Streisand and Rogen's bond is a 'Guilt Trip' pleasure

December 20, 2012

The guilt, the nudging and the chemistry started from the first moment the stars got together.

Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand

Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — It took all of five minutes after meeting co-star Seth Rogen for Barbra Streisand to truly start the guilt in The Guilt Trip. Her questions started when they met for a script reading in 2010 that turned instantly personal.

"Barbra was like, 'Do you have a girlfriend?' " director Anne Fletcher recalls. " 'How long have you been dating? Five years? Well, why aren't you married?' "

Even fake child-parent relationships, it seems, start with the nudging built in.

When Streisand, 70, and Rogen, 30, are reminded of that conversation, they agree that's the pattern they quickly fell into for The Guilt Trip, the comedy (opening Wednesday) that pairs them as a duo stuck in a cramped car for a cross-country road trip.

"What am I going to talk about — the weather?" Streisand asks dramatically. "That doesn't interest me. What interests me is who he is as a person. Is he connecting to a woman?"

"I am one of those guys that looks like they need help," Rogen says with a shrug. "Whenever there's a maternal figure around me it's their instinct to try to save me."

Streisand's first leading role since 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces finds the two-time Oscar winner at her guilt-tripping, bantering best, throwing often improvised lines back and forth with Rogen in the same way they carried on that first day.

"They were off from that moment," Fletcher says. "It's like I just sat back there and watched the show."

The Barbra/Seth show doesn't stop when the cameras aren't rolling, either.

"We're both not afraid to talk out of turn," Streisand says. "Sometimes he finishes my sentences. Or when he starts a riff, I finish it. We both don't know where we are going to go. But we're both willing to go there."

"Exactly," Rogen adds. "I thought you would like micromanage yourself. But not at all. It was very loose and free."

Settling into a suite at the Four Seasons hotel, Streisand shows off the duality of her personality. First we see the carefully controlling side as she immediately points out an unlit floor lamp and asks for it to be turned on ("I'm always directing," she says).

But far more prevalent is the Funny Girl Streisand, who laughs as one of her entourage removes a tempting bread basket from her clutches. ("They took my bread away. I love bread," she sighs to no one in particular.)

Streisand and Rogen could easily come across as successful mother and her low-key son. She's stunning in black, from her Stuart Weitzman boots, leather pants and cashmere sweater to a leather choker with a vintage diamond broach. Rogen kicks back with his usual facial stubble, a flannel shirt and blue jeans.

As their repartee heats up, Streisand becomes more relaxed, stretching repeatedly for hunks of brie from the table a few feet away. She even casually makes conversation points with a raised brie-covered fork. After she skillfully cuts away and transports the biggest chunk of all to her plate and dives in, Rogen intervenes.

"You're going to regret eating all of that cheese, Barbra," he says, stopping her in midbite. The image sends them both deep into peals of laughter.

"If they had just left the bread," Streisand says, cursing good-naturedly. "All I wanted was one piece of bread. Now I've eaten all the cheese."

She shoves the plate toward Rogen. "Do you want the cheese?"

Though this encounter to promote the film shows their easy and natural relationship, the film was difficult to get into place. Streisand played hard-to-get with Fletcher, who made it clear she wanted only the diva for the part.

Streisand, who just completed a rare 10-city North American concert tour, acknowledges she doesn't often feel the need to leave her comfortable Malibu home. "I'm basically lazy and don't want to work," she says. "And I was thinking, 'Why am I playing a Jewish mother again?' That kind of thing."

Streisand started making demands she thought the filmmakers never would agree to, insisting that the entire production be close to her home and that she not be picked up before 8:30 a.m. each day, an idea she got after filming small roles in 2004's Meet the Fockers and 2010's Little Fockers comedies as Ben Stiller's mother.

"I want to sleep," says the night owl. "For the Fockers, I had to get up at 6:30 and get picked up at 7:30. You have to have a life."

She even asked to have a four-day workweek, with Wednesdays off.

"When I do concerts I never work consecutive days. I take a day off or two days. In Europe I took five days off so I could go shopping," she says. "I thought they'd never go for it. I was trying to talk them out of (hiring me)."

The filmmakers, however, agreed to most of her demands. Streisand was encouraged by her son, Jason Gould (her only child, from her marriage to Elliott Gould), to take on the part. She jumped on board.

Rogen was prompted to consider taking his role by his then-girlfriend Miller, a complete Streisand fan.

"I could, of course, have said no,'' Rogen says, "but it would have been heartbreaking for her."

He checked out Streisand by calling Meet the Fockers director Jay Roach, who gave a ringing endorsement. Streisand didn't know any of Rogen's famous friends, so she couldn't do a background check.

"He sussed me out. I didn't know who to suss out in his case. Who was I going to call, Jason Segel?" Streisand says. "I didn't know these guys."

"It's like, 'Jonah Hill, this is Barbra Streisand,' " Rogen says.

Streisand: "You could have been on drugs for all I know."

Rogen: "I could have, and I was."

Streisand: "I made him pee in a bottle."

Thanks to the magic of green-screen technology, Rogen and Streisand never had to leave the studio to film the movie about the 2,000-mile American road trip. But the two had plenty of time to bond in their tiny Chevrolet Aveo, talking between takes about movies, celebrities and more.

"Honestly, we'd be in the middle of a conversation, and they'd be ready to yell 'Action' and we'd say 'We'll finish this in a minute,' " Rogen says. "We'd do the scene and start talking again.

"I'd rack my brain and think of who I'd want to hear a story about and 99% of the time she had a story about that person."

Says Streisand: "I told you lots of stories, fake son or not, you'd better not tell. Because I will come to your house."

Outside the car, Streisand had to rise to the occasion for a few scenes, such as one where her character eats a 50-once steak to win a roadside restaurant contest. After trying to talk Fletcher out of the scene, she eventually dug in for three days of steak-eating shots. For far-away shots, filmmakers were able to fake the meat with ahi tuna and even burnt watermelon. But for the most part it was steak, which Streisand finds "disgusting."

The actress also had to act drunk for the first time in her career, which was made more difficult considering she insists she has never been intoxicated.

"I probably have more experience," Rogen says. "I've done whole movies drunk."

"The only drunk people I know are from the movies," Streisand says. "I don't know people who drink. I have a beer once a year. I've never been drunk. I don't like the taste of liquor. I did have a bourbon and Coke when I was younger."

"This is what we did all day," says Rogen, smiling about Streisand's riff. "It's not bad at all."

In the end, the relationship onscreen was enough to convince Gould that it was genuine. "It made me laugh a lot," he says. "But there's a lot of heart in her performance. And it was an opportunity for (her) to show vulnerability. I don't know that she shows a lot in movies."

Rogen married Lauren Miller in fall 2011, well after the movie wrapped. He insists it had more to do with Miller's nudging than Streisand's.

"It was getting ugly. She was unhappy," Rogen says.

"You had to make her happy," Streisand says. "I like you better married. You have to be a better human being when you're married. Less self-centered."

"And it shows the world that you are not a sociopath. Which I think some people thought I was," Rogen says.

Streisand is looking to do more films, including producing and starring as Mama Rose in a remake of Gypsy.

"(Producer) Joel Silver has been trying to get the rights. It's been a year and a half," she says. "It's getting very close. If it comes to be, it comes to be. If it doesn't …"

"Then we'll hang out in Malibu," Rogen says.

"Yes. Come over. We'll watch another movie. Bring Lauren and the dog. We'll have some yogurt downstairs," Streisand says. "I'll feed you."

With a date set, the two break up their discussion. But Rogen gets one more laugh before they leave as he looks over the decimated cheese plate.

"Barbra, do you want to take any of this cheese for the road?"


[ top of page ]