Barbra Streisand doesn't often say yes to film projects, and it took a long time and many meetings with director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) and screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love) to get the two-time Oscar winner to sign up to co-star as Seth Rogen's mom in Paramount Pictures' The Guilt Trip. Streisand eventually said yes, which is a good thing for director Fletcher who says otherwise she wouldn't have wanted to direct the film. "I wasn’t going to do the movie without these two. There was no other. There wasn’t a back-up. If Seth said no, there was no replacement. If Barbra said no, there was no replacement. It was them or I wasn’t going to make the movie."
Together for the press conference in support of the mother and son roadtrip comedy, Streisand and Rogen talked about their chemistry and about how some of the comedy comes from real-life situations.
Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen The Guilt Trip Press Conference
QUESTION: What was it like meeting each other for the first time?
Seth 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."
Barbra Streisand: "Ben Stiller you called."
Seth Rogen: "Yeah. Ben Stiller I think I might have run into and asked. She checked out with everyone. [Laughing] This Barbra Streisand lady checked out, so I thought I’d give her a shot."
Barbra 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."Seth Rogen: "When we met, we got along very well."
Barbra Streisand: "Totally. Instantly."
Seth 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."
Barbra Streisand: "And yet he copied my iPhone. I was the one with the iPhone."
Seth 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.'"
Barbra 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.'"
Seth Rogen: "I showed her that she did."
Barbra 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."
Seth Rogen: "I’ll show you. I changed her clocks during daylight savings."
Barbra Streisand: "He’s very handy."
QUESTION: Barbra, what gives you the most satisfaction as an artist and what does it mean to you to be a part of a project like this?
Barbra 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."
QUESTION: What was hardest for you – the dramatic moments or the comic ones?
Barbra Streisand: "Eating steak. For a person who doesn’t like steak, that was the hardest part."
QUESTION: But which was hardest – being funny or serious?
Barbra 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."
QUESTION: Barbra, what do you think is the secret to your success and what have you done right?
Barbra Streisand: "I don’t make that many movies and I don’t make that many appearances, so…"
Seth Rogen: "You leave them wanting more."
Barbra 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."
QUESTION: Seth, how crazy does your own mother drive you?
Seth 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. All that, at times, is very real to my relationship to my mother."
QUESTION: Seth, how did you approach playing your character?
Seth Rogen: "I really thought of it as a very real-time performance. You’re 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. I thought that if you seem a little vulnerable, people seem to relate to that and that was the balance that [I went for]. 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**k up.' We knew that it would be somewhere in there. To me, that’s 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, as far as, 'Okay, that last take was harsh. We should make sure we get one that’s less harsh so when we’re editing, it doesn’t…'"
Barbra 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. It’s about love. I always say it’s a different kind of love story."
Seth Rogen: "Which, to me, sounds gross."
Barbra Streisand: "You would say that. See where your mind goes! It goes to the sexual."
Seth Rogen: "Exactly. Right in the gutter."
Barbra Streisand: "Always."
Seth Rogen: "Right in the gutter."
QUESTION: Barbra, how much contact did you have with your son, Jason, when you were thinking about how you wanted to play the role? Did he maybe share some fun stories, maybe one of which you can share with us?
Barbra 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."
Seth Rogen: [Laughing] "He couldn’t escape."
Barbra 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."
QUESTION: You must get sent so many scripts.
Barbra Streisand: "I don’t."
QUESTION: You don’t - or they just don’t make it to you?
Barbra Streisand: "You see, everybody thinks like you, '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?'"
QUESTION: 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?
Barbra 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."
Seth Rogen: "For me, it is."
Barbra 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 8:30am.' That’s a normal time to get up for me, because I love the night."
Seth Rogen: "That’s like a normal job."
Barbra 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, 'Okay.'"
Seth Rogen: "I was open to Shirley MacLaine. [Laughing] No, I’m just kidding. I only would have done it if Barbra was doing it. For me, it was funny. They were like, 'We want to do this movie with Barbra but Barbra’s not sure if she wants to do it.' I was like, 'Well just let me know if she says yes.' And then, I literally made two movies during that time. We were editing 50/50 and I got a call and they said, 'Barbra said yes.' I said, 'Okay, great.'"
Barbra Streisand: "I got everything that I wanted."
QUESTION: What do you want an audience to take away from the film?
Barbra 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."
QUESTION: Barbra, you can sing and act in drama or comedy, compose, write and direct so well. What can you not do well?
Barbra 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."
Seth Rogen: "You should just try one day."
Barbra Streisand: "I took cooking classes. By the way, I know how to make Chocolate Souffle."
Seth Rogen: "That’s pretty good."
Barbra Streisand: "Just ask me if I *want* to make it. I may have somebody else make the Chocolate Souffle 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."
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The Guilt Trip arrives in theaters on December 19, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for language and some risque material.