Sweet Stories We Heard In 2021 About Nostalgic Actors That Made Us Say 'Aww'

List Rules
Vote up the heartwarming stories you are most glad to hear.

What happens behind the scenes or off screen can often feel like a strange mystery. Many might ask themselves what famous actors, comedians, and musicians are actually like. Who better to hear that from than those who know them best: coworkers, friends, and family. It turns out, even actors with bad reputations can have a sweet side. 

Check out the uplifting stories we heard this year that gave us all the feels, and vote up the ones with the coolest insight into these celebrity lives.

  • Steve Buscemi Assisted Firefighters After 9/11
    Photo: Jim Watson / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Steve Buscemi joined the New York City Fire Department in 1980 and served with Engine Co. 55 for four years before transitioning into an acting career. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he rejoined his former company as a volunteer. 

    According to a 2013 Facebook post by the Brotherhood of Fire, Buscemi "worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble from the World Trade Center looking for survivors." His contribution to the rescue efforts went publicly unnoticed for many years, because the actor himself prefers not to speak of it. As the Brotherhood of Fire noted, "He wasn't there for the publicity." 

    Because of this, few photographs of Buscemi at the scene exist, and he generally declines interviews on the subject. However, during a 2015 charity event on the anniversary of 9/11, Buscemi did offer a few words on his experience:

    I wouldn't say I helped with rescue efforts. I was down at the site and I was just trying to help out there in any way I could with my old company engine, 55. But that was an incredible event where you just saw all of humanity there and you just saw all of New York come together. As tragic as it was, there was a feeling in the air that we all need to come together and we all need to help each other.

    Buscemi continues to advocate on behalf of firefighters, serving on the board of advisers for Friends of Firefighters, an organization that raises money for firefighters' mental health and well-being.

    • Age: 65
    • Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Man, Billy, Mr. Marchetti, Mr. Masterson, Rickles
    356 votes
  • Kate Hudson made her way onto the film scene following in the footsteps of her mother Goldie Hawn and stepfather Kurt Russell. After divorcing Hudson's father in 1980, Hawn met Russell on the set of Swing Shift in 1984. The two began dating soon after, and have been together nearly 40 years. Russell was around for most of Hudson's life, and she credits him with being the father she always needed.

    In an interview with People, Hudson acknowledged how awesome her stepfather was growing up:

    I have a great family. I have a beautiful mother. I have a stepfather [Russell] who stepped in and played a huge, huge part in sharing what it is to have a dependable father figure in our life.

    Hudson has also taken to social media to praise the person Russell is to her and her family.


    A post shared by Kate Hudson (@katehudson)


    • Age: 71
    • Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Jed, Matthias Kane, Bobby, Andy Denning, Policeman
    327 votes
  • Robin Williams Wrote A Letter To Lisa Jakub's High School, Encouraging Them To Let Her Return
    Photo: Mrs. Doubtfire / 20th Century Fox

    When 14-year-old Lisa Jakub filmed Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams in 1993, she continued her high school work via correspondence, just like many other child actors at the time. Although she kept up with her studies, the school decided not to let her return, as her unique situation created extra work for teachers.

    Jakub wrote in a blog post how Williams stuck up for her, writing a letter to the school on her behalf:

    When I arrived at work the next day, Robin noticed that I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I explained what had happened, and shortly after that, he handed me a letter that he had written to my school. He explained that I was just trying to continue my education while pursuing my career. He wrote embarrassingly kind things about my character and my work, and requested that they reconsider and allow me to return to my classes.

    When I told him I still didn't think they would take me back, he said, "It's kinda like Amnesty International. That school just needs to know that people know the truth." The school framed the letter. They hung it in the principal's office. But they didn't invite me to return to school. But here's what matters from that story. Robin stood up for me. He was in my corner. I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.

    • Age: Dec. at 63 (1951-2014)
    • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Mork, The Genie
    300 votes
  • Julia Styles Said Heath Ledger Was A Giving And Gracious Actor
    Photo: 10 Things I Hate About You / Buena Vista Pictures

    Heath Ledger was a talented actor the world lost far too soon. We first fell in love with him as Patrick Verona, the bad boy with a hidden heart of gold in 10 Things I Hate About You. Off-screen, Ledger was known as a giving, graceful, and generous human.

    In interviews with the movie's cast, published by The New York Times, Julia Stiles, Gabrielle Union, and David Krumholtz reminisced about working alongside Ledger.


    Heath had the ability to look at you, and [make] you feel like Princess Diana. In a very crowded Hollywood landscape, he could make you feel special and seen. That’s a pretty special gift, and I don’t think it’s talked about enough.


    To fans, he’s a movie star that died. To me, he was flesh and bone, soulful, sweet, and I know for a fact he was in recovery prior to his death. He was trying to get healthy.

    Stiles, discussing her emotional poem-reading scene: 

    I remember Heath, when they turned around to do his reaction shot, he said something like, “I don’t need to do anything because this isn’t about me.” A lot of times you get one actor crying in a scene and the other actor feels like they have to cry, and he knew to be sort of restrained. I thought that was really cool.

    Speaking with US Weekly, Stiles also recalled: 

    He was so nice. He was such a force; he was - even at that age - a very, very powerful, lovely human being. 

    • Age: Dec. at 28 (1979-2008)
    • Birthplace: Perth, Australia
    • Nationality: Australia
    • Characters: Cyclist, Conor, Snowy Bowles, Scott Irwin
    180 votes
  • Maggie Smith Thought Daniel Radcliffe Was Such A Terrific Actor, She Helped Get Him The Job In 'Harry Potter'
    Photo: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban / Warner Bros. Pictures

    When it was time to cast the role of Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Dame Maggie Smith was certain Daniel Radcliffe was the kid. Having worked with him previously on David Copperfield, a BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, Smith recommended Radcliffe to the Harry Potter producers. 

    Smith opened up about her thoughts on Radcliffe in an interview with NPR:

    Well, I'll tell you I just did adore Daniel - Daniel Radcliffe, who I had worked with before Harry Potter and spent a long time telling all the producers they had to see him because I thought he was so terrific...

    • Age: 33
    • Birthplace: Fulham, London, England
    • Nationality: England
    • Characters: Edmund, Boy Scout
    222 votes
  • Anne Heche Said Harrison Ford Was 'A Hero' For Working With Her After She Came Out
    Photo: Six Days, Seven Nights / Buena Vista Pictures

    Around the time that the action/adventure/rom-com Six Days, Seven Nights was gearing into production, rising star Anne Heche was having some career trouble.

    She had brought then-partner Ellen DeGeneres as her plus-one to the premiere of 1997's Volcano, setting off a storm of controversy and gossip. In an era when it was still not the done thing for top stars to be openly gay, Heche feared bad publicity would cost her a spot in the Harrison Ford picture.

    Ford himself phoned Heche to put her concerns to rest. As she later recalled:

    He said, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn who you're sleeping with. We're gonna make the best romantic comedy there is, and I'll see ya on the set." He's one of my heroes. He fought a battle for me, and I would be on any desert island with him any day.

    • Age: 80
    • Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
    • Nationality: United States of America
    • Characters: Hobey, Young Rancher, Everett Giles, Cullen Tindall, Print
    269 votes