Despite bad press, Streisand triumphs

Jan. 29, 1977

by Bob Thomas

Jon Peters, Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson at STAR IS BORN premiere

DUO PROVED THEY'RE BOX OFFICE CHAMPS. When this picture was taken in December at the world premiere of “A Star is Born” in New York, Barbra Streisand and her producer-boy friend Jon Peters had an idea the film was successful, at least in their eyes. Now, more than a month after its general release, it also is successful in the eyes of the public, who have made it one of the season's most popular films. Bad press about Streisand and her relationship with Peters, an ex-hairdresser, was heavy even before the film debuted. Now Streisand and Peters are having the last laugh as they count the profits. The film costars Kris Kristofferson.

The surprise hit of the new movie season might well be A Star Is Born. Why a surprise? Because most of Hollywood seemed to be predicting its failure.

“No picture ever had such bad talk about it,” says Barbra Streisand. “Everybody jumped on the thing that the star hired a producer who was her boyfriend and had been a hairdresser. It was a base journalistic setup.”

“But I think we profited from the backlash to all the bad publicity,” adds Jon Peters, her producer-boyfriend and onetime hairdresser. “People are discovering the film for themselves and saying that the critics were all wrong.”

Streisand and Peters were in a state of exhilaration when a reporter called her Holmby Hills manse on a sunny January afternoon. She sat on the floor of the living room and poured tea; the black-bearded Peters reclined on the couch and chided her for indulging in the sweets. The words tumbled out from both of them as they discussed the aftermath of A Star Is Born.

“Right now the prediction for the domestic (U.S. and Canada) film rental is between 40 and 50 million,” Peters said. “Proportionally we're doing as well as King Kong and in some places better.

“I believe it will do just as well, world-wide as it does here. I don't see any problem in foreign audiences relating to the picture. Popular music goes everywhere, and this is the first authentic look at a life style that the world has heard about but never seen.”

He predicted that A Star Is Born would far surpass Barbra's previous big money-makers: Funny Girl, What's Up, Doc? and The Way We Were.

Although she claimed to know nothing about money matters, Miss Streisand is obviously enjoying the film's success. Especially after brouhahas surrounding its inception. Writers and leading men changed with the seasons. Shouting matches were reported on the set. Then director and co-writer (with Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne) Frank Pierson unleashed a printed diatribe attacking star and producer.

Did Barbra actually direct some of the movie, as Pierson charged?

“You bet I did!” she replied vigorously. “I was forced to do it. Either that or fire the director, and get somebody else which would have only added to all the bad press.

“I dealt very closely with the actors, and I'm proud of what I accomplished. Especially with Kris (Kristofferson). He is my greatest joy, the fact that I was able to help him bring the character to life, to make him feel secure as an actor.”

Some reviewers, including this one, observed that Kristofferson finally came alive as an actor in A Star Is Born, his performance providing a needed balance to the always dynamic Streisand. Yet when Warner Brothers saw the first cut of the film, they despaired of the actor's work and hence the film.

“Warners panicked,” said Peters. “That's when Barbra took over and edited the film herself. The work was staggering—18 hours a day from July to December. When she got through, Kris's performance was terrific.”

“And Pierson accused me of padding my own part in the cutting!” Streisand exploded. “Many times I cut my own shots out if Kris was better in his.”

She added that she has received a large amount of letters from people who say they were profoundly moved by the film.

“Then maybe we succeeded in what we were trying to do: to tell certain truths about today's life,” she said.

“In old movies, love affairs were never clouded by conflict. No matter what happened, the sweethearts never argued. In our picture you have two people who have to fight to stay alive. They are desperate to work out a relationship.

“In the old movie when Fredric March disgraces her at the awards, Janet Gaynor comes home and takes off his shoes because he's too drunk to do it himself. In our picture, I say, ‘What are you gonna do for an encore—set yourself on fire?’ In fact, some of the scenes were so rough we had to cut them ...

“She could never get to him. The film shows the power of communication. To stay alive you must communicate.”


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