Waiting for 'Tides' to roll in

July 8, 1990

In the bright sun and blistering heat of a June day, Spanish moss hung from the big oak trees like tattered lace around an old woman's shoulders. A small group of people, glowing in the sticky heat, stood on a downtown street waiting patiently for the door of the Winnebago motor home to open.

An hour went by, then two, and still there was no sign of Barbra Streisand. Was she actually inside the Winnebago? And if she was, would she ever come out?

Beaufort is a town of 15,000 on South Carolina's eastern coast, home of the Parris lsland marines and some of the most elegant antebellum homes in the South. Although tourists may find it strange for a star of Streisand's magnitude to be so far from the glamour of Hollywood, the locals are accustomed to seeing her likes.

Heck, Tom Berenger lives in Beaufort, and his buddy Charlie Sheen sometimes drops by. Two big movies have been filmed here in the last few years. And wasn't that Nick Nolte who just whizzed by on his bicycle?

Streisand is with Nolte making another movie on the historic streets of Beaufort. lt's "The Prince of Tides," based on the best-selling novel by Pat Conroy, Beaufort High class of 1963. Three other Conroy novels, "The Great Santini," "The Lords of Discipline," and "The Water ls Wide," have been made into movies (the latter renamed “Conrack").

And now Streisand is producing, directing. and starring in "Tides," a Herculean task that will keep her and the film crew in Beaufort through August before they move on to New York to finish the picture.

Conroy's book offers a sprawling tale of love and conflict among the Wingos, a psychologically tormented shrimping family in the Beaufort lowcountry. In the movie, expected to be in theaters next spring or summer, Streisand plays Dr. Susan Lowenstein, a New York psychiatrist who treats Savannah Wingo after a suicide attempt. Nolte plays Savannah's twin brother, Tom, who falls in love with Lowenstein.

In supporting roles are Kate Nelligan, Blythe Danner, Melinda Dillon, Brad Sullivan, and George Carlin. Author Conroy, who reportedly received $850,000 for the movie rights, wrote the initial screenplay in 1986, the same year the book was published, but it has undergone many rewrites since then.

The production people have set up an office in a section of Beaufort called Oyster Cove. Several sets have been built, including house and apartment interiors at the Technical College of the Lowcountry and the National Guard Armory. Shooting also is scheduled at the Beaufort Naval Hospital and on a shrimp boat.

The unit publicist says that the folks in Beaufort seem to know more about the movie than he does. In particular. he mentioned John C. Williams, Beaufort correspondent for the Savannah (Ga.) News-Press. Williams indeed knows as much as anyone about the location shooting, and as it turns out, he attended Ottawa Hills Elementary School for three years before moving south with his parents.

The filmmakers held local auditions for smaller parts, extras, and stand-ins, and 1,500 people showed up. Among those who nabbed a role was a teenage girl from nearby Hilton Head Island who will play Savannah at age 13.

Four members of Beaufort's Little Theater also tried out, with no luck. One of them, Iona Telech, who used to live in Norwalk, 0., before moving to Beaufort in 1962, appeared as a mourner in "The Big Chill," which was filmed here. She says she still gets periodic royalty checks ranging from $25 to $200.

One of the locals waiting to see Streisand was Jane Clark Berdeaux, who graduated from Beaufort High School in 1964, a year after Pat Conroy. Her brother played on the basketball team with the author, she said, and she remembers him writing for the high school newspaper and yearbook.

In Berdeaux's hand was a copy of "The Prince of Tides," already autographed by Conroy. She was hoping that before the afternoon was out, she could corner Streisand to sign the book as well.

Among Beaufort residents, opinion is divided about Streisand — she's either too busy to chat or terribly stuck up. But Nolte is warmly regarded.

"The people in Beaufort are friendly, and they're used to a lot of eye contact," reporter Williams says. "Nolte is a regular guy who says hi and good morning to everybody he meets."

The actor rents a house in the Point, a historic downtown neighborhood. Dressed in his trademark surgeon's scrubs, he can be seen jogging, riding his bike, and going to the local gym for workouts. He talks with the locals about fishing and boating, and waves to people in restaurants or on the street.

Nolte, who is being instructed in the accent of the lowcountry from Wayne Zurenda, a local English teacher, told one Beaufort resident shortly upon arriving: "I want to know the name of every street. I want to know where I can get the greasiest burger. By the time we're through with this movie, you'll be sick of me."

Streisand, on the other hand, shies away from people. She wears big hats and keeps to herself in the house she rents, also in the Point. Some call her arrogant, saying she shuns people. Others, however, feel that as producer, director, and star of "Tides," she simply doesn't have time for chit-chat.

"People harass her," a waitress in the Gadsby Tavern downtown says. “lt gets so bad that sometimes she has to leave the restaurant."

Streisand often is seen in the mornings walking her dog around the neighborhood with an assistant just after sunrise. So where was she on this sultry June day?

At the Bay Street Inn, an elegant bed-and-breakfast with shutters and wide piazzas, the crew already was setting up the lights and preparing for another scene rehearsal, but Streisand remained entombed in her Winnebago, parked across the Street.

Just then, a policeman approached the clutch of people waiting to see her. “Miss Streisand will be coming out in a few minutes. No autographs, please," he said, and motioned everybody down the street, a few hundred feet away from the actress' trailer. The “few minutes" grew into yet another hour, and the poor onlookers continued to wilt in the 90-degree heat.

Finally, the door of the Winnebago opened, and Streisand stepped out. Looking cool and pretty in long hair and a flowing brown dress, she waved and smiled at the admiring crowd — and instantly darted into a back entrance of the inn.

A glimpse, that's all Streisand was willing to give this day. It may have finally dawned on the Beaufort folks in the crowd that they, along with the rest of the world, will have to wait for the movie to open before they can take a good long look at the celebrity in their midst.


People Magazine — July 9, 1990

Barbra Streisand is the talk of Beaufort, S.C. (pop. 8,600). Streisand, 48, is there for two months to produce, direct and star in the movie version of Pat Conroy's novel The Prince of Tides, Barbra's first such triple-threat effort since 1983's Yentl.

The Barbra rumor that has the local citizenry buzzing is one about how she personally called the local Marine Corps air station to say she was bothered by the noise of all the planes flying in and out. Supposedly, Barbra then asked the air base about the possibility of grounding all flights while the Tides company was in town.

Capt. Mark Hough, the public affairs officer for the Marine base in Beaufort, says the rumor simply isn't true. "The rumor is widespread, but no complaint was registered," he says, adding that a call was indeed placed by someone connected with the Tides production company, but it was simply to find out if the air-traffic pattern above Streisand's temporary residence was routine.

While Streisand's representative maintains no such call was made, Captain Hough says that if the Tides company finds it necessary to ask for a revise in the air base's flight schedules (currently up to 45 takeoffs and landings per day) because a plane or its noise is messing up a shot, "We would certainly be willing to work with them."

[Note: Streisand herself addressed the Marine Corps rumor on her website in 2010. Streisand wrote:

The inference is that I wanted to sleep late. The truth is that the movie’s production people probably did check if they could reduce noise over the area of filming, not over my house. The point is, would they have ascribed that kind of request to a male director? I don’t think so. And let me point out, directors don’t sleep late.”]

Related Link: “Prince of Tides” film pages

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