When Betty White was offered the role of a foul-mouthed farm widow in Lake Placid, a comic horror flick about a killer crocodile, she was wary. It wasn’t the language: “Oh, it will curl your hair,” says The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls veteran, “but none of it is to be taken seriously.” Rather, the avowed animal lover was concerned creatures might be mistreated. Reassured that the croc was only as real as the computer that powered it, she signed on.
But once filming began, she almost had a cow. In one scene, bovine crocodile bait is being transported via helicopter over a lake, “and all of a sudden it turns its head and moos,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘They lied to me!’ They laughed so hard. The cow was completely animatronic—they made its head move.”
This fall, White, 77, is back on firmer footing in the CBS family sitcom Ladies Man. When she’s not before the cameras, she’s a vice president of L.A.’s Zoo Commission. “I spend more time on my animal work than I do on my career,” says White, whose husband, Password host Allen Ludden, died in 1981. “There’s not much time for relaxing.”