On January 30, 2013, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Barbra Streisand will be performing at the 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony, which will take place in Los Angeles on February 24, 2013. It will be Streisand’s first performance at the Oscars since 1977. (Details of her performance are to be announced.) Oscar/Grammy/Tony/Emmy winner Streisand doesn’t do a lot of live performances, movies or interviews these days, so her fans greet each one as a momentous occasion.
In her comedy film “The Guilt Trip,” Streisand plays Joyce Brewster, an over-protective widowed mother of inventor/salesman/entrepreneur Andy Brewster (played by Seth Rogen), a jaded bachelor who invites Joyce to go on a road trip with him as he travels across the country to sell a cleaning product that he invented. Naturally, mother and son get on each other’s nerves during their cross-country journey. Streisand, Rogen (one of the producers of “The Guilt Trip”), “The Guilt Trip” director Anne Fletcher and “The Guilt Trip” screenwriter Dan Fogelman gathered for a Los Angeles press conference to talk about the movie. Here is what they said.
What was it like meeting each other for the first time?
Streisand: Meeting each other for the first time.
Rogen: Yeah, whoa.
Streisand: Well, Seth it turns out sussed me out.
Rogen: I did.
Streisand: So he called people from the “Focker” movies, right?
Rogen: I sussed …
Streisand: You know, you could tell it. It’s your story. Tell it.
Rogen: I was actually working with John Schwartzman who was the cinematographer on “Meet the Fockers” around the time this came up, and I think I asked him what he thought of Barbra and he said she was great. I know Jay Roach a little, so I think I might have asked him, and I think he said she was awesome, too.
Streisand: Ben Stiller, you called.
Rogen: Yeah. Ben Stiller, I think I might have run into and asked. She checked out with everyone. This Barbra Streisand lady checked out, so I thought I’d give her a shot. [He laughs.]
Streisand: I didn’t know who to call. I don’t know any of those people from his movies, so what was I going to do? No, I thought he was adorable, so I thought this is interesting, unlikely, which makes it interesting, and yet we’re both Jewish.
Rogen: When we met, we got along very well.
Streisand: Totally. Instantly.
Who made whom crack up and laugh the most?
Streisand: Are you talking to who?
Rogen: What’s the tally?
Fletcher: I think I’m the funniest one. I don’t know. That’s such a hard question because …
Rogen: She cracked me up quite a bit.
Streisand: Because it’s more unexpected from you probably.
Fletcher: It is.
Streisand: And I’m more serious.
Rogen: Very serious more than this lady.
Streisand: Yeah, so that’s funny.
Rogen: Incredibly serious.
Streisand: But Anne [Fletcher] and Dan [Fogelman] used to throw us things, you know, they would say, “Riff on your cousin, let’s say,” and we would just go and they would laugh.
Fletcher: They had such a great chemistry and just a great ability to improvise with each other that was so easy to do. You just say one word even if it was like Thanksgiving and they just go into a five-minute improv that was so genius . So Dan and I would be behind the monitor laughing our heads off. And so we got in trouble.
Rogen: The way we talk in real life is not entirely differently than our rapport in the movie in some ways. But we’re getting along. It’s a lot of me trying to explain things to her about modern times and her trying to feed me sh*t I don’t want to eat. [Streisand and Rogen laugh.]
Streisand: And yet he copied my iPhone. I was the one with the iPhone.
Rogen: She had an iPhone before me. I had a BlackBerry and then she was always playing games on her iPhone, and I thought, “I’ve got to get me one of these. If Barbra can work an iPhone, then it’s got to be fun.”
Streisand: That’s right. But he would show me things, like yesterday I said … No, he asked me if I had a Twitter account and I said, “I don’t know.”
Rogen: I showed her that she did. [He laughs.]
Streisand: Which I only use for political purposes, so I didn’t know it was beyond that. I wouldn’t know how to find it on my phone.
Rogen: I’ll show you. I changed her clocks during daylight savings. I do all that stuff.
Streisand: He’s very handy.
This question for Barbra Streisand. Since you last directed a movie, there have been so many changes to the way movies have been shot. We have digital now, 3-D and we’re even starting to have 48 frames. What are your thoughts on these technologies as you might use them as a director and how they might change things from the performance side for actors?
Streisand: Well, I would have to, when and if I do direct another film, I would have to go suss out the, you know, the red camera, the Alexa — all this new things. But I know I love film.
Streisand: So does Anne.
Streisand: So I don’t know what I’m going to find out about that.
Rogen: You’ll suss.
Streisand: I’ll suss it out, yeah.
Fletcher: She’s somebody who does a lot of research and investigates and she loves filmmaking so much that she would want to know everything that’s out there that’s new compared to the old. And she would do so much research to see what her eye, who’s very specific and detailed and amazing would find. Am I wrong?
Fletcher: Am I speaking for you?
Streisand: That’s OK. Any time.
Fogelman: Seth said Barbra sees every movie. I mean it’s shocking. I mean, there’s no movie that escapes her on a weekend. She sees them all.
Streisand: By the way, “A Star is Born” was done live.
Fletcher: With an audience.
Streisand: No. Oh yeah with sometimes with an audience. I sang live. I sang live in “Funny Girl,” at the end of “Funny Girl,” because that’s what they’re talking about in “Les Mis” … I said to Willie, “How do you have emotion? How do you know where the emotion is going to hit you?” When I was doing “My Man” at the end.
I’m a terrible lip syncer anyway, because I have to be in the moment, and I can’t lip sync to something I recorded three months before, you know. So I thought it was great that [“Les Misérables” movie director] Tom Hooper let the actors be live.
Barbra, how do you feel about a believable gay icon. Your son is open gay. Do you think he considers you an icon?
Streisand: He doesn’t see me as an icon. He sees me as his mother who touches her hair too much. I love being an icon to anybody. Equal rights, you know?
Barbra, you have such an amazing career? what gives you the most satisfaction as an artist and what does it mean to you to be a part of a project like “The Guilt Trip”?
Streisand: I prefer things that are private, so I love recording and I love making films as a filmmaker, because it uses every bit of what you have experienced or know, whether it’s graphics, composition, decorating, psychology, storytelling, or whatever it is. It’s a wonderful thing.
Well, I was dealing with, you know, very talented people. I had loved Anne’s movie “The Proposal.” And Dan, I looked you up, too. And you did that wonderful … What was that musical called that I loved, too?
Streisand: “Tangled.” Yeah, I loved that. I loved that and then I saw his name on it. But he’s a very gifted writer, and Seth is terrific at what he does..
What was harder for you in “The Guilt Trip”: the dramatic moments or the comic ones?
Streisand: Eating steak! For a person who doesn’t like steak, that was the hardest part.
But which was harder: being funny or serious?
Streisand: Oh no, they’re both the same. If everything is based on what reaches an audience, the truth is honesty, so if you’re saying something truthful and it’s a funny line, it’s going to be funny. If it’s a serious line, it’s going to be serious. I don’t think there’s a distinction between how you play drama or comedy if it’s based in truth.
Fletcher: Especially when you have two actors who have great ability to do both. Not everybody has the ability to be really funny and understand comedy and how to portray it and be real with it which both of them do in tenfold as well as the ability to be a straight actor. They’re both incredible. Thank you.
Barbra, what do you think is the secret to your success and what have you done right?
Streisand: I don’t make that many movies and I don’t make that many appearances, so …
Rogen: You leave them wanting more.
Streisand: That’s it. Less is more, and maybe that keeps a little mystery or something. I don’t know. I like to stay home a lot. I like to do other things, too, like decorate.
Seth, how crazy does your own mother drive you?
Rogen: Very! Yeah, my mom drives me crazy sometimes. I have a good relationship. I see my parents a lot. It’s a lot like in the movie. For no reason, I get annoyed and I’ll just find myself reverting back to the mentality of a 14-year-old kid who just doesn’t want to be around his parents.
One of the things I related to most in the script, honestly, was that dynamic where your mother is trying, and the more she tries, the more it bugs you, and the more it bugs you, the more she tries. You see her trying to say the thing that won’t annoy you and she can’t. Anf all that, at times, is very real to my relationship to my mother.
Seth, do you think you’ll ever host the Independent Spirit Awards again?
Rogen: No. I don’t think they want me back! [He laughs.]
Seth, how much contact did you have with Barbra’s son, Jason Gould? And how did your contact with Jason approach how you played your character in “The Guilt Trip”?
Streisand: Actually, he was very important in my decision to make the movie, because he was recovering from back surgery, so he was in bed for a few days after.
Rogen: He couldn’t escape.
Streisand: I brought the script over and read it out loud. It was interesting, actually. His father was in the room, too. Isn’t that funny? We were both there coddling our son. So he became the audience, and Jason was reading parts of it and he said, “I think you should do it, mom.”
And I really trust his integrity and his opinion. He has great taste in whatever he chooses to do. It’s amazing. So, he clenched the deal. Anne was on the phone all weekend. I was on a boat those last …
Fletcher: I was with you all over the world. In your house, on vacation, on a boat in France, somewhere in the Bahamas, the dog was going to jump off the boat. I had a lot of time. I love that Jason just one night, “Yes, mom do it.” I had a whole year.
Streisand: Well, he’s my son.
Fletcher: It was a great year. I will never forget. I loved every second. Are you kidding? To be able to go to Barbra’s house and have a five-hour conversation about life and food?
Fogelman: We went over to Barbra’s to try, and we were getting closer. And Anne and I went over and sit down with Barbra and it’s nerve-wracking when you’re sitting in front of Barbra and she says, “Why should I do this film?” And it’s your big moment, and something distracted Barbra, she got up …
Streisand: Oh, is that right?
Fogelman: And yeah, she got up and she goes, “Let’s eat.” And we were there for five hours and we never talked about the movie. We talked about everything except the film.
Streisand: Then there comes a time, when I was on a little boat, is right, in France and my friend who’s an architectural critic said, “I don’t know whether to do this movie,” I said to him. And he said, “You know, an actor has a craft and you’re an actor and you should be using your craft.”
That was interesting. “Do it, do your thing.” And I thought that was interesting. I was thinking at the time, “Should I be playing Sarah Bernhardt or trying to get movies made as a director?” And it’s very, very hard.
It’s not the same as when I last made a film. They’re not interested in love stories or any movie that’s sort of over $15 million. But it could be $100 million, that’s OK. Two hundred million is OK to lose, but the movies that I’m used to making or liking, what draws me, they’re movies that cost $18 million, $20 million, and they’re not interested in those movies. So it’s a different time. I don’t like it as much.
You must get sent so many scripts …
Streisand: I don’t. You see, everybody thinks like, “She must get so many scripts. Why would I send her one? She’ll never get a chance to read it.” Meanwhile, I’m going, “Where are the scripts?”
Having read this script with your son, what ultimately was it in that reading that you connected with and said, Yes, this is something I have to do? And Seth, would you still have done it if she had said no?
Streisand: Mothers develop guilt trips. When I was working a lot, I’d feel guilty as a parent that I couldn’t pick up my son every day from school, make him cookies and that kind of thing. So I know that feeling. I know that feeling a lot. And so you try to compensate, and everything they do is great. They sense that guilt, children, and they’re going through their own rebellious times or whatever. Having a famous parent is an odd thing.
So I thought it was interesting to investigate this trying to be my son’s friend, trying to be his friend versus a mother, and when it comes time to really say, “You abuse me. You disrespect me. You talk back to me. You don’t honor what I say. You won’t take my advice.” That kind of thing. In terms of this movie, it hit on all of those things that I thought I could explore.
It was a true story. It’s Dan and his mother, and she was a fan of mine. There’s something right about it and Dan wrote this lovely script. It just felt like it was meant to be. It was meant for me to come back to work as a star in a starring role, rather than six days on a movie, which I really like, the six days on a movie. It was time to challenge myself again.
Of course, I made it very difficult for them to hire me because I kept wanting an out in some way. So I made it really hard. I would never do this normally, but, “I really don’t want to schlep to Paramount. It’s two hours each way. So, would you rent a warehouse and build the sets in the Valley no more than 45 minutes from my house?” And they said, “Yes.” Then, on these “Focker” movies, I had to get up early and I’m not an early bird. And, Seth says, it’s very hard to be funny at 7:30 in the morning.
Rogen: For me, it is.
Streisand: He’s right. He has to have a few cups of tea. You have to feed him a little bit. So I said, “You can’t pick me up until 8:30 a.m.” That’s a normal time to get up for me, because I love the night.
Rogen: That’s like a normal job.
Streisand: My husband and I stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, so we don’t function well at 6 in the morning. And they said, “OK.”
Fletcher: By the way to sort of answer, I know you didn’t ask me, but I wasn’t going to do the movie without these two. There wasn’t backup. So if Seth said no, there was no replacement. If Barbra said no, there was no replacement. I wasn’t going to make the movie. Sorry, Dan.
Fogelman: I don’t understand; it was always kind of …
Fletcher: That was it.
Streisand: And then I remember on the boat, I said to Anne, “well, you know, would you make the movie without me?” And she said,”No.” And I felt bad, guilty. Another guilt trip, right? I said, “Oh no, she’s not going to have this job and I want her to work, and every one of those little elements added up.”
Fletcher: So everything that Barbra was asking, nothing was unrealistic and crazy so it was just going to be yeah, unless she wanted to fly in on a helicopter. Sorry, Seth.
Rogen: I was open to Shirley MacLaine.
Streisand: He’s lying. That’s not what you said yesterday.
Rogen: No, it’s not true. I only would have done it if Barbra was doing it. No for me it was funny. They were like, “Why don’t you do this movie with Barbra? Nut Barbra’s not sure if she wants to do it.” And I was like, “Well, just let me know if she says yes.” And then I really made like two movies during that time, and we were editing “50/50,” and I got a call and they were like, “Barbra said yes!” “Really? Oh, OK, great.”
Streisand: It’s great to feel wanted, you know?
Dan, were the cleaning products that Andrew Brewster selling based on anything in real life?
Fogelman: That came from a friend of mine did exactly that. He was starting an organic cleaning supply company and made of all natural food products and he would tell me about the process of trying to get it sold across the country and how you do it. We actually had a scientist create the formula that might create a real product and do all that.
What do you want audiences to take away from the film?
Streisand: I want them to be moved. I want them to identify. I want them to see themselves in the movie. I want them to get closer to their children. A lot of things.
Barbra, you can sing and act in drama or comedy, compose, write and direct so well.
Barbra, you mentioned that you and Seth are both Jewish. What kind of goyish name is Brewster? You’re playing a Jewish mother. Why not own up to it?
Streisand: That’s really interesting. Ask Dan.
Fogelman: I think the thought was that the father and they’ve kept the name — the father might not have been [Jewish].
Rogen: Clearly, I’m only half-Jewish.
Fogelman: There was one point early on in the script ….
Fogelman: I don’t know if you even saw it, but they were going to maybe — the father wasn’t going to be dead. My father’s not really dead in real life and whether we can go visit him and he might not completely
Streisand: Is your father Jewish?
Fogelman: Yeah, my father is yeah. My father’s a full Jew.
Rogen: It’s all ’cause probably people don’t love Jews. We get a lot of sh*t. People don’t love us.
Fletcher: I think also making the movie and not wanting to focus on Jewish or anything like that, really wanted to focus on mother son relationships so that all mothers and all children on both sides can appreciate the film and not just being in a group of people. I think that was also part of the thought wish.
Streisand: So she had a lot to say.
Fletcher: [She says jokingly] Yeah, and I hate Jews. Write that down. That’s not funny.
Fogelman: When you’re doing focus grouping movie afterwards, you do all these previews and my favorite part was always watching when they interviewed people, “What did you think of the film?” And it would be this kind of wide swath of people … They’d all be saying, “She’s just like my mother. They’d be a large African-American woman or a kind of as small Indian guy.”
Fletcher: It was all ages. It didn’t matter.
Fogelman: So that was always the really cool part for me of the show is that everybody should be able to look at Barbra in the film and be reminded of their own mother no matter what.
Streisand: But I was using your mother that I saw films of and pictures of that had this kind of way about her.
Fogelman: Barbra was my mom’s absolute …. Here, my mom was named Joyce, like in the film. She collected frogs, she was obsessed with Weight Watchers, and Barbra was her. My mom wouldn’t have known a celebrity if Tom Cruise came up and punched her in the face. She just wouldn’t know. But Barbra was everything to her.
Streisand: That’s so sweet.
Barbra, you look so beautiful in the film and here today, what is your secret?
Streisand: God, what is my secret?
Rogen: Sitting next to me helps. Oh, Barbra.
Streisand: He is so funny. That was funny, Seth. Very funny.
Fletcher: Hold on, I need to know the answer because her skin is flawless.
Streisand: Oh, Jesus, it is not!
Fletcher: It is. I was too afraid to ask her when she did with it.
Streisand: No, if you knew all my self-doubt. My God. I don’t know. Maybe I’m slightly childish or something like that. I don’t know.
Fletcher: Your spirit is youthful.
Streisand: Yeah. I kind of like the child part of me. Maybe it reflects in my face or something. I don’t know.
Fletcher: I was hoping to get some secrets.
Barbra, you can sing, act, compose, write, direct and everything so well. What can you not do well?
Streisand: I can’t cook. I can’t cook at all. I mean, I would not know how to make coffee. I could sort of boil an egg. Maybe I could figure that one out.
Rogen: You should just try one day.
Streisand: I took cooking classes. By the way, I know how to make chocolate soufflé.
Rogen: That’s pretty good.
Streisand: Just ask me if I want to make it. I may have somebody else make the chocolate soufflé and I eat it. I found when I took cooking classes, when I tried to cook, put it that way, it was never appetizing to eat. I mean, I didn’t want to eat it. The joy was gone. I was always filthy with the stuff and covered in it. That’s screwed it up. And then, picking up and cleaning up. No. I don’t like that part.
For Anne, was any of what made it into the movie improvised or was most of it on the page? And for Dan, , could we ever see a sequel to “Tangled”?
Fletcher: You don’t want to talk about “Step Up”?
Rogen: They made 5,000 sequels to that movie. What do you mean?
Fogelman: Yeah, I heard rumors. Obviously it’s more in Disney’s hands more than it would ever be in mine, in terms of “Tangled.” I know that they were talking. There’s always talk about doing stuff when it makes that much money.
Fletcher: Yeah, sort of makes sense, right? Regarding the question about script versus improv, I don’t know, to be perfectly honest. We have such a great flow of a great script written by Dan and amazing ideas from Seth and Barbra as well, every day. As you know, their chemistry is insane which means they’re incredibly connected.
And actually, I’ve been around improv a long time in my life and these two people are insane with it. They can actually speak and listen at the exact same time. So it was always my goal to have that on screen as much as possible because I think it’s magic, and I don’t think that many people have that much of a click.
I mean, lots of people do and they’re very good at it, so I don’t want to discredit them, but these two have a very unique ability that I really loved and wanted the world to see. So we did a lot of improv, yes.
Streisand: You encouraged it, too.
Fletcher: [She says jokingly] And that script sucked. So that’s the other things we had to really turn away from.
Fogelman: The 10 biggest laughs in the film are all stuff Seth and Barbra came up with and so with more the dramatic stuff we stayed more on script and a lot more of the comedy stuff in the car was probably Seth and Barbra just going with it.
Fletcher: The car stuff for sure, yeah. But it was always in every scene that we would play around with stuff and we would always discover they would find things always because Seth’s brain works at a different capacity than any other human being. And it’s always brilliant and you always want it.
One of the things that really stuck out in this film was Andy Brewster had a refreshingly complex character, had a very distinct arc to it, a good range of emotion. How did you approach the character of Andy?
Rogen: I really thought of it as a very real-time performance. You’re kind of just thrown into the movie with him, so I thought I should try to be as real and natural as possible. He’s not a particularly funny guy. He’s not even in a particularly good mood for the majority of the movie. But I thought that if you seem a little vulnerable, people seem to relate to that, and that was the balance … We got options.
Honestly, I would do takes where I was more harsh with Barbra and takes where I was less harsh, takes where I was more annoyed and less annoyed, and takes where I was fully entertained by her and takes where I was like, “Oh, shut the f*ck up.” We knew that it would be somewhere in there. To me, that’s kind of how I act sometimes, especially when you don’t know.
We knew that was going to be the line, like how annoying can she be versus how annoyed can he be? When does that start to get grating? You’ve got to make sure you relate with both of them. Is it too much on her? Is it too much on him? We talked a lot about it while we were filming, just as far as, “OK, that last take was harsh. We should make sure we get one that’s less harsh so when we’re editing, it doesn’t …”
Streisand: It’s like playing an instrument. I mean as the director, you know, she modulates and ….
Rogen: I play my own instrument a lot, too, as a man.
Fletcher: On set.
Streisand: He couldn’t resist that. But it is interesting, isn’t it? I mean ’cause then when we started to show the movie and then if they found him a little mean to me, she had that many takes, you know.
Fletcher: And when you test it, the audience will let you know.
Streisand: Or me, I was too. Yeah.
Fletcher: There were times when we tested him very angry which by the way is the relationship I have with my mother. So I identified with it.
Streisand: You adore your mother, though. Yeah.
Fletcher: Don’t tell her. And Barbra playing a little bit more annoying and you really learn quickly that the audience responded to that and how far to go with it. And so then you are — you’re shaping these two so that you love both of them. And in the beginning of the movie, you’re rooting for him, the middle of the movie you’re rooting for her, and it flip flops. So you keep working at it.
Streisand: I love it because it’s a transformative kind of movie. They start at one point, both of them tragically alone and not finding a mate. And then, at the end, there are many more possibilities. The horizons open. “Oh, there’s more to life than The Gap.”’
He took me out of my shell. It was a very loving gesture. And so ut’s about love. I always say it’s a different kind of love story.
Rogen: Which, to me, sounds gross.
Streisand: He pukes at that. See where your mind goes! His mind goes to the sexual.
Rogen: Exactly. Right in the gutter.
Rogen: Right in the gutter.
When it comes to judging your work, whose opinion means then most to you out of all of the people in your life?
Streisand: Just one person?
Streisand: ‘Cause it’s hard between my husband and my son. My manager of 50 years. I mean, that’s a long relationship. I don’t know. I trust several people. I trust …
Streisand: You could say that.
Fletcher: I think you surround yourself with people who are pretty honest.
Streisand: Oh really, I don’t like to be schmuckled … What is it? How would you describe that. It’s a great Yiddish word. It means smeared. I like the truth, yeah.
Rogen: Don’t smear, Barbra.
Streisand: Yeah, try not to.
Rogen: Who of my writing and directing and producing partner Evan [Goldberg] is pretty honest with me generally speaking. Yeah, my wife just is nice to me all the time so it doesn’t …
Streisand: That doesn’t count.
Rogen: No, it doesn’t count. Evan’ll be pretty honest with me, whether I like it or not. He’s a producer on this movie so he had no excuse to not like it.
For more info: “The Guilt Trip” movie