"I know that he would be here, and he is," Billy Crystal said of the late Robin Williams, who died in 2014 at age 63
As Crystal, 75, spoke to reporters on the red carpet ahead of Sunday night's event in Washington, D.C., he recalled that his late friend Williams, who died in 2014 at age 63, also participated in Crystal's 2007 Mark Twain Prize for Humor ceremony at the city's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
"That was awesome, and all my friends were there," Crystal recalled of that event. "Beyond that, [the awards] an appreciation for your body of work, your lifetime body of work."
Williams was among a number of celebrities who honored Crystal's career back in an October 2007 Mark Twain Prize for Humor ceremony. 16 years later, the Kennedy Center brought Crystal back for the Kennedy Center Honors, meant to recognize overall lifetime artistic achievements.
"I’m really feeling I’m missing my friend Robin tonight, very much so, because of all of what we did together," Crystal told reporters. "I know that he would be here, and he is. So it’s special, and a lot of feelings for me tonight.”
Crystal and Williams costarred in a number of films together in the 1990s, most notably in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Hamlet (1996), the comedy Father's Day (1997) and Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry (1997). The pair also teamed up to honor Whoopi Goldberg when she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize in 2001.
Williams joined Bob Costas, Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito, Jimmy Fallon, Goldberg, John Goodman, Jon Lovitz, Rob Reiner, Martin Short and Barbara Walters in honoring Crystal for the Mark Twain Prize, which "recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, colloquially known as Mark Twain," per the Kennedy Center's website.
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Crystal's When Harry Met Sally costar Meg Ryan presented on his behalf at Sunday night's Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. De Niro, 80, and Reiner, 76, also returned to speak to Crystal's impactful career during the ceremony, at which Queen Latifah, Barry Gibb, Dionne Warwick and Renée Fleming were also honored.
President Joe Biden was also in attendance Sunday night and offered his own tribute to each honoree, beginning with Crystal.
"What I admire most about him is his heart — his heart that reminds us to love and care for one another — raising awareness and funds to end cancer, fighting homelessness, help a city rebuild after 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy and so much more," the president said during his remarks.
The 46th Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcasted on Wednesday, Dec. 27, on CBS and stream on Paramount+.
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