After making the comedy “The Guilt Trip” together, screen and song icon Barbra Streisand and comedy star Seth Rogen ended up with such an authentic-feeling mother/son dynamic, one practically expected Streisand to rub schmutz from his cheek and question his choice in clothing.
The two actors’ genuine, compelling chemistry fuels the road trip-style comedy which sees Rogen’s reticent young chemist trying to sell his environmentally friendly housecleaning fluid embarkson an ill-advised cross-country trek with his ceaselessly smothering mother (Streisand). And no one, it seems, was more pleased at the maternal connection than the stars.
On the beginnings of their on-screen rapport:
Barbra Streisand: Seth sussed me out. He called people from the Focker movies, right?
Seth Rogen: Yeah, I was actually working with John Schwartzman, who was the cinematographer on ‘Meet the Fockers,’ at the time this came up – I asked him what he thought of Barbra, and he said she was great. I know [‘Meet the Fockers’ director] Jay Roach a little, so I asked him. I think he said that she was awesome, too. Ben Stiller, I might have run into and asked. Yeah, everyone – this Barbra Streisand lady checked out, so I thought I'd give her a shot.
Streisand: I didn't know who to call. I don't know any of those people from his movies, so what I was going to do? I thought he was adorable, so I thought, this is interesting, unlikely which makes it interesting, and yet, we're both Jewish. I could be his mother.
Rogen: But when we met, we got along. We got along very well.
Rogen: The way we talk in real life is not entirely different than our rapport in the movie, in some ways. We were getting along. It’s a lot of me trying to explain things to her about modern times. And her trying to feed me s**t I don't want to eat.
Streisand: But he would show me things – like, yesterday he asked me if I had a Twitter account. I said ‘I don't know.’
Rogen: And I showed her that she did.
Streisand: Which I only use for political purposes. So I didn't know it was beyond that. I wouldn't know how to find it on my phone.
Rogen: I'll show you. I change her clocks during daylight savings. I do all that.
Streisand: He's very handy.
On their own parent/child relationships:
Streisand: My son doesn't see me as an icon. He sees me as his mother who touches his hair too much. He was very important in my decision to make the movie because he was recovering from back surgery, so he was in bed for a few days after. And I brought the script over and read it out loud, and it was interesting, actually. His father [Elliott Gould] was in the room, too – Isn't that funny? We were both coddling our son. So he became the audience, and Jason was reading all the parts with me. And he said, ‘I think you should do it, mom.’ And I really trust his integrity and his opinion. He has great taste in whatever he chooses to do – it's amazing. So he clinched the deal.
Rogen: I think my mom drives me crazy sometimes. I have a good relationship – I see my parents a lot, but, yeah, it's a lot like in the movie. For no reason I get annoyed. I'll just find myself kind of reverting back to like a mentality of like a 14-year-old kid who just doesn't want to be around his parents. It's one of the things I related to most in the script, honestly. It was just that dynamic where your mother's trying, and the more she tries, the more she bugs you. And the more it bugs you, the more she tries. And you like see her trying to say the thing that won't annoy you, and she can't. Yeah, all that is very, at times, real to my relationship with my mother.
Streisand: Mothers develop guilt trips. When I was working a lot and I felt guilty as a parent that I couldn't pick up my son every day from school, bake him cookies, that kind of thing. So I know that feeling. I know that feeling a lot. And so you try to compensate and everything they do is great. They sense that guilt, children, and they're going through their own rebellious times or whatever. Having a famous parent is an odd thing, you know? So I thought it was interesting to investigate this trying to be my son's friend, versus being a mother. And when it comes to time to really say ‘You abused me. You disrespect me. You talk back to me. You don't honor what I say. You won't take my advice.’ That kind of thing, in terms of this movie, it hit on all those things that I thought I could explore.
On how Streisand was convinced to take on the role:
Streisand: It was time to challenge myself again, you know? Of course, I made it very difficult for them to hire me because I kept wanting an out some way. So I made it really hard. I really don't want to go – I never do this normally, right – I really don't want to schlep to Paramount. It's two hours each way. So would you rent a warehouse and build the sets in the Valley no more than 45 minutes from my house? And they said yes. And on these Focker movies, I had to get up early, and I'm not an early bird – and Seth says, ‘It's very hard to be funny at 7:30 in the morning.’ He's right. He has to have a few cups of tea. You have to feed him a little bit…
Rogen: Get my head right.
Streisand: So I said, you can't pick me up until 8:30 because that's like a normal time to get up for me, because I love the night. My husband and I stay up until 2, 3 in the morning, so we don't function that well at 6 in the morning. And they said ‘Okay.’ I said to Anne [Fletcher, the director] ‘Well, would you make the movie without me?’ And she said no. And I felt bad, guilty – another guilt trip, right? I said ‘Oh, no – she's not going to have this job, and I want her to work.’
Rogen: I was open to Shirley MacLaine.
Streisand: Is that what you said to them?
Rogen: [Laughs] No – that's not true. I only would have done it if Barbra was doing it. For me, it was funny: ‘They want you to do this movie with Barbra,and Barbra's not sure if she wants to do it.’ And I was like, ‘Well, just let me know if she says yes.’ And then I literally made like two movies during that time. And we were editing ‘50/50,’ and I got a call, like ‘Barbra said yes.’ ‘Oh, okay –
Streisand: It's great to feel wanted.