Barbra Streisand has garnered more accolades then pretty much any entertainer in history, but she recently came out of leading lady retirement to play a mother taking a rocky road trip with her reluctant son in “The Guilt Trip.”
A multiple Oscar, Grammy and Emmy award winner, Streisand, in the past 30 years, has only starred in four other films, three of which she directed and produced, that were nominated for numerous awards. While she recently was a Focker for two films, her last staring role was in 1996's “A Mirror Has Two Faces.”
She agreed to star opposite Seth Rogen because he and the filmmakers, including director Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal,” “27 Dresses”), made her feel “wanted.” She was also attracted to the script by Dan Fogelman (“Crazy Stupid Love,” “Tangled”).
“Mothers develop guilt trips,” Streisand said. “When I was working a lot, I’d feel guilty as a parent. I couldn’t pick up my son every day from school, baking cookies, that type of thing. I know that feeling a lot and so you try to compensate, everything they do is great. They sense that guilt and they go through their own rebellious time or whatever. A famous parent is an odd thing. So I thought it was interesting to investigate, trying to be my son’s friend versus a mother. When it comes down to ... I felt like it was meant to be, to come back to work in a starring role other then six days on a movie, which I really liked. But it was time to challenge myself again.”
Rogen was hoping Streisand would agree to do the role, but he did a little investigating also when he was working with John Schwartzman, the cinematographer for “Meet the Fockers.”
“I asked him what he thought of Barbra and he said that she was great,” Rogen said. “I know Jay Roach a little, so I think I asked him and he said she was awesome too. Ben Stiller, I might have run into and asked him. She checked out. This Barbra Streisand lady checked out, so I thought I’d give her a shot.”
But Rogen joked that Shirley MacLaine was waiting in the wings also.
Fletcher had been working on Streisand for over a year for her to agree to the role, but it was her son, Jason Gould, that helped her make up her mind while he was laid up, recovering from back surgery.
“I brought the script over and read it out loud,” Streisand said. “It was interesting actually, his father (Elliott) was in the room. Isn’t that funny. We were both cuddling our son. So he became the audience and Jason was reading the parts for me and he said, 'I think you should do it mom.' I really trust his integrity and his opinion. He has great taste in whatever he chooses to do. So he clinched the deal.”
But she still played “difficult” to get.
“I always wanted an out someway, so I made it really hard ... I really don’t want to schlep to Paramount, it’s two hours each way,” she said. “So, 'Would you rent a warehouse and build a set in the Valley no more then 45 minutes from my house?' They said, 'Yes.' Then all these Focker movies, I had to get up early and I’m not an early bird. Seth says it’s very hard to be funny at 7:30 in the morning ... so I said 'You can’t pick me up until 8:30.' That’s like a normal time to get up for me because I love the night. I stay up to 2 or 3 in the morning, so we don’t function well at 6:30 in the morning. Then they said, 'OK.'”
“I really said 'OK' because I’m a night owl ... nothing Barbra asked was unrealistic or crazy,” Fletcher said.
In “The Guilt Trip,” Rogen plays Andy Brewster, a struggling inventor who gets countless calls from his mother, Joyce, every day. While her heart is in the right place, his mother is driving him crazy, so when he plans a cross-country trip, he invites his mother along for the ride. The invite comes only after she tells him a little secret, he's named after her first love, someone she broke up with just before meeting his father. When he finds out he's still alive and living in San Francisco, it's the perfect opportunity to try to make a love connection.
Rogen said he could relate to his character.
“My mom drives me crazy sometimes,” Rogen said. “ 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 find myself reverting back to a mentality of 14-year-old kid who just doesn’t want to be around their parents. One of the things I relate to most in the script mostly was that dynamic of just your mother trying, and the more she tries the more it bugs you, the more it bugs you the more she tries. You see her trying not to say the thing that will annoy you and she can’t. All that, at times, is very real to my relationship.”
Streisand said the audience will be able to identify with the relationship.
“I want them to be moved,” she said “I want them to identify. I want them to see themselves in the movie. I want them to get closer to their children.”
Streisand added, “Both of them are tragically alone, not finding a mate ... I always say its a different kind of love story.”
A lot of improv was done during filming, according to Fletcher, and that came easy because of the star's chemistry early on.
“You just say one word, even if it was something like Thanksgiving, and they go into a five minute improv that was so genius. Dan and I would be behind the monitor laughing our asses off.”
Fletcher added, “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 ten-fold as well as the ability to be a straight actor.”
Streisand has spent decades in front and behind the camera, from her Oscar-winning role in her first film, “Funny Girl,” in 1968, to “The Guilt Trip” 44 years later. But even with the multitude of honors, she said scripts sent to her are few and far between. Her next directing job is reportedly “Skinny and Cat,” starring Cate Blanchett and Colin Firth, about the marriage of photographer Margaret Bourke-White and novelist Erskine Caldwell.
“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,” Streisand said. “It's not the same as when we 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, $200 million is OK to lose. The movies I’m used to making or liking or drawn to are movies that cost $18 or $20 million. They’re not interested in that movie. It’s different time. I don’t like it as much.”
But Streisand said she is happy to stay home. She enjoys food, but is a bad cook, and sees nearly every film that is released.
“I don’t make that many movies and I don’t make a lot of appearances, so less is more,” she said. “I think that keeps a little mystery or something. I like to stay home a lot. I like to do other things like decorating.”
The Guilt Trip Details:
Release date: December 19
Production Company: Skydance Productions and Michaels-Goldwyn
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Cast and crew for The Guilt Trip:
Starring Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Brett Cullen, Adam Scott and Colin Hanks
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Written by Dan Fogelman
Produced by Lorne Michaels, John Goldwyn and Evan Goldberg