Barbra Streisand is camera-ready when she walks into the room: the expertly tailored black suit; the perfectly cut hair, just long enough to allow for a signature swipe with her nails when it falls into her face; the nails. But something’s wrong — and she spots it right away. The seating arrangement. You see, she didn’t sit where she had wanted to during a TV interview that aired the night before to promote her mother-son road-trip dramedy with Seth Rogen, The Guilt Trip (PG-13, out Dec. 19). ”I couldn’t bear to watch it,” explains Streisand, 70. So she gets to work. ”If you move that chair over here, you can sit there, Seth can sit there, and I can sit here and see you both.”
When Rogen, 30, arrives in his gray cardigan and gets his seat assignment, he laughs (as he does almost every time he speaks) and says, ”But, Barbra, nobody’s actually going to see you give this interview.” The two forged a friendship while making the film, which is directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) and based on a real-life cross-country adventure that screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love) took with his own mom. It’s Streisand’s first starring role since 1996. It’s also the capstone of a remarkably fruitful year — her 50th in show business — that has included her new album, Release Me, and a just-wrapped 10-city concert tour. This is clearly a woman who knows how to set a scene — and, more important, how to look good in one.
Barbra, you haven’t headlined a movie since The Mirror Has Two Faces 16 years ago. Was it easy to get you on board for The Guilt Trip?
Barbra Streisand [Shakes her head] Have you talked to Anne? It took a year. She was so adamant, and I thought, ”Look, I just don’t want to play another Jewish mother after the Fockers movies.” Then I read it aloud with my son [Jason Gould] when he was recuperating from back surgery. And he thought I should do it. And that’s a big plus, when my own son tells me to do a movie about a mother and son.
What interested you, Seth?
Seth Rogen I thought the idea of a buddy comedy between a mother and son was funny. If you would have asked me two years ago, ”Are you going to do a mother-son buddy comedy with Barbra Streisand?” I would have said [deadpan], ”I can’t imagine that will happen.” But it kind of was a perfect storm.
Streisand It was interesting to be the star of a movie again. I made it so impossible for them to hire me, in a sense. I mean, the things I asked for were outrageous.
Rogen Like that we didn’t leave Malibu! And we drive across the country [in this movie].
I said to them, ”Look, I really don’t want to schlep from my house in Malibu to Paramount. That’s going to take one and a half to two hours. So I would only do it if you find a warehouse in the valley and you can make it into a set.” On Fockers, I had to get up at five, six in the morning, and this time I said, ”You can’t pick me up before 8:30. Okay?” And they said, ”Okay!”
You both have extensive filmographies. What was your first exposure to each other’s work?
Rogen I saw Funny Girl when I was younger.
Rogen Yeah. It’s one of those movies you see when you’re young, and it sort of becomes just one of those movies. But my wife [Lauren Miller] is a pretty big fan of Barbra’s, and when we started dating we watched some of those movies. Funny Girl we watched on Valentine’s Day.
Streisand Ahhhh. Did you watch things like The Way We Were?
Streisand With her? With your wife?
Rogen Yeah … [He hesitates.] Some of them I plowed through before we started filming, in case they came up conversationally.
Barbra, what was your first exposure to Seth?
Rogen [Jokes] She still hasn’t seen me act. She doesn’t know who I am.
Streisand No! You see, I didn’t understand certain comedies like Knocked Up. You know what I mean?
Rogen Yeah, a lot of people didn’t.
Streisand But I thought you were really interesting. What I love about him is that he’s a really good actor. You really surprised me. I thought you could do [The Guilt Trip] by what I saw. But I never saw you do this [kind of film]. You’re usually surrounded by your guys.
Rogen This is actually one of the first PG-13 comedies I’ve ever done. So it took me a while to adjust to the fact that I couldn’t say terribly filthy things.
Streisand And you can’t show your thing.
Rogen That’s Jason Segel!
You two clearly bonded on set. Have you been to each other’s homes?
Rogen She hasn’t been to my house. [Laughs] She doesn’t leave Malibu!
Streisand But you don’t entertain! And I cook.
Rogen But I’ve been to your house four or five times.
Have you seen Barbra’s doll collection and all the ”stores” in her basement?
Rogen I’ve seen everything, I’ve gotten the tours. There’s a whole book.
Streisand My Passion for Design.
Rogen Available now on Amazon!
Barbra, you just completed a concert tour with your son. Is it safe to assume your experience was nothing like your character’s in the movie?
Streisand No, we had resolved all our issues before that. It was the most joyous time with my son ever, ever, ever. There’s just such a pure, unconditional love that it’s a mitzvah. There are years when he was a teenager, and later than that, you know, angers that are built up. But he’s done so much great work on himself, that he is so comfortable with himself that he could get up on a stage after never having performed before and be okay with that.
I was excited to hear you perform songs from Gypsy during one concert. Are you closer to doing a Gypsy remake?
Streisand We’re still just working out one rights issue. I think it should happen. But it takes forever.
When talking about you playing Momma Rose, some people have brought up your age.
Streisand What’s that got to do with anything? How old do I look to you?
You look the perfect age.
Streisand Age is a number, didn’t they say that? I mean, some people look old at 45. Some people look younger at my age. I don’t like to say my age. It’s so ridiculous. The difference between one year, in the sound of that, is just enormous. By the way, when you read articles about men, they don’t mention their age. With women, they mention their age.
Now I’m going to have to.
Streisand Don’t you dare! Say it’s around the late 60s. It is what it is. I can’t lie about my age. I saw CGI of an actor that made him go from 60 to 30, by the way. What they can do now, technically.
This movie is about what a mother and son learn from each other. Barbra, do you have any motherly advice for Seth?
Rogen She likes my hair right now.
Streisand I do! [Reaches over] I’m always pulling his hair. I think he married well. I like his wife. I like his family. And he seems to be on a great trajectory. And, as I said, I love his acting. I love his reality. He can be serious and he can be funny, and I see great things in store.
How about you, Seth? Any advice for Barbra?
Rogen No, not at all. Are you kidding me? She seems like she’s doing pretty good.
What’s next for Seth
The End of the World
For his directorial debut, out June 14, 2013, Rogen (and codirector Evan Goldberg) lined up a cast (left) including Rihanna, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Emma Watson, and Paul Rudd. The premise? ”All these actors playing themselves facing an apocalyptic scenario,” Rogen says.
Rogen is attached to star opposite Zac Efron as a family man who lives next door to a rowdy college fraternity. Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) will direct.
What’s next for Barbra
Streisand says she’s ”working out one rights issue” before moving forward with a new adaptation of the stage musical, which she’ll produce (with Joel Silver) and star in. Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) is writing the script.
Skinny and Cat
She aims to direct a film about early- 20th-century photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White and writer Erskine Caldwell. Cate Blanchett and Colin Firth are attached to star.