Robert Redford Pays Tribute to Late Icon Betty White: 'I Had a Crush on Her Too'

The actor, 85, remembers his longtime friend, who "made us all laugh," he tells PEOPLE

Robert Redford is among the many stars remembering Betty White, who died on New Year's Eve.

"She made us all laugh, including me," Redford, 85, said in a statement to PEOPLE. "Betty lived life devoted to her craft and her love of animals. She made us all laugh, including me. I had a crush on her, too!"

Indeed, Redford and the late White, who was 99, had a bit of an innocent flirtation, despite White's unending devotion to her late husband Allen Ludden, who died in 1981.

For her 99th birthday last year, White was given a life-size cutout of the actor-director, her longtime personal assistant Kiersten Mikelas recently told PEOPLE.

For more on Betty White, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

"For a long time, we had him in the office entryway," Mikelas recalled. "When she came in, she'd say, 'Hi sweetheart.' "

Robert Redford, BETTY WHITE

RELATED PHOTOS: 'I Had the Love of My Life': Betty White's Love Story with Husband Allen Ludden

In her recent interview with PEOPLE, White called Redford "the only one."

"I've heard Ryan [Reynolds] can't get over his thing for me," she joked of her friend and The Proposal costar, "but Robert Redford is The One."

White died "peacefully" in her sleep at home, her agent Jeff Witjas told PEOPLE on Dec. 31. The actress — beloved for her work on Golden Girls, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and everything in between — was just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday.

"Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever," Witjas said in an earlier statement. "I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again."

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