The quintessential diva returns with a new Christmas movie (it’s funny!) and she owes it all to her gay son

JEWISH MOTHER | Barbra Streisand plays the meddling mom of nebbishy inventor Seth Rogen in the family comedy ‘The Guilt Trip.’

Barbra Streisand is finally taking center stage again. The legend — promoting her first major film in 16 years — has her hair perfectly coiffed, dressed in all  black with an off-the-shoulder look going on. Hello, gorgeous, indeed.

Not long into the interview, a makeup artist waiting in the wings pats any remnants of perspiration from her forehead. You don’t let a legend sweat — La Streisand is the epitome of an American treasure, the woman who stole hearts in A Star is Born. To us, a gay icon.

After a short stint of recent sold-out shows, Streisand returns to starring-role status in The Guilt Trip alongside goofball pothead Seth Rogen. If it weren’t for director Anne Fletcher, who would only do the film with Babs, there’d be no movie.

Streisand (with a few shouts-outs from Rogen and Fletcher) sat down to chat about the reason she finally returned to film and what she thinks of being a gay icon.

— Chris Azzopardi


Dallas Voice: What was it like meeting Seth for the first time?  Barbra Streisand: Seth sussed me out. He called people. I didn’t know who to call. I don’t know any of those people from his movies, so what was I gonna do? I thought he was adorable.

You must know a lot of gay people are going to come out to see this movie … We hope so. … because Seth is such a huge gay icon. Seth Rogen: I’m a gay icon? Do gay people like Barbra, too? I didn’t know that.

How do you feel, Barbra, about the label of “gay icon” — and do you think your [gay son Jason Gould] thinks of you as one?  He doesn’t see me as an icon. He sees me as his mother who touches his hair too much. No — I love being an icon to anybody. Equal rights, you know!

How much contact did you and Jason have when you were considering the role?  He actually was very important in my decision to make the movie.

He was recovering from back surgery, so he was in bed for a few days after, and I brought the script over and we read it out loud. It was interesting, actually. His father was in the room, too. Isn’t that funny? We were both coddling our son, so he became the audience and Jason was reading the parts with 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. And he clinched the deal.

Anne Fletcher: I [said that to you] for a whole year!

Streisand: Well, he’s my son.

Rogen, Streisand and director Anne Fletcher on the set of ‘The Guilt Trip.’

What about reading it with Jason sealed the deal?  Mothers develop guilt trips. I feel guilty as a parent that I couldn’t pick up my son every day from school and bake him cookies. I know that feeling. I know that feeling a lot. Having a famous parent is an odd thing. I thought it was interesting to investigate trying to be my son’s friend versus a mother.

It was a true story — it’s [screenwriter] Dan [Fogelman] and his mother. She was a fan of mine, and Dan wrote this lovely script. It just felt like it was meant to be, meant for me to come back to work in a starring role. 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: “I really don’t wanna schlep to Paramount. It’s two hours each way, so would you, like, rent a warehouse and build the sets in the Valley no more than 45 minutes from my house?” They said yes.

What do you want audiences to take away from the film?  I want them to be moved and I want them to see themselves in the movie. I want them to get closer to their children. A lot of things. It’s a transformative kind of movie. They start at one point and are both kind of tragically alone, not finding a mate, and then at the end there are many more possibilities. Horizons open. He took me out of my shell. It’s about love. I always say it’s a different kind of love story.

Anne, what did your gay friends think when you told them you were working with Barbra? Fletcher: Everyone in my life is gay, but I have one best friend who has been obsessed with her since he was a child. His entire childhood was saved because of Barbra — with her music and her movies. His mom had just died four or five years ago, so for him to meet her on the movie — and her and I having such a relationship — was just full circle.

Who is another gay icon you want to work with, Anne?  Fletcher: I don’t really like the “gay icons,” by the way. I don’t really respond to them very well. I think Barbra is so grounded in many different things, but there’s some of them — I’m really insulting gay sensibility. But Liza Minnelli. I do love Liza.

What was harder for you to act: the drama or the comedy?  Streisand: Eating steak! That was the hardest thing, I think. But no, they’re both the same.

I don’t think there’s a distinction between how you play drama or comedy, if it’s based in truth.

You must see a lot of scripts … I don’t. You see, everybody thinks like you. Meanwhile, I go, “Where are the scripts?” It’s not the same as when I last made a film. They’re not interested in love stories. It’s a different time. I don’t like it as much.

You sing, act, produce, write and direct. What can’t you do well?  I can’t cook at all. I mean, I would not know how to make coffee. I took cooking classes. I know how to make chocolate soufflé. Just ask me if I want to make it. I’d rather have somebody else make the chocolate soufflé and I eat it. When I tried to cook, put it this way: It was never appetizing to eat. And the hands! So filthy with the stuff. And then cleaning up — no, I don’t like that part.

Barbra, what’s your beauty secret?  God, what is my secret?

Rogen: Sitting next to me helps.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 21, 2012.