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Seth Rogen & Barbra Streisand Talk ’Guilt Trip’

by Jim Halterman
Contributor
Tuesday Dec 18, 2012
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You’d think that if the name Barbra Streisand comes up in casting meetings for a new film that it wouldn’t be necessary to do any research on the megastar’s work on other movie sets, which is already well known as being extremely professional and diligent with, perhaps, a few demands or two. She’s earned that right, don’t you think?

But Seth Rogen, in casting his mother for the new film "The Guilt Trip," did check around to see what it was like to work with Babs. "I think 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," explained Rogen at the Beverly Hills press junket last week.

"He said she was great." Adding, "I know Jay Roach [director of ’Fockers’] a little, so I think I might have asked him. I think he said she was awesome, too."

With Streisand sitting by his side, Rogen added, "This Barbra Streisand lady checked out. So I thought I’d give her a shot."


Streisand on Rogen: "I thought he was adorable"

Streisand, in return, admitted, "I don’t know any of those people from his movies." But, regardless of not having the same detective skills or knowledge as Rogen, she explained what she thought of the comic actor from what she had seen. "I thought he was adorable, so I thought this is interesting... unlikely, which makes it interesting. And yet, you know, we’re both Jewish. I could be his mother."

"The Guilt Trip," which opens in theaters this week, is not a holiday-themed film, but does promote the idea of family, finding love and how no matter how old we may be, how we sometimes still need our mother. The fact that the bulk of the movie takes place on a cross-country road trip also proves to be a great story device to force the two adults to see each other in a new light. The film also features Kathy Najimy, Nora Dunn, Adam Scott, Ari Graynor and Casey Wilson.

Directed by Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal") and written by Dan Fogelman ("Tangled"), the sparks between Rogen and Streisand were undeniable, which made for a fun, often-improvisational shoot. "They had such a great chemistry and just a great ability to improvise with each other that was so easy to do," Fletcher said. "You just say one word even if it was like ’Thanksgiving’ and they just go into a five-minute improv that was so genius..."

And if Streisand had turned down the role who would’ve been cast instead? Rogen joked that he was open to Shirley MacLaine, to which Streisand quickly responded: "he’s lying." Rogen smiled and admitted, "I only would have done it if Barbra was doing it." The actor said he was busy shooting the film "50/50" (with Joseph Gordon-Levitt) when he got word that the legendary Streisand had finally said yes to the role.


Comedy or drama?

Since the film contains elements of comedy and drama, which does Streisand see as the more difficult? "They’re both the same," she said, matter-of-factly. "If anything is based on what reaches an audience is the truth is honesty. So if you’re saying something truthful that’s a funny line, it’s gonna be funny. If it’s a serious line, it’s gonna be serious. But I don’t think there’s a distinction between how you play in drama or comedy; do you know what I mean? If it based in the truth."

Besides plugging "The Guilt Trip," Streisand made a point to slide in a mention that the current big movie musical, "Les Miserables," is not the first film to shoot live singing, which has been a big part of its promotional campaign.

"By the way, ’A Star is Born’ was done live," she recalled. "Oh yeah, sometimes with an audience. But we -- I sang live." Streisand also said that she prefers live singing because she’s terrible at lip-synching. "I can’t lip synch to something I recorded three months before, you know?" But, in praise of "Les Miserables," she said, "I thought it was great that [director] Tom Hooper used that -- let the actors be live."


Jason made her do it

Getting high praise from Barbra Streisand can only be a good thing -- she’s clearly well aware of her stature in not only the world of entertainment but also in the gay community, of which her son, Jason Gould, is a part. Asked how her son sees her (since she’s such a gay icon), Streisand answered: "He doesn’t see me as an icon. He sees me as his mother who touches her hair too much and -- no. I love being an icon to anybody. Equal rights, you know?"

Gould, who acted with his mother in the film "The Prince Of Tides," was key to his mother signing on to playing Rogen’s overbearing parent. Streisand explained that her real-life son was recovering from back surgery so he had time to peruse the script. "We read it out loud and it was interesting," she said. "His father [actor Elliott Gould] was in the room, too. Isn’t that funny? We were both, you know, very coddling our son. And so he (Elliot) became the audience and Jason was reading all 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, you know, in whatever he chooses to do. It’s amazing. So he clinched the deal."


Streisand’s guilt trip

Streisand also stressed that while the film focuses on the guilt a mother puts upon her son, she had her share of guilt earlier in her career when her workload was much heavier. "When I was working a lot and I’d feel guilty as a parent that I couldn’t pick up my son every day from school, bake him cookies and that kinda thing...so I know that feeling. I know that feeling a lot."

Her memories of that guilt actually helped her connect with her character. "I thought it was interesting to investigate this, you know, trying to be my son’s friend, trying to be his friend versus a mother. And when it comes time to really say, you know, ’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 kinda thing. In terms of this movie, it hit on all those things that I thought I could explore."

Streisand added the universal appeal of the movie, which she called transformative. Of the mother/son characters, she explained, "Both of them kind of tragically alone, you know? 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.’" She added of the film, "I always say it’s a different kind of love story."

And the key to Streisand’s longevity? "Less is more," she offered. "Maybe that keeps a little mystery or something. I don’t know."

"The Guilt Trip" opens nationwide Dec. 19th.


Watch the trailer to The Guilt Trip:


Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.

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