Is Barbra Streisand's new movie reflecting badly on the star?
There’s gallows humor, and then there’s the nasty relic created by the crew of Barbra Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces. Succumbing to the strain of Mirror’s protracted shoot and steep attrition rate, some staffers mounted a ”wall of crosses” deep inside Mirror‘s Manhattan offices — a place the director- producer-star rarely visited. The crosses bore the names of the 15 or so coworkers who either quit or were fired from the production before it wrapped March 27. The irony? The crew looked at the unemployed as the lucky ones. As one source put it, ”People are dying to be let off this shoot.”
Barbra Streisand inspiring dissension in the ranks? What else is new? (Similar clashes were reported on Yentl and The Prince of Tides.) The twist here is that Mirror, a remake of a 1959 film, is about an ugly duckling professor and her quest for inner and outer beauty. But the lessons of the film are lost on hyper-picky Streisand.
It all started with Dudley Moore, who left abruptly in early November after he failed to deliver his lines with Arthuresque bounce. (He was replaced by George Segal.) But this was just a warm-up to the full-scale housecleaning in December. That’s when director of photography Dante Spinotti (Heat), editor Alan Heim, several members of Spinotti’s crew, and a few lighting technicians and production assistants exited. According to Mirror screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, Streisand’s actions were not totally her fault. ”She was rushed. She wanted to begin in January, but [TriStar] said no, go in October. She had to get the team she needed.”
Although changes in personnel may have contributed to the achingly long shoot (five months), TriStar blamed New York City’s record snowfall, not Streisand, for the snail’s pace. In January and February, the film was shooting about half a page of script per day (2 to 2 1/2 is the norm). But speed was not of the utmost importance to Streisand, who, says LaGravenese, was ”trying to make a good movie. She had a billion details inside her head.” Among the things she fretted over: the density of her panty hose, the bras she wore, and whether the trees would have falling leaves. Disgruntled staffers argue that she’s not a good manager. ”Her reputation is that of a perfectionist,” one ex-employee says. ”Point of fact, she’s a meddler. She doesn’t let anyone do their job.”
But the biggest challenge faced by the 54-year-old star was how to present her character. In the original, the mousy housefrau undergoes her transformation via plastic surgery. But Streisand rejected that idea — perhaps because of the negative message — and went with attitude adjustment instead. Which might work for the character, but does it work for the star? ”Certain wrinkles and gravitational forces seem to be causing Streisand concern,” says one ex-crew member. ”She doesn’t want to look her age. She’s fighting it.”
Will the on-set strife smudge Mirror‘s image? TriStar is still very keen on the film — it’s thinking Oscar noms — though the shenanigans have been costly. A studio spokesman puts the film, originally budgeted at $36 million, at $42 million. But former TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy, who has a financial interest in the film, believes a stress-filled shoot is the price you pay to work with Streisand. ”You don’t get to be a megastar and not be a perfectionist.”
One costar even believes it’s Streisand who has the true cross to bear. ??I’ve seen male directors throw tantrums and nobody says a peep,?? says Pierce Brosnan. ??If this picture makes big bucks, no one’s going to give a flying whatever about how it got made.??