Meet the Fockers: Tracy Bennett
August 10, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Shortly after ”Meet the Parents” opened huge in October 2000, Universal and DreamWorks reportedly forked over $1.1 million to its initial writer, Jim Herzfeld, for a sequel script. ”Parents” went on to rack up $330 million worldwide. But development on ”Fockers,” which would follow engaged-to-be-married male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) as he introduces his uptight future in-laws (Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner) to his own folks, kept spinning on. ”There were a lot of great ideas,” says producer Jane Rosenthal. ”But we didn’t have a clear idea where the story was going.” It went through multiple rewrites, including passes by Paul and Chris Weitz (”About a Boy”), David O. Russell (”Flirting With Disaster”), and Larry Stuckey with director Jay Roach (ringleader of the ”Austin Powers” flicks). Ultimately, ”Parents” cowriter John Hamburg returned to do what he did before — pull together earlier drafts and stay on-set for revisions throughout filming, which only wrapped in August.

The final scenario: The Byrnes and Focker clans face off at so-called ”Focker Isle,” the Florida-peninsula home of Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). He’s a left-leaning former lawyer, she’s a sex therapist whose clients are mostly seniors — and both of them drive uptight Mr. Byrnes (De Niro) crazy. Hoffman has played opposite De Niro for laughs before in ”Wag the Dog.” But what made their first-time collaborator Streisand choose ”Fockers” as a comedic comeback after eight years out of the movie game? Says Hoffman, ”I had heard that Barbra was almost persuaded not to do it by her friends because she wasn’t the star.” Back in mid-March, director Roach told EW he thought Streisand was ”not likely” to say yes — but holy Linda Richman, she did, after assiduous courting by Stiller and Universal executives. For Hoffman, playing Streisand’s hubby was both a virgin work experience and a personal reunion. ”I met Barbra in 1959 or 1960 when we were studying at the same theater studio in New York,” he recalls. ”She was just 17 and I was going with her roommate. All I remember is that everybody kept saying not only was she a good actress, she was also a very good singer.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE Part 3. Anyone for Greg becoming a dad in, say, ”Meet the Little Fockers”?

105 minutes
Jay Roach
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