Streisand views 'A Star is Reborn' as own love story
by Lee Grant
May 3, 1976
PHOENIX - A Star is Reborn.
Here, in a city the locals call "Valley of the Sun," more than 100 reporters from news papers, radio and television stations throughout the country were gathered together by Warner Bros in a massive public relations ploy to push the remake, again, of "A Star is Born."
The troubled project would seem to need all the help it could get.
The idea for a new film with a new angle and a love story script was conceived more than three years ago by writers John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion. It has since been through a myriad of Hollywood typewriters— how many is unclear.
The Dunne-Didion notion was to take the old Fredric March-Janet Gaynor, and later James Mason-Judy Garland love story of two movie stars — one on the way up, the other on the way down — and update it into a similar story of two rock stars.
Offered to Peter Bogdanovich and Cybill Shepherd as a film called "Rainbow Road" then in no particular order to Liza Minnelli and Elvis Presley, Carly Simon and James Taylor, Diana Ross and Alan Price, it finally filtered over to superstar hairdresser Jon Peters, the self-defined "streetfighter" and Barbra Streisand guru.
What came next is a complex mishmash of personality and title. John Foreman was producer: Mark Rydell had been director, though leaving before Peters entered with Streisand. She had decided to star with country songwriter and Rhodes Scholar cum actor Kris Kristofferson.
Warner Bros wanted Streisand (whose previous film For Petes Sake earned $10 million) and Streisand wanted Peters. She wanted him, at various times, to direct, costar, rewrite the screenplay and produce.
Dunne and Didion stepped aside amidst the turmoil, settling for their fee and a percentage of the picture. Jerry Schatzberg ("Scarecrow") came aboard to rewrite the screenplay and direct.
Peters asserted himself. Foreman left. The script was laken from Schatzberg's hands and moved to a young friend of Peters. Schatzberg left.
"God knows how many writers have been on it since us," Dunne said, relieved, seemmgly to be away from it all. "I hope it makes a bundle of money because we have part of it. I wish everyone well."
The film began to take shape when Peters scored an unexpected coup, landing Frank Pierson, a gritty Academy Award-winning screenwriter ("Dog Day Afternoon"), to take over the script. His orders from Peters: "Make it tougher."
Pierson not only made it tougher but stayed on as director. Although accumulating a number of directing credits in television, "The Neon Ceiling" among them, this was Pierson's first motion picture assignment.
He has brought a settling to the affair, a professionalism and tact which offsets Peters, the novice who has assumed the role of producer.
Into the center of this Warner Bros shelled out thousands ot promotional dollars to bring the press together for three days of pack journalism at a rock concert staged for the film at Arizona State University in suburban Tempe.
Streisand said the film was important to her because the role depicted a woman "not afraid to confront the male society. We're taking a lot ot chances, dealing with lots of issues about role playing, what is female and what is male.
"Women in films and in general have been treated as objects. I respect the new consciousness. In this film, the woman helps the man all she can but doesn't give up her career doing it.
"In this one, he cries."
She views the new "A Star Is Born" "as a love story, our love story. Jon and my love story, a consideration of the kinds of things we're working at in our relationship. It's a combination of the tough attitude of Frank Pierson, the softer one of the Dunnes and my own shmaltz."
The picture will carry this designation. A First Artists Presentation, a Barwood-Jon Peters Production for Warner Bros release. That means Streisand's money is involved, one reason she is talking to the press at all. She has also taken the title of executive producer.
"As executive producer," she said,"I had to become an adult in this film. The choices are mine and Jon's. It all means I'm in control. It's an extraordinary responsibility. I never had power before."
The importance of power and control emerge in a hypersensitive reaction to her treatment in "The Way We Were."
"I came off simple," she said. "It hurts to have key scenes of my films cut out. In this one, there will be no scenes I don't want, all the scenes I do want."
The film will include music by a number of rock 'n' roll heavyweights including Leon Russell, an ingredient which has become a challenge to her.
Sliding from a pop-Broadway orientation, Streisand has written two of the songs herself with the help of Russell and the influence of Bruce Springsteen.
"I love rock music," she said.
There is a bristle at the criticism the movie has already received. "There are lots of projects where the script is rewritten seven times," Streisand said, "or the star's husband hits the director. You don't hear about those but I'm more controversial.
"People think of me in narrow terms. They said I couldn't act because I was a singer. Because my boyfriend's a hairdresser, why can't he be a producer?''
She pooh-poohed the stories in national news magazines suggesting a strain between her and Kristofferson.
"He's very honest," she said. "You can't fake it with him. He's frightened a lot of the time but it works for the role. There is a gentle craziness to him."