Celebrities Praising Celebrities: The Best Tributes From the Annual “Time 100” List

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Time magazine released its annual “Time 100” this week — a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The list is, as usual, light on shock; it pretty much features the political figures, artists, athletes, and philanthropists you’d expect. What makes the feature compelling is the deployment of similarly well-known folks to write testimonials about the influential people they admire. Since we love hearing about the actors our favorite actors love, it warms our hearts to read, for example, Jon Hamm’s fan letter to his fellow AMC star Bryan Cranston. “Over the past five seasons,” Hamm writes, “I’ve marveled at Bryan’s ability to turn Breaking Bad’s Walter White from a feckless, terrified father and husband to a ruthless, terrifying father, husband and crime lord. The transformation is mesmerizing. The performance is fearless. Bryan is that good.” These stunt tributes don’t always work (particularly in the political realm — the only thing we want to read less than Sarah Palin’s tribute to Glenn Beck is Ted Nugent’s tribute to Sarah Palin), but when they do, they’re a joy to read. See our favorite celeb-penned tributes from the past five years of “Time 100” below.

Alec Baldwin on Tina Fey (2009)

Baldwin has never been shy about singing the praises of his 30 Rock co-star and boss, and came through like a champ for the 2009 list. “Smart, funny, beautiful. Smart, funny, beautiful. It had gotten to the point where I was simply going to buy Tina some monogrammed towels that read SFB. Tina is all of those things, as everyone now knows. But when you work with someone and are around her a lot, other things come to the fore… Smart, funny, beautiful. Devoted, tough, respected. Now if she’d only work on her posture.”

Joan Rivers on Louis C.K. (2012)

Joan Rivers made a memorable appearance on the second season of Louie, and had this to say about the man behind it: “What you see on Louie is just the tip of the iceberg — a funny, clever show. What you’re not seeing is that he produces it, he writes it, he edits it, he knows every lens, every camera angle. He’s Steven Spielberg without the beard and with humor.” But it’s not just about his versatility and multi-tasking, Rivers notes. “No one can learn how to be funny. What you can learn is how to trust yourself, to have enough self-confidence to say, ‘I think this is funny — they will too.’ Louis gets that. There’s no downside to him. He’s the next Big One.”

Aziz Ansari on Amy Poehler (2011)

Because Aziz Ansari is Aziz Ansari, he could’t just do a loving tribute. “Amy, I know you are reading this,” he wrote. “You won’t return my phone calls, e-mails or texts, and I’m fed up. In February 2011 you asked me to invest $15,000 in a ‘real estate’ opportunity you had heard about. Since then, I have heard nothing from you, and my research shows that the company, Excalibur Equity, does not even exist. I want my money back. Now.” He does get to the matter at hand, though: “In comedy, a lot of what you see feels derivative and uninspired; with Amy, 39, there is always something fresh and unexpected, and that’s why I love her work… she is as kind and caring a person as she is hilarious. Simply put, Amy Poehler is my hero. However, if I don’t get back my $15,000 soon, I will be contacting the authorities.”

Jodie Foster on Jennifer Lawrence (2013)

Foster, who knows from talented young actresses, writes this about first seeing Lawrence in Winter’s Bone: “I thought, Sure, this girl can act. But, man, this girl can also just be. All of those painful secrets in her face, the feeling that there’s some terrible past that’s left impossibly angled bone and weariness in its wake. She’s worn from the pain of living — something none of her characters would ever have the energy to articulate. It’s just part of her, like skin and muscle.”

Joss Whedon on Neil Patrick Harris (2010)

Whedon begins his tribute to his Dr. Horrible star with some background: “Neil loves magic tricks. He’s good at them, but his greatest trick may be himself… While he flourished as both an actor and a persona, he serenely announced he was gay. And that was that. He’s been nominated for an Emmy three times for his role as hetero hound Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother not because he’s playing straight but because he’s very funny. He made the issue of his sexuality disappear without desexualizing himself. He can get the girl and sing about the boys, and it all works. The public’s perception of gay men is shifting because of this guy, and they’ll be too entertained to notice. That’s more than a good trick. That’s magic.”

John Hodgman on George R.R. Martin (2011)

Daily Show correspondent and author Hodgman wrote in 2011 that, the previous summer, he dedicated himself to finally watching The Wire (“because I was tired of admitting I hadn’t seen it”) and to reading A Game of Thrones — two experiences he found “surprisingly similar.” Here’s Hodgman: “With HBO’s adaptation and Martin’s long-awaited fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series about to be published, my endorsement isn’t necessary. But I’ll still feel compelled, like all those fans of The Wire, to pull you aside and tell you that Tyrion Lannister is the best character in fiction since Stringer Bell and that if you have not read these books, you should be ashamed of yourself.”

Robert DeNiro on Ben Stiller (2010)

Every comedian I know is a pain in the ass,” writes DeNiro, in paying tribute to his Meet the Parents co-star, quickly adding that Stiller is “still a pain in the ass — sometimes a total wacko — but he also has an old-fashioned sense of respect. (I don’t mean in the Mafia sense, but yes, in that way too.)” DeNiro mostly sings the praises of Stiller’s charity work: “You log on for the jokes, then stay because Ben has moved you; and before you know it, you’ve made a contribution, and the world’s a slightly better place. What a pain in the ass.”

Kathy Griffin on Chelsea Handler (2012)

Look, I don’t know how Chelsea Handler does it,” fellow tart-talking comic Griffin wrote. “She presides over her own media empire — talk show, sitcom, books — all while sharing a network with Ryan Seacrest and the Kardashians. To hell with the TIME 100; she should be Person of the Year just for putting up with Khloe… Few women in comedy have gotten the attention and respect of the Establishment. Chelsea has, while being raw, hilarious and unafraid to cross the line — and take it from me, that combination doesn’t always go over. And Seacrest, if you’re reading this, remember: it won’t be long before Chelsea can buy and sell you.”

Ed Helms on Mindy Kaling (2013)

“Mindy Kaling embodies the trifecta of being brilliant, wonderful and hilarious,” writes her former Office co-star Ed Helms. “Because that is statistically impossible, it can mean only one thing: she was created by an evil scientist to lull us into a giddy stupor in order to control our minds. How else can you explain someone who simultaneously commands respect and affection? Someone so acutely adept at creating her own opportunities? Moreover, Mindy has a bright and generous laugh that’s good for the soul, and yet she doesn’t suffer fools. No matter the issue, she can be relied on to weigh in with conviction and good humor.”

Cyndi Lauper on Lady Gaga (2010)

Sometimes these match-ups are so spot-on, you hope whoever thought them up got a bonus; here’s hoping the editor who got Lauper to write about Gaga at least got a long lunch that day. “When I see somebody like Gaga,” Lauper wrote in 2010, “I sit back in admiration. I’m inspired to pick up the torch again myself. I did an interview with her once, and she showed up with a sculpture on her head. I thought, How awesome. Being around her, I felt like the dust was shaken off of me. I find it very comforting to sit next to somebody and not have to worry that I look like the freak. She isn’t a pop act, she is a performance artist. She herself is the art. She is the sculpture.”

Helen Mirren on Colin Firth (2011)

Because life isn’t fair, the ridiculously talented Ms. Mirren is also an insightful, penetrating writer. “There are two Colin Firths, who live symbiotically within each other,” she writes. “First is a man of principle, action and compassion, who fights for the powerless. Second is a beloved actor in Britain and an international film star. The two sides of Colin inform each other. He can be the glamorous celebrity, but look closely at photos of him on the red carpet: there is a kindness in his eyes, an introspection and consideration. He actively pursues a deeper understanding of the world around him, and his humanitarianism gives a depth and wisdom to his performances.”

Betty White on Sandra Bullock (2010)

The big Betty White revival was in full swing in 2010, when Time had her write about the recent Best Actress winner (and her co-star in that year’s forgettable rom-com The Proposal). But White gets at something essential about Bullock’s appeal: “What’s so appealing about her in it is her honesty. She’s been labeled America’s Sweetheart, which sounds soft and sweet. Sandra is both of those things, but she also has a strength of her own. She never lets a scene get away from her. She’s never just there going through her paces. And you can’t take your eyes off of her. America, you wish she were your sweetheart.”

Spike Jonze on M.I.A. (2009)

Music video and feature film director (and occasional actor) Jonze is, unsurprisingly, a fan of M.I.A.’s eclecticism — a quality he shares: “I met her right before she put out her first record, in 2005, and she insisted she wasn’t a musician. To this day, she doesn’t consider herself a musician. She has this wide range of talents and influences — she’s a Sri Lankan refugee who didn’t speak a word of English before she was 10, yet she’s also a child of Chuck D and the Pixies and Fight Club and MySpace. There are no borders for her. She made me realize that you don’t have to be from the West to have a favorite Biggie song. We are all listening to the same music.”

Gary Oldman on Jessica Chastain (2012)

The versatile (and intense) Mr. Oldman seems quite the appropriate choice to sing the praises of the very prolific Ms. Chastain. When the French call something formidable,” he writes, “they mean tremendous, terrific, awesome. These are words that came to mind when I first encountered the work of Jessica Chastain, 30, during her performance as Salome in Al Pacino’s remarkable film of Oscar Wilde’s play… I knew when I saw Wilde Salomé that I had better learn the name, that I was watching an actress from whom we could expect great things in what, no doubt, will be a long, very successful future. That is saying a lot, and that is why I thought of formidable: tremendous, terrific, awesome, outstanding.”

Meg Ryan on Tom Hanks (2009)

Hanks’s Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail co-star took the opportunity in 2009 to write about what makes Hanks so durable — both as a person and an actor. “He’s interesting because he’s interested. He asks great questions, and he waits for the answers. He has a sort of wondrous capacity for wonder. The magic of history, of the cosmos, of words and of love keep him rapt. He is at their mercy the way a poet is. All that wonder keeps him happy and humble and wide-eyed. Lucky for us, he’s contagious that way. A while back, I was at a dinner, and we were all talking about art. What is art? Someone said art is whatever it is that makes you feel less alone. If this is true, then Tom is art. He makes me feel less alone. I imagine he makes a lot of people feel this way. He keeps our best selves, our dream selves, excellent company.”

Elisabeth Moss on Matthew Weiner (2011)

“Matthew Weiner is no less than a genius,” wrote Moss of the man who made her Peggy Olson. “But what I admire most in Matt, 45, is his personal integrity. He is a true artist, a seeker of truth. He has held up a mirror not only to a time period but to us and has demanded that we look at ourselves (whether beautiful or ugly, good or bad), look at our weaknesses and, most important, look at what makes us great. Essentially, what makes us human. Above all, he is a poet. He tells his stories with grace, humor, honesty and courage. He is the greatest boss a girl could have, but even more valuable than that, he is also the greatest friend.”

Ben Kingsley on Penélope Cruz (2009)

Kingsley is one of our most elegant and eloquent actors, so it’s not surprising that he wrote with such vigor of his Elegy co-star Cruz. “Penélope Cruz is a leading lady, that rare creature in its pure form,” he wrote. “Why rare and pure? In the world of cinema, film sets are kingdoms, and the politics of the film set exists, just as politics exists in all walks of life. Penélope, 35, understands and lives inside the politics of the film set with a rare grace, empathy and warmth. In short, she is a joy to work with. Between ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’ she serves her character with all the stamina, tenacity and technique of a champion marathon athlete. Always the character first, her ego second. We see the pure character take life before our eyes — never a copy of a copy but startlingly authentic and original, and forever drawing upon her profound grasp of female mythology. She has become a champion of her gender because of this quality, admired equally by both men and women.”

Rick Astley on moot (2009)

Context is always helpful, so remember — if you can — all the way back to 2009, when “Rickrolling” was the height of Internet wit. It was a dumb meme, yes. But getting Rick Astley himself to write about 4chan creator moot was sheer genius. “I used to think some young kid had stumbled across my video and thought it would be funny to send it to his mates, and it just kind of caught on,” Astley wrote. “I suppose at first I was a little embarrassed by it. I always liken it to when people look through their photo albums or home videos from 20 years ago and think, Gosh, did I really wear that? The difference is, thankfully on the one hand and perhaps a bit scarily on the other, mine are out there for the public to see whenever they want. I find some Rickrolls really funny. Have you seen the one with President Barack Obama? Someone has cut up his speeches and put them together so that he sings ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’ It’s totally amazing. I find it bonkers, by the way!” Oh, Rick Astley. Don’t ever change.