The Complete TriStar Roundtable Interview

On October 29th, 1996 TriStar Pictures held a roundtable interview with Barbra Streisand and 24 reporters in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Just as the interview was starting, Barbra moved out from behind her table and sat with the reporters for a more intimate chat.

[This article originally appeared in Just Like Buttah #10]

Streisand at press conference

A Throwback

BS: This is much better than those tables . . .this is great! I like it. You know I bore myself being asked the same questions over and over at every table . . . it’s not too cute . . . this is much more fun.

Q: Is this a makeover, in a way, for Barbra Streisand?

BS: What do you mean a makeover? A throw-back to some old, old films, actually. It’s both!

Q: Is it like a career transformation that this is a natural, just totally low-key realism with this at the beginning of the movie, or what?

BS: Yeah, it’s kind of a throwback to like Funny Girl, in a way, isn’t it? The self-deprecating humor, a person who isn’t supposed to be, who doesn’t think of herself as pretty.

Q: Like The Way We Were?

BS: Not in The Way We Were . . . oh, you could say that, I guess. You have to remind me about these films; I forget the stories of them.

The Mirror Story

Q: The psychological personal subtext of the film where by the end it’s indicated that perhaps your mother was a little jealous of you and didn’t tell you were pretty when in fact you were. But at the same time, there seems society’s conditioning of women, it’s not just a personal thing with the mother to look . . . a compulsion to look a certain way. How do you feel about that?

BS: Well, there’s two sides to that story. It’s unfortunate, on one hand, because we see all these wonderful skinny little models, very young — they seem to get younger every year. On the other hand, there is something to be said about beauty. We have beauty in art. Michelangelo sculpted beautiful people. In a way sometimes they are touched by God in some way. Uma Thurman is an amazing creature. But in terms of love, I think what the movie is trying to say is that beauty is — as I was trying to say — in the heart of the beholder rather than the eye of the beholder. You might be attracted to someone who’s externally beautiful, but if they’re not beautiful in spirit, if they’re not generous of spirit, if they don’t have character, if they don’t have soul, the beauty is going to fade quickly. So, there are many aspects of looking at this subject.

Q: Did Richard LaGravenese write this script thinking of you for the part of Rose, because you have a lot in common with the character?

BS: Richard LaGravenese wrote this script before I got involved. I must ask him, by the way, did he think of me at all? I never asked him that question. We have a lot in common, I would say, but that’s why one chooses to play a role — you understand that character.

Q: Did you add your input into the script?

BS: Oh, a lot. When I first read the script, the woman had plastic surgery, and I thought that was not right. I was more interested in self-esteem from within, not from without, so I asked him to change that. Many other things about it changed, but he basically turned a French melodrama into a romantic comedy. And down to little qualities, like Rose always wore black. I like black, I always wear black. And, the thing about she teaches at Columbia University. My father went to Columbia University. My father was a teacher. So, one gravitates to roles like that because there is a personal affiliation with that story, that character.

Streisand talking to pressDefining Beauty

Q: Talking about beauty, do you think that Hollywood in some way sets the standard for what society accepts as beautiful? And in that sense, do you think you’ve helped modify that idea, since you are something within . . . something different?

BS: I would hope so. That’s a nice thing. I remember when I was a kid, besides great stars like Vivien Leigh, there were a lot of Sandra Dee movies, and so forth, right? Very conventional, tiny little noses, blonde hair. I guess that was the norm, the standard of beauty then. And then maybe . . . were there more people than me that kind of did that, I’m not sure? I’m asking you. When you think of great male stars, besides the very handsome ones like Cary Grant and Gregory Peck, there were also men like Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy, who were not conventionally handsome, but they had great character again. Very male and yet sensitive and understanding and attractive to women.

Directing Love Scenes

Q: What is it like to direct yourself in those scenes with Jeff, even if he’s isn’t cooperating?

BS: Why isn’t he cooperating?

Q: I meant he was sort of holding back maybe as his character.

BS: Oh, you mean as a character, right, right . . . well, I’m directing him to hold back too.

Q: As the director, were you pushing yourself ahead, in those scenes to be a little more passionate?

BS: I was playing a part. She is attracted to him. But he didn’t know if . . . he didn’t think he was attracted to her. That’s what that scene is about. So, he actually feels attracted to her, but cannot deal with the prospect of that kind of passion and intimacy, the fear of that ruining his life again, because when he becomes passionate, he loses his mind, he loses control, he can’t function as a professional. He hasn’t learned to integrate the two aspects of that personality.

Q: Was it easier to play it though?

BS: Easier for me to play it or for him to play it?

Q: With the cameras there and all those people?

BS: It’s very technical, you know. OK, we’ll do this swing movement now . . . OK, we’ll come together . . . OK, are you going to swing to the right, to the left? It’s very weird; it was Jeff’s idea to do the scene one more time. I thought I’d got what I needed, and then he said, “Well, let’s just play.” We always used to do that. We’d get it in the can and then throw everything to the wind and have a good time. I always love to improvise and play and experiment. I never like to put a performance in stone, because it’s in the moment to me that you’re free and truthful. It never can be the same twice. All kinds of things happened in that last take. All of a sudden he said, “Rose,” and I said, “Talk to me.” Then I said, “You know what? We’ve got to do the close-up again because that came out of this. I’d love to get that moment in close-up.” It all came out of that freedom to play.

Streisand at Tristar Interview

Romantic Comedy

Q: This is the third film you’ve directed, and this is quite different because it is a romantic comedy. Was it more of a challenge?

BS: Comedy is my background. I started as a comedienne in a sense in Funny Girl or as Miss Marmelstein. So comedy is . . . I don’t want to sound like I’m praising myself. . . it comes easy for me, comedy timing and so forth. I thought, gosh, l’ve never directed a comedy, but I know that world. It would be so much fun to do a movie like that. I set myself a certain challenge on this movie. Yentl took five years of my life, Nuts took two and half years, Prince of Tides took about three and half years. I really wanted to challenge myself to do movies in less time. I figured a year is enough time to spend on a movie. After all, it’s only a movie, even though it lasts forever, we hope.

Choosing The Normal Heart or Mirror

Q: Were you not able to fit in The Normal Heart, but you were passionate about it?

BS: I was going to do The Normal Heart. That was going to be my next project. A) I couldn’t raise the money. You know, people think it’s so easy for a so-called big star to raise money and get projects handed to them on a silver platter. It’s just not true. And every movie l’ve loved and been passionate about, like Yentl and The Prince of Tides, I had the worst time getting made. I had to give up a lot of my profits and so forth. This movie, The Normal Heart. . . I couldn’t raise the money, and then the actors I wanted weren’t available—they wanted me to wait until this spring coming up. So, then I reread The Mirror Has Two Faces after working on it with Richard in 1992 and not thinking it was right then. The studio also wouldn’t pay me my salary, and I thought, “I’m just not going to do it anymore.” People respect you more when you feel worthy of that respect. We had a line like that in Funny Girl — maybe it was in the play — somebody said to Fanny Brice, “Well, ask for more money, and they’ll respect you more.” And they do; it works that way somehow. But they couldn’t take advantage of my feeling that I’II do this [Mirror] as a labor of love. So I didn’t make the movie for four years. But, I reread the script and I thought, no, no, no, I see this, and I can do this and maybe expand the mother-daughter relationship, and maybe this element could happen. It began to really interest me, so I made the movie. By the way, The Normal Heart was something I was going to try to do, but because I got involved with this [Mirror], and I had to finish the post-production, I told Larry Kramer, “Please . . . l’ll oversee it like The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, Serving in Silence, which I only produced, but didn’t direct it or star in, and let’s hire John Schlesinger, and maybe I would play the part of the doctor, so forth. He decided that he didn't want me to function as a producer. I was very hurt by that, by the way. I was kind of pushed out of a project that I worked on since 1985 for nothing.

Defining Romance

Q: This movie suggests that the person who made it is a true romantic. Do you think you are?

BS: Oh yeah!

Q: What’s a romantic evening for you?

BS: A romantic evening? A romantic evening, a romantic evening, that’s very interesting. A romantic evening to me is . . . I never watch TV except for CNN and C-SPAN usually, the Sunday morning political shows. A romantic evening for me is having our food in bed and watching TV, putting on a video or something. That’s romantic to me.


Q: Back to Mirror Has Two Faces, when you were a kid, did you go in the bathroom with a hairbrush and sing into it at that early age?

BS: No, I went into the bathroom and smoked. I smoked from the age of 10 to 12. Gave it up at 12. Pall Malls, remember them? But, I was a strange kid. Because I was an honor student, so I hung out with all these very smart kids who wore oxfords and glasses. But I always wanted to be an actress, so I kind of dressed funny and bleached my hair and wore funny makeup. So, I was a real oddball.


Q: Are we going to kick some Republican butts this year, or what?

BS: Totally. I don’t like to be too complacent about it, because that’s what happened in 1994, in a way. But actually, the 1994 election, I think, helped this election.

Q: What I really wanted to ask, you have been so dedicated to liberal causes, and it was the thing to do in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. So do you feel . . . think you are being vindicated?

BS: Or is the country being vindicated? I think the country, not so much me. I just read a great quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, but I don’t know if I can remember it correctly. It was something she said about the “United States must have conviction and loyalty to the good American word ‘liberal,’ which means free. And we must cherish and honor that word, or else it will cease to apply to us." I can't bear that the word is being denigrated and being used as the “L” word, like a bad word.

Favorite Scenes

Q: There are a lot of scenes in this movie where you seem to really enjoy yourself. What was your favorite scene?

BS: I really liked all of them. When I’m working on a script, you have to get every scene to be one that you really like. I don’t think I have any favorites. The end dancing was fun, because it was the end of the movie. And it was very spontaneous and it was catch-as-catch-can. I was planning a big helicopter shot, and then it was foggy that night, and I was able to get these three takes in of the dancing. And I love when something happens spontaneously, and you capture it. It’s not planned, it's not rehearsed, it's not choreographed. When you capture it, you capture a bit of real life in some way, because we were celebrating the end of the movie too.

Q: Did you go back and get that?

BS: No, we went back . . . there was a misunderstanding in the press. We never reshot a scene. We never filmed the ending, because it was so cold in New York. It cost like $8,000 a tree to wire leaves on it. Because I was going to do this helicopter shot that went up, you had to see Central Park, you had to see the whole city. So we had to postpone shooting for a month to come back when the leaves were on the trees. Meanwhile, we still did the scene with long underwear under our clothes.

Difficult Times

Q: Everybody knows about all your successes, I and how well you’ve done. As a woman I you’ve achieved things others haven’t. So what about the hard times? Can you tell us about when was the hardest time?

BS: The hardest time? The hardest time? You mean before I was famous?

Q: Well yeah, before that time . . . whatever.

BS: Childhood was a hard time. I was an outcast sort of, kind of a strange kid, growing up with one parent, wanting to be an actress, wanting to escape real life and go into this world of the imagination, of make-believe. I guess that’s why I decided to create life, make it happen the way I wanted it to be. Teenager, kind of lonely. I had only one date in high school. I had some flop movies, like Up the Sandbox. It was the first movie from my own production company in 1972, but I loved the movie. I love it today, I’m proud of it today. It was the first kind of women’s liberation movie. Dealt with abortion and women’s choices. It was a total flop, but I still like having made it.

Controlling Her Own Work

Q: When your name comes up and it has to do with film or something you’re in, people always seem to be stung by the amount of control you have on the projects you work on, as if it were a felony. A) Does that hurt you feelings? and B) Is that because that’s this business? And do you exercise that sort of control?

BS: I used to be embarrassed and defensive about it. “Control? What do you mean control?” And now I say, are you kidding? Of course I want utter and complete control of every product I do. You know, the audience buys my work because I do control it, because I am a perfectionist, because I care deeply. No one says, “Why isn’t your doctor more of a perfectionist?” Right? They buy my products; I still sell records. Why? Well, some of that has to be because of the care I put into that recording. So, I think it’s a sexist attitude, definitely.

Q: Does it hurt your feelings?

BS: Yeah, yeah. It still hurts after all these years. I’m always kind of shocked by it. But that’s the way it has to be for a while until it changes.

Mature Women’s Roles

Q: Is there a desire by audiences to see mature women in films? Like The First Wives Club? And do you think this might be the year more women, particularly yourself, might bring home the Oscar?

BS: What was your first question?

Q: Do you think there is more of a desire now for more roles for mature women?

BS: Now, you mean as opposed to like patterns in movies where there’s violence, male movies?

Q: It took a while for women to break through with female leads. Now we have the success of The First Wives Club, and your movie is about a woman who’s past 25.

BS: Exactly, isn’t that good? I’m so happy about that movie’s success. I think it is. We go through cycles, don’t we, where there’s this emphasis on youth and then there’s all these violent action movies. Now all of a sudden, I find that there are a lot of romantic comedies coming out, aren’t there? I don’t know quite where that came from. Something in the atmosphere said we need a little bit of love and romance in the world.

Streisand at Mirror Has Two Faces press junketThe Pressures of Filmmaking

Q: There always so much pressure, at least externally, for people making their first and second films, in addition to all the work that actually goes into making the film. And this being your third film, did you feel that pressure from the industry, from the public as to whether the film will succeed? And this being your third film, if you did feel that before, does it feel like a lightened burden this time?

BS: Yes, it does feel like a lightened burden. I felt the most burdened on Yentl, because it was one of the first big movies made by a woman. And I thought, “My God, if this doesn’t succeed in some way, then it’II hurt a lot of women.” So there’s where I felt it. I guess it didn’t do that well at the box office. It was sort of was . . . I can’t remember. It was sort of a moderate income movie, whatever you want to call it. So I was really happy The Prince of Tides was very successful. It does make you feel good because you don’t go into making a movie for the results. You go into making a movie for the statement you want to make, a form of expression. And it’s really nice when it’s successful, but that’s like icing on the cake.

Lauren Bacall

Q: In an earlier interview with Lauren Bacall, she described your directing style as something she would do, except it was kookier.

BS: I was kookier? What did she mean by that?

Q: Well that’s what I want to ask you. Was there anything on the set that was kookier that would make her say that.

BS: No.

Q: And obviously, just in general, what was it like working with Lauren, who is obviously a legend, and actually who epitomized her character since she was a former glamour model. Was it the aging beauty that made her the natural choice?

BS: Totally natural choice, totally. What was interesting about her is when I was kind of almost improvising with her during that scene where I was asking her what did it feel like to be beautiful, what came out was that she really didn’t feel like she was ever beautiful. Which is the syndrome of a lot of beautiful women.

Jeff Bridges

Q: Jeff Bridges has been doing a lot of dramatic roles over the last couple of years, and I don’t think we’ve seen him in a comedy in a while. I think most of us would agree that it’s an incredible performance.

BS: Yeah, great.

Q: Why did you choose him, and why did you think he would work?

BS: Well, I’ve always just liked his work. He’s a wonderful actor, and I think he’s very sexy. You can just feel his love for women. He has a great mom — strong, opinionated, funny mom. So I knew that he would be easy to direct (laughter from reporters). When you’re gonna go out with somebody on a date, or whether you’re going to direct him, the first question is, “What was your relationship with your mother?” That will tell you a lot about his behavior toward women.

Advice For The Aspiring

Q: Could you give us some advise to aspiring actors, directors, producers, singers?

BS: Are you one?

Q: Well, yeah, but I work in drama a lot.

BS: Just want to get some background.

Q: Right, trying to break into the business.

BS: I see, I see.

Q: You’ve had incredible success across the board. Is there some secret, some kind of formula?

BS: You know, it’s funny. My editor’s daughter came to watch her father at work on the dubbing stage. She was seeing where he was going to work during the day. I heard she was in a play, so I asked her does she really want to be an actress, and she said she wasn’t sure. Then I said, “Don’t try to be one.” The one thing you have to have is passion for it, and you can’t have a choice. There is no choice when you want to be an actress desperately. There is no choice. It’s like that’s what you’re here to do in some way. You’re put on this earth somehow to be some sort of channel of expression. We don’t have a choice. It’s like somebody being gay. I don’t think they have a choice. It’s that same thing I’m talking about.

Fields of Endeavor

Q: In which of your many fields of endeavor are you the most secure, and in which are you most insecure?

BS: Which am I most secure? I don’t go on to another form of endeavor until I feel secure in it. See what I’m saying? In other words, I really was an actress first, then I became a singer because I couldn’t get a job as an actor. Then I thought, making some of my movies, “No, no, why is that director letting that actor get away with that level of performance? He can get much more out of that actor. Why is the camera over there? If he’s telling that story, why is he doing that?” Then, I decided to take more control over my own work, so I became a director. I’m saying I don’t think I . . . I only go on to those phases when I feel I can in some way.

Overcoming the Fear

Q: In your preparing to act or preparing to direct or record an album, is there one that gives you more fear than others when going into a project?

BS: No. I mean I was frightened of performing live. My challenge was to overcome the fear. When I first directed a movie, I was totally frightened, actually. Also, Prince of Tides — the first week, I hadn’t directed a movie in eight years. I was totally frightened. But then after getting back into it and seeing “Oh yeah, I remember this,” and trusting my instincts again, the fear goes away. Of course, right now is a bit of a fearful time. Although I’m not so frightened, I was always frightened. This last period of time when you’re doing a movie, dubbing the movie, and doing sound, and after this I have to go to the laboratory to check a print, and you’re doing interviews and you have to intellectualize things you did out of your soul and guts. It comes into the script, and now you have to talk about it. This is the most difficult part of it, you know that? This being interviewed and talking about it, in some way, for me is the most difficult part.

Streisand laughs at press conferenceHer Vocal Gift

Q: Barbra, your voice is an incredible instrument. Have you felt in your life if that’s a burden in some way, a responsibility?

BS: My voice?

Q: You’re a wonderful singer but you’re interested in a lot of things, yet there is this demand for you to do more with music. I wonder if that has been a burden to you.

BS: Well, it was a while ago, before I did this concert tour, while I was feeling kind of pressured in terms of trying to, wanting to give back to my fans, to people who have bought my records and wanted to see me live. Then I did something about it and did this concert tour. Did I answer your question?

Q: That’s part of it.

BS: The burden — it’s not a burden anymore. I really appreciate my voice. I really didn’t for many years. Somehow I took it for granted. Actually, I saw something — it was at Virginia’s (Kelley’s) funeral again. It was a story I heard about a woman who was singing a song “With An Eye On The Sparrow,” the famous spiritual song, something like that. The story someone told me was that she lost her voice, and she prayed to God that if he would just give her voice back to her, she would then sing these spiritual songs. I don’t know, something about that was very inspiring. I thought, “God, I can’t take my voice for granted. It’s a gift. I have to use it and appreciate it.” And I do now.

Q: You plan to tour again?

BS: I wouldn’t say tour, but maybe I haven’t . . . I’ve only sung in one European country, England. I’ve never toured the world, I’ve never seen most of the world. I thought maybe I should go to a few foreign countries.

Music In Film

Q: You’ve made some interesting musical choices, like using familiar songs, but just the melodies so those of us who know the lyrics knew why.

BS: You mean “Try A Little Tenderness”?

Q: And also “You’ll Never Know.” I mean . . .

BS: “You Don’t Know Me,” right, right.

Q: Talk about those choices and also the role you think music plays in your films.

BS: I see film as music, I guess. Now again, you know, I don’t sit there and think I see this as music. But I guess, having to analyze my own work, I probably do. I hear the rhythm of scenes, and it’s like a symphony. It’s like we’re playing a symphony. There are passages that have to go fast and quick, like staccato passages in music. Then, there are legato passages and love scenes that play slowly. It’s all about pace and rhythm and music. It’s music in my ears; the reading of the line is like music. When the rhythm is not right, it’s wrong. It doesn’t feel right, and you don’t know why it doesn’t feel right. If somebody does a strange line reading that makes no sense, it’s not coming from a real truthful place.

Q: So you feel being a musical person makes you a better filmmaker?

BS: Possibly. There are great filmmakers who are not musicians, but in my case maybe it helps.

Film Fantasy

Q: You mentioned earlier that you used to escape into films. As I was watching the film, I couldn’t help but think it was a wonderful fantasy about those who didn’t find ourselves attractive as teenagers. How does it feel . . .

BS: That is true. This is like the film I would have liked to see as a teenager. Sorry, tell me your question.

Q: Just how intentional was it to give a young woman that fantasy?

BS: It probably was there. You know, we make these choices. I make these choices out of places in my unconscious that I’m not aware of. But all of that happens. l’ll pick some place. As a matter of fact . . . I was in a state of depression for a while. It might have lasted a month or two. It was after or before my Harvard speech, I can’t remember now. It was a period of time when I was, I don’t know . . . I didn’t feel so good. And I was very inspired by the music of Puccini — Turandot. I went to the Met in New York. I needed to be reinspired as an artist, to perform, to do something. It was an incredible production, visually, musically. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of it. And then somehow in working on this film, I thought, “God, the ending of this film,” which I would rather not give away in terms of the music happening in life and in real life. One of our drafts had a jingle of an ice cream truck going by. And I said that’s not truthful. Why would an ice cream truck be going by at six in the morning, you know? So I went to pick locations on West End Avenue. Standing in front of this building, this idea came to me about the man in the window, and Puccini and, see what I’m saying? Directly related to my life, but it turned out, by the way, that this building . . . a neighbor came out to say to me, “You know, I remember you when you were 18 years old. You came to this building to work with your first piano — Peter Matz.” My arranger, pianist when I was 18. (No doubt the reference was meant to be to Peter Daniels — Ed.) Who knows, why did I pick this building? I didn’t remember that until he told me. But it was an interesting thing to find out.

Rose’s Transformation

Q: You said it would have been comforting when you were a teenager to have seen a movie like this. But would women who see the movie be comforted that someone less attractive could experience all that? Why did you make that artist’s choice to have the character become more glamorous and beautiful?

BS: Well, that’s the story. The story is that she goes back then to becoming the original Rose, that he loved — the original Rose. He felt betrayed by the new one. Do you remember he got dizzy with the brown-haired Rose in that restaurant, before she became glamorous. That was the problem — he started to fall in love with her, the original Rose. Now, she doesn’t make the transformation for a man, for him. She starts to believe in herself and her own beauty because of her mother, because of something that relates to her own childhood, and her mother telling her she was pretty, and she is pretty. And that says . . . maybe I can be all that I can be. I can have my sense of humor, and I can be intellectual, and I can also not be embarrassed by my body. If you notice I never . . . I wore long skirts and baggy dresses. This is the revelation of self. I do have shoulders that I can show, or I do have legs or breasts. I can put eye makeup on and make my eyes look prettier. And then what happens? What happens after that transformation? Her friend kind of gets left out, and she says to her, “l’ll give you half of salad, if you give me half your cheeseburger,” returning to the old Rose. Throwing out the lowfat cake into the garbage, when she’s listening to an infomercial about “we all want to be attractive.” And she’s going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, shut up.” This is hard, with all the makeup and the thing . . . it’s very difficult to maintain. Why would I even try to do this? She walks out on the Pierce Brosnan character, when she realizes that he’s only interested in her looks now. He doesn’t love her soul, her character. So, at the end of the movie, I’m wearing the same robe as I did at the beginning, I’m wearing pajamas that look like my mom’s, I’m wearing the socks I started with in the wedding. And that is my way of saying she’s now going to integrate the two sides of herself and be some person in the middle that is going to care about how she looks, but not to that extent — to be a glamour queen. That’s the message of the movie.

(At this point, reporters were told there would be two more questions.)

Bryan Adams

Q: Can you tell how Bryan Adams got involved in this project?

BS: Well, we had to come up with a song. I had written a love theme, and the Bergmans started a lyric based on the theme, although we didn’t complete how the theme integrated with the bridge, and yack, yack, yack. It was very difficult musically, because when you play something orchestrally, you can do all sorts of wonderful keys, but when the voice has to sing it, it changes that pattern. Then, I asked my friend David Foster, who produced a lot of records for me, “Please, please, please become involved.” He had one week, a five-day period that he could give me time. And he came to Sony one night, and we just played around — asked five of my favorite musicians who were playing on the score to hang around and we kind of had a jam session and made this track. I was humming the words, because we only had some of the words. And David recommended what about singing the duet with Bryan Adams. So, I sent him this track, and he fell in love with my little theme and wrote this counter melody to this theme and around this theme. And that’s how it happened. He’s a doll. Talk about a perfectionist!

Casting Hannah Morgan

Q: Did you cast Lauren against the Jewish mother stereotype that we’ve seen so much of, and also when do you remember seeing her first?

BS: By the way, let me tell you about the background of that. She came to see me, and she had a very good idea, because the mother didn’t work in the first script. And she said, “Well, what does she do all day? Because you have to cook dinner for her.” And I said, “You know, that is a good idea, you should go to work.” Then, I remembered growing up as a 13-year- old with my best friend Susan Dworkowitz, and her mother was a cosmetician. So I thought, and since the theme, one of the subtexts of this movie is beauty and the application of beauty products, and all that outer stuff, she became a cosmetician. She wears just a little too much rouge, you know? I’m not answering your question, though. What was your question?

Q: Did you want her to play against the Jewish mother stereotype?

BS: Oh, I actually never thought of playing against it. I never thought of that, the Jewish mother. She was never written that way. A lot of this is based on, I think, Richard’s mother-in-law or some aspects of her character. She is a tough lady. What we found out, we started to interject . . . because I love doing that with characters, whether . . . there is always some good, I believe, in evil characters. That she settled in her life — what a shocking thing to say to me that she never really loved my father. There’s always a humanity behind people who can be cruel.

Q: And one of the first movies you saw Bacall in?

BS: Oh, it was one of those movies. To Have and Have Not? Is that the one she whistles in, with that great hairdo? That’s why I kept putting her pictures behind her. I thought, this is what this movie is about too again on some level — what was, what is, what remains the same, and yet the outer vessel changing. Thank you, thank you so much.


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