Nivens and in "The Golden Girls" as Rose Nylund the most, she performed all over the TV in a variety of roles, both comedic and dramatic. Fans could even see White be herself many times when she appeared on the game show "Password" in the 1970s with her husband, Allen Ludden, as the host. Soap fans remember her as Ann Douglas on "The Bold and the Beautiful," while younger generations remember her from "Hot In Cleveland” (via IMDb).

That lifetime of work was set to be honored with a limited feature film called "Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration" on January 17, 2022, which would have been White's 100th birthday had she lived. However, when she died just weeks short of that milestone on December 31, 2021, the producers of the film decided to release it anyway, with a name change — and a few other tweaks along the way, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Betty White's life is celebrated in theaters across the country

After Betty White passed away on New Year's Eve in 2021, just 18 days shy of what would have marked a full century on this Earth, producers Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein had to do something with their film celebrating the beloved star's 100 years of bringing joy into the world. They first thought of scrapping it but those closest to them told them to go ahead with it because that is what she would have wanted (via The Hollywood Reporter).

So, first, the title of the film was shortened to simply "Betty White: A Celebration." The film, which features White's last on-camera interview filmed just 10 days before she passed, is a love letter to the actress and the producers who say those last moments in front of the camera was just White being White.

"It's probably about a minute or two long clip of just her looking directly in the camera as the graciously fun, warm Betty," Boettcher told The Hollywood Reporter. "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."

Betty's White's 100th birthday movie lives on with slight changes

When Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein decided to still go ahead with a movie celebrating Betty White's 100 years of life, they had to make sure the movie reflected the fact that she unexpectedly passed away just weeks before its January 17 release date. That meant taking out a sequence in which celebrities joined in to send good wishes and sing "Happy Birthday."

"We had to scrap all the A-list stars. It was like a five to seven-minute-long sequence," Boettcher told The Hollywood Reporter. "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?'"

So, instead of that A-list montage, the film, which spent only a few hours in 1,500 theaters on January 17, begins with that final wish for her fans — something the producers put on social media because White's team asked them to. "Betty's important message to her fans is what the film starts with," Boettcher said. "That was the crowning jewel at the beginning of the film."

As of this writing, there is no word yet on whether "Betty White: A Celebration" will be available for streaming (via Entertainment Tonight).