This holiday season, you can celebrate family at the movies with The Guilt Trip, which tells the story of Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen), as he embarks on a cross-country road trip with his mother, Joyce (Barbra Streisand), to turn one of his inventions into a success. With both funny and poignant moments on their mother-son adventure, each realizes that they just want the other to be happy.
During a press conference to promote the film’s December 19th theatrical release, Seth Rogen talked about sussing his co-star out before filming, how he approached playing the role, how crazy his own mother drives him and cracking up on set, while Barbra Streisand talked about what ultimately convinced her to take this role, how she most identified with her character, how she feels about being labeled as a gay icon, what gives her the greatest artistic satisfaction, the most challenging scene, what she hopes audiences will take from the film, and which technologies she’d like to consider using, if and when she ever directs again. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
BARBRA STREISAND: Well, Seth sussed me out.
SETH ROGEN: I did.
STREISAND: He called people from The Fockers movies.
ROGEN: I think I was actually working with John Schwartzman, who was the cinematographer on Meet the Fockers, at the time this came up. I asked him what he thought of Barbra, and he said she was great. I know Jay Roach a little, so I think I might have asked him, and he said that she was awesome, too. I think I might have run into Ben Stiller and asked him. So, she checked out. This Barbra Streisand lady checked out, so I thought I’d give her a shot.
STREISAND: I didn’t know who to call. I don’t know any of the people from his movies. But, I thought he was adorable. I thought, “This is unlikely, which makes it interesting. And yet, we’re both Jewish and I could be his mother.”
ROGEN: When we met, we got along. We got along very well.
ROGEN: Very fast, we got along very well.
Barbra, how did your son ultimately convince you to do this film?
STREISAND: He was actually very important in my decision to make the movie because he was recovering from back surgery, so he was in bed for a few days. I brought the script over and read it out loud. His father was in the room, too. We were both coddling our son. So, he became the audience, and Jason was reading all the parts with me. He said, “I think you should do it, mom,” and I really trust his integrity and opinion. He has great taste, in whatever he chooses to do. It’s amazing. So, he clinched the deal.
STREISAND: I don’t.
Do they just not make it to you?
STREISAND: Everybody thinks, “She must get so many scripts. Why should I send this? She’ll never get a chance to read it.” Meanwhile, I go, “Where are the scripts?”
Seth, how did you approach playing Andy Brewster?
ROGEN: I really thought of it as a very real-time performance. You are thrown into the movie with him, so I thought I should just try to be as real and natural as possible. He’s not a particularly funny guy. He’s not even in a particularly good mood, for the majority of the movie. But, I thought that, if you seem a little vulnerable, people seem to relate to that. That was the balance. And I gave options. I would do takes where I was more harsh with Barbra and takes where I was less harsh, takes where I was more annoyed and takes where I was less annoyed, takes where I was just fully entertained by her and takes where I was like, “Oh, shut the fuck up!” We knew that it would be somewhere in there. That’s how I act, especially when you don’t know. We knew that that was going to be a line of how annoying she could be versus how annoyed he could be. You’ve got to make sure audiences relate to both of them, so we talked a lot about it while we were filming.
STREISAND: The director plays an instrument and modulates.
ROGEN: I play my own instrument a lot, too, as an actor.
STREISAND: I love it because it’s a transformative kind of movie. They start at one point, both tragically alone and not finding a mate, and then, by the end, there are many more possibilities. The horizon is open. There’s more to life than The Gap. It’s about love. I always say that it’s a different kind of love story.
ROGEN: Which, to me, sounds gross.
ROGEN: Right in the gutter.
Barbra, what did you identify with most, with this character?
STREISAND: Mothers develop guilt trips. When I was working a lot, I felt guilty, as a parent, that I couldn’t pick up my son from school every day and bake him cookies. I know that feeling, a lot. So, you try to compensate. Children sense that guilt, and they’re going through their own rebellious times. And having a famous parent is an odd thing, you know? So, I thought it was interesting to investigate trying to be my son’s friend versus his mother. When it comes to time to really say, “You abused me. You disrespect me. You talk back to me. You don’t honor what I say. You won’t take my advice,” this movie hit on all those things that I thought I could explore. And it was a true story. It’s Dan and his mother, and she was a fan of mine. There was just something right about it. And Dan wrote this lovely script. It just felt like it was meant to be, for me to come back to work, in a starring role rather than six days on a movie, which I really like. 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, so I made it really hard. I never do this, but I was like, “I really don’t want to shlep to Paramount. It’s two hours, each way. Would you rent a warehouse and build the sets in the Valley, no more than 45 minutes from my house?” And they said, “Yes.” On the Fockers movies, I had to get up early, and I’m not an early bird. Even Seth says, “It’s very hard to be funny at 7:30 in the morning,” and he’s right. He has to have a few cups of tea. You have to feed him, a little bit. So I said, “You can’t pick me up until 8:30 because that’s a normal time for me to get up because I love the night.” My husband and I stay up until two or three in the morning, so we don’t function that well at six in the morning. And they said, “Okay.” I remember saying to Anne, “Would you make the movie without me?,” and she said, “No.” That made me feel bad and guilty. I thought, “She’s not going to have this job, and I want her to work.”
ROGEN: I was open to Shirley MacLaine. No, that’s not true. I only would have done it, if Barbra was doing it. They were like, “They want you to do this movie with Barbra, but Barbra’s not sure if she wants to do it.” I just said, “Let me know if she says yes.” I literally made two movies, during that time. We were editing 50/50 and I got a call that said, “Barbra said yes.”
STREISAND: It’s great to feel wanted.
Seth, how crazy does your own mother drive you?
ROGEN: Very. My mom drives me crazy sometimes, but I have a good relationship with her. I see my parents a lot, but it’s a lot like in the movie. For no reason, I get annoyed. I’ll just find myself reverting back to the mentality of a 14-year-old kid, who just doesn’t want to be around his parents. Honestly, it’s one of the things I related to most, in the script. It was that dynamic where, the more your mother tries, the more she bugs you, and the more it bugs you, the more she tries. You see her trying to say the thing that won’t annoy you, but she can’t.
Who made who crack up and laugh the most, on set?
ROGEN: She cracked me up quite a bit.
STREISAND: Because it was more unexpected from me, probably, and I’m more serious.
ROGEN: This lady is a very serious woman.
ROGEN: The way we talk in real life is not entirely different than our rapport in the movie. We got along. It was a lot of me trying to explain things to her about modern times, and her trying to feed me shit I didn’t want to eat.
STREISAND: And yet, I was the one with the iPhone.
ROGEN: She had an iPhone before me. I had a Blackberry. She was always playing games on her I phone, so I was like, “I’ve gotta get one of these. If Barbra can work an iPhone, it’s got to be fun.” And I changed her clocks during daylight savings.
STREISAND: He’s very handy.
Barbra, how do you feel about the label of gay icon?
STREISAND: I love being an icon to anybody. Equal rights, you know.
ROGEN: Me, too.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction, as an artist?
STREISAND: I prefer things that are private, so I love recording and I love making films, as a filmmaker, because it uses every bit of what you have experienced or know, whether it’s graphics composition, decorating, psychology, storytelling, or whatever it is. It’s a wonderful thing.
STREISAND: Well, I was dealing with very talented people. I had loved Anne’s movie, The Proposal, and I looked Dan up. I loved Tangled, and I saw his name on it. He’s a very gifted writer. And Seth [Rogen] is terrific at what he does.
What was the hardest thing for you to do in this film?
STREISAND: Eating steak. For a person who doesn’t like steak, that was the hardest part.
Is it more difficult for you to be funny or serious?
STREISAND: They’re both the same. What reaches an audience is honesty. If you’re saying something truthful that’s supposed to be a funny line, it’s going to be funny. And if it’s supposed to be a serious line, it’s going to be serious. But, I don’t think there’s a distinction between how you play drama or comedy, if it’s based in the truth.
You’ve had such an amazing career, at this point. What do you think the secret to your success is?
STREISAND: I don’t make that many movies, and I don’t make that many appearances.
ROGEN: She leaves them wanting more.
STREISAND: That’s it. Less is more. Maybe that keeps a little mystery, or something. I don’t know. I like to stay home a lot. I like to do other things, like decorate and build.
What do you want audiences to take away from this film?
ROGEN: Yeah, all that.
Barbra, what is your beauty secret?
ROGEN: Sitting next to me helps.
STREISAND: He is so funny! If you knew all of my self-doubt, my god. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m slightly childish. I like the child part of me, so maybe it reflects in my face or something.
You can sing, act, compose, write and direct. What can’t you do?
STREISAND: I can’t cook, at all. I would not know how to make coffee. I took cooking classes, so I know how to make chocolate soufflé, but ask me if I want to make soufflé. I let somebody else make the chocolate soufflé, and I eat it. I found that, when I took cooking classes and tried to cook, I didn’t want to eat it. The joy was gone. I was always filthy with the stuff, and then had to clean it up. I don’t like that.
Since you last directed a movie, so many things have changed with the way they can be shot, with digital, 3D and even 48 fps. What are your thoughts on these technologies and whether you might use them, as a director?
STREISAND: Well, when and if I direct another film, I would have to go suss out the RED camera, the Alexa and all of those new things. I know I love film, so I don’t know what I’m going to find out about that. I’ll suss it out. By the way, A Star Was Born was done live. I sang live. I also sang live at the end of Funny Girl. That’s what they’re talking about with Les Miserables. I said, “How do you know where the emotion is going to hit you?” I’m a terrible lip-syncher because I have to be in the moment. I can’t lip-synch to something that I recorded, three months before. So, I thought it was great that (director) Tom Hooper let the actors sing live.
The Guilt Trip opens in theaters on December 19th.