This holiday season, Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is about to embark on the mother of all road trips… when he is guilted into bringing his mom, Joyce (Barbra Streisand), along for the ride on a cross-country adventure that careens through comical curves on the way to a surprising connection. “The Guilt Trip” is directed by Anne Fletcher from a screenplay by Dan Fogelman and opens in theaters on December 19th.
Across 3,000 miles and 8 days of shifting American landscape, Andy will be flummoxed, freaked out, analyzed, annoyed and lured into one anxiety-cranking situation after another by the woman who knows him – or rather, nudges him – better than anyone. But the farther they go, the closer he gets to realizing he has more in common with mom than he ever imagined. And now, as they approach Andy’s dreamed-of destination, it turns out that a little unsolicited mother’s advice might be just what a down-and-out guy most needs to turn his life around.
At the recent press day for “The Guilt Trip,” Rogen, Streisand, Fletcher and Fogelman talked about the hilarious twists, sudden turns and emotionally bumpy terrain of an epic mother-son journey. Rogen and Streisand described what it was like meeting and working with each other for the first time. Streisand revealed what gives her the greatest satisfaction as an artist and why she agreed to star in the film. Fogelman discussed how his own mother inspired the story, and Fletcher touted the incredible chemistry and ability to improvise that make Rogen and Streisand an amazing comedic duo on screen.
Here’s what they had to say:
Question: For Barbra and Seth, I loved your chemistry. What was it like meeting each other for the first time?
Barbra Streisand: Seth, it turns out, sussed me out.
Seth Rogen: I did.
Streisand: So he called people from the “Focker” movies. Right?
Rogen: I sussed.
Streisand: You could tell them.
Rogen: I was actually working with John Schwartzman who was the cinematographer on “Meet the Fockers” around the time this came up, and I think I asked him what he thought of Barbra and he said she was great. I know Jay Roach a little, so I think I might have asked him, and I think he said she was awesome, too.
Streisand: Ben Stiller you called.
Rogen: Yeah. Ben Stiller I think I might have run into and asked. She checked out with everyone. This Barbra Streisand lady checked out, so I thought I’d give her a shot. (Laughs)
Streisand: I didn’t know who to call. I don’t know any of those people from his movies, so what was I going to do? No, I thought he was adorable, so I thought this is interesting, unlikely, which makes it interesting, and yet we’re both Jewish.
Rogen: When we met, we got along very well.
Streisand: Totally. Instantly.
Rogen: Very fast, got along very well.
Q: Who made who crack up and laugh the most?
Rogen: Anne, what’s the tally?
Anne Fletcher: I think I’m the funniest one in the movie. I don’t know. That’s such a hard question because…
Rogen: She cracked me up quite a bit.
Streisand: Because it’s more unexpected from me probably.
Fletcher: It is.
Streisand: And I’m more serious.
Rogen: Very serious woman, this lady. Incredibly serious.
Streisand: But Anne and Dan used to throw us things. They’d say, “Riff on your cousin.” That’s it. And we would just go and they would laugh.
Fletcher: They had such great chemistry and such a great ability to improvise with each other that it was so easy to do. You’d just say one word, even if it was like “Thanksgiving,” and they would just go into a five-minute improv that was so genius. And so, Dan and I would be back behind the monitor laughing our heads off. That’s where we got in trouble.
Rogen: The way we talk in real life is not entirely differently than our rapport in the movie in some ways. But we’re getting along. It’s a lot of me trying to explain things to her about modern times and her trying to feed me shit I don’t want to eat. (Laughs)
Streisand: And yet, he copied my iPhone. I was the one with the iPhone.
Rogen: She had an iPhone before me. I had a Blackberry, and then she was always playing games on her iPhone, and I thought, “I’ve got to get me one of these.” If Barbra can work an iPhone, then it’s got to be fun.
Streisand: That’s right. But he would show me things, like yesterday, he asked me if I had a Twitter account and I said, “I don’t know.”
Rogen: I showed her that she did.
Fletcher: She does.
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 changed her clocks during daylight savings.
Streisand: He’s very handy.
Rogen: I do all that stuff.
Q: For Barbra Streisand, first of all, hello gorgeous! Since you last directed a movie, there have been so many changes to the way movies have been shot. We have digital now, 3D and we’re even starting to have 48 frames. What are your thoughts on using these technologies as a director and how they might change things from the performance side for actors?
Streisand: Well I would have to weigh them. If I do direct another film, I would have to go suss out the RED camera, the Alexa, and all those new things. I know I love film, so I don’t know what I’m going to find out about that.
Rogen: You’ll suss.
Streisand: I’ll suss it out.
Fletcher: If I can step in, she’s somebody who does a lot of research and investigates, and she loves filmmaking so much that she would want to know everything that’s out there that’s new compared to the old, and she would do so much research to see what her eye, which is very specific and detailed and amazing, would find. Am I wrong?
Streisand: Probably not.
Fletcher: Am I speaking for you.
Streisand: That’s okay.
Dan Fogelman: Barbra sees every movie. It’s shocking her film library. I mean, there’s no movie that escapes her on a weekend. She sees them all.
Streisand: By the way, “A Star is Born” was done live.
Fletcher: With an audience.
Streisand: Oh yeah, sometimes with an audience. I sang live. I sang live in “Funny Girl,” at the end of “Funny Girl,” because that’s what they’re talking about in “Les Mis.” I said to Willy (director William Wyler) “How do you know where the emotion is going to hit you” when I was doing my song at the end. I’m a terrible lip-syncer anyway because I have to be in the moment, and I can’t lip-sync to something I recorded three months before. So I thought it was great that Tom Hooper used that and let the actors be live.
Q: For Seth and Barbra, you must know that a lot of people are going to see this movie because Seth is such a huge gag?
Rogen: I’m an icon. Exactly. Do people like Barbra, too? I didn’t know that.
Q: Barbra, how do you feel about the label of “the icon” and do you think your own son considers you the icon?
Streisand: He doesn’t see me as an icon. He sees me as his mother who touches his hair too much. No, I love being an icon to anybody. Equal rights.
Rogen: Me too.
Q: Barbra, you have such an amazing career and I was wondering if you could tell me what gives you the most satisfaction as an artist and what does it mean to you to be a part of a project like this?
Streisand: I prefer things that are private, so I love recording and I love making films as a filmmaker, because it uses every bit of what you have experienced or know, whether it’s graphics, composition, decorating, psychology, storytelling, or whatever it is. It’s a wonderful thing. Right, Anne? I was dealing with very talented people. I had loved Anne’s movie, “The Proposal.” And Dan, I looked you up, too. You did that wonderful musical. What was that musical you did called that I loved?
Streisand: “Tangled.” Yeah, I loved that, and then I saw his name on it. He’s a good writer, and Seth is terrific at what he does. So, you know.
Q: This movie has a great balance of comedy and drama in it. It has real heartfelt moments, too, and you guys have great comedic timing. What was hardest for you – the dramatic moments or the comic ones?
Streisand: Eating steak. For a person who doesn’t like steak, that was the hardest part.
Q: But which was hardest – being funny or serious?
Streisand: Oh no, they’re both the same. If everything is based on what reaches an audience, the truth is honesty, so if you’re saying something truthful and it’s a funny line, it’s going to be funny. If it’s a serious line, it’s going to be serious. I don’t think there’s a distinction between how you play drama or comedy if it’s based in truth.
Fletcher: Especially when you have two actors who have great ability to do both. Not everybody has the ability to be really funny and understand comedy and how to portray it and be real with it, which both of them do in tenfold, as well as the ability to be a straight actor. They’re both incredible. Thank you.
Rogen: Thank you. I like this. I’m just sitting here getting comfortable.
Q: Barbra, what do you think is the secret to your success and what have you done right?
Streisand: I don’t make that many movies and I don’t make that many appearances, so…
Rogen: You leave them wanting more.
Streisand: That’s it. Less is more, and maybe that keeps a little mystery or something. I don’t know. I like to stay home a lot. I like to do other things, too, like decorate.
Q: Barbra, how crazy can you drive your own son? And Seth, how crazy does your own mother drive you?
Rogen: It’s probably the same answer. Very! Yeah, my mom drives me crazy sometimes. I have a good relationship. I see my parents a lot. It’s a lot like in the movie. For no reason, I get annoyed, and I’ll just find myself reverting back to the mentality of a 14-year-old kid who just doesn’t want to be around his parents. One of the things I related to most in the script, honestly, was that dynamic where your mother is trying, and the more she tries, the more it bugs you, and the more it bugs you, the more she tries. You see her trying to say the thing that won’t annoy you and she can’t. All that, at times, is very real to my relationship to my mother.
Q: Seth, first I hope that you end up hosting the Spirit Awards again soon.
Rogen: I don’t think they want me back. (Laughs)
Q: I thought you did a great job.
Rogen: Thank you.
Q: Barbra, how much contact did you have with your son, Jason, when you were thinking about how you wanted to play the role? Did he maybe share some fun stories, maybe one of which you can share with us?
Streisand: Actually, 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.
Rogen: He couldn’t escape. (Laughs)
Streisand: I brought the script over and read it out loud. It was interesting actually. His father was in the room, too. Isn’t that funny? We were both there coddling our son. So he became the audience, and Jason was reading parts of it 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 clenched the deal. Anne was on the phone when I was on a boat.
Fletcher: I was with you all over the world – in her house, on vacation, on a boat in France, somewhere in the Bahamas, and the dog was going to jump off the boat. I had a lot of time. I loved that Jason just one night said, “Yes, mom. Do it.” I had a whole year.
Streisand: Well, he’s my son.
Fletcher: But it was a great year. I will never forget. I loved every second. Are you kidding? To be able to go to Barbra’s house and have a 5-hour conversation about life…
Streisand: …and food.
Fletcher: …and food.
Fogelman: We went over to Barbra’s to try and convince her. We were getting closer, and Anne and I went over and we sat down with Barbra. It’s nerve-wracking when you’re sitting in front of Barbra and she says, “Why should I do this film?” It’s your big moment, and then something distracted Barbra, and she got up and she goes, “Let’s eat.” We were there for five hours and we never talked about the movie. We talked about everything except the film.
Streisand: Then there comes a time when you know. I was on a little boat in France, and my friend who is an architectural critic said, “You don’t think you’re going to do this movie? You know, an actor has a craft, and you’re an actor and you should be using your craft.” That was interesting. Like do it, do your thing. I thought that was interesting. I was thinking at the time, should I be playing Sarah Bernhardt or trying to get movies made as a director, and it’s very, very hard. It’s not the same as when I last made a film. They’re not interested in love stories or any movie that’s over $15 million, but it could be $100 million. That’s okay. $200 million is okay to lose. But, movies that I’m used to making or liking or that draw me, they’re movies that cost $18 million or $20 million. They’re not interested in those movies. It’s a different time. I don’t like it as much.
Q: I have to imagine you get sent so many scripts.
Streisand: I don’t.
Q: You don’t? Or they just don’t make it to you?
Streisand: You see, everybody thinks like you, “She must get so many scripts. Why would I send her one? She’ll never get a chance to read it.” Meanwhile, I’m going, “Where are the scripts?”
Q: Having sussed things out and having read this script with your son, what ultimately was it that made you say, “Yes, this is something I have to do.” And Seth, would you still have done it if she had said no?
Streisand: Who do you want to answer first?
Rogen: You. Based on your answer, I’ll tell them… (Laughs)
Streisand: Mothers develop guilt trips. When I was working a lot, I’d feel guilty as a parent that I couldn’t pick up my son every day from school, make him cookies and 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. So I thought it was interesting to investigate this — trying to be my son’s friend, trying to be his friend versus a mother, and when it comes time to really say, “You abuse 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 of those things that I thought I could explore. It was a true story. It’s Dan and his mother, and she was a fan of mine. There’s something right about it and Dan wrote this lovely script. It just felt like it was meant to be. It was meant for me to come back to work as a star in a starring role, rather than six days on a movie, which I really like, the six days on a movie. It was time to challenge myself again. Of course, I made it very difficult for them to hire me, because I kept wanting an out in some way. So I made it really hard. I would never do this normally, but “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.” Then, 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.
Rogen: For me, it is.
Streisand: He’s right. He has to have a few cups of tea. You have to feed him a little bit. So I said, “You can’t pick me up until 8:30am.” That’s a normal time to get up for me, because I love the night.
Rogen: That’s like a normal job.
Streisand: My husband and I stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, so we don’t function well at 6 in the morning. And they said, “Okay.”
Fletcher: I really said okay because I too am a night owl. By the way, to sort of answer, I know you didn’t ask me, but I wasn’t going to do the movie without these two. There was no other. There wasn’t back-up. If Seth said no, there was no replacement. If Barbra said no, there was no replacement. It was them or I wasn’t going to make the movie. Sorry, Dan.
Fogelman: No, no. It was everyone, including the studio.
Fletcher: That was it.
Streisand: When we were on the boat, I said to Anne, “Would you make the movie without me?” and she said, “No.” And then, I felt bad.
Streisand: I thought, “Oh no, she’s not going to have this job.” Every one of those little elements paid off.
Fletcher: Everything that Barbra was asking wasn’t unrealistic or crazy. It was just going to be “Yes” unless she wanted to fly in on a helicopter. Sorry, Seth.
Rogen: I was open to Shirley MacLaine. (Laughter) No, I’m just kidding. I only would have done it if Barbra was doing it. For me, it was funny. They were like, “We want to do this movie with Barbra, but Barbra’s not sure if she wants to do it.” I was like, “Well just let me know if she says yes.” And then, I literally made two movies during that time. We were editing “50/50” and I got a call, and they said, “Barbra said yes.” I said, “Okay, great.”
Streisand: I got everything that I wanted.
Q: Dan, does the Scioclean product that Seth’s character is promoting in the film really clean?
Fogelman: Does it really clean? Yes. That came from a friend of mine who did exactly that. He was starting an organic cleaning supply company made of all natural food products, and he would tell me about the process of trying to get it sold across the country and how you do it. We actually had a scientist create the formula that might create a real product and do all that.
Streisand: Oh my gosh!
Rogen: Barbra just said, “Is it just me or is it hot in here?” (Laughs) It is a little hot. (Laughs)
Streisand: Do you know how much he was really acting? You see, because you didn’t hear that laugh once in this movie. Am I right? He had to be the character.
Rogen: I can’t rest on that anymore.
Q: Barbra, you mentioned in the beginning that you and Seth are both Jewish, and Dan, I was really touched by the dedication to your mom at the end of the film, which brings me to my question. What kind of Goyish name is Brewster? If you have a Jewish mother, why not own up to it?
Streisand: That’s really interesting. Ask Dan.
Fogelman: I think the thought was that the father, and they’ve kept the name of the father, might not have been.
Rogen: Clearly, I’m only half Jewish.
Fogelman: That was the thought. There was one point early on in the script where there was actually, we were talking — I don’t think you guys ever saw it – but the father wasn’t going to be dead. My father’s not really dead in real life. Where they were going to visit him and he might have a completely different kind of …
Streisand: Is your father Jewish?
Fogelman: My father is, yeah. Avi Folger.
Rogen: It’s also probably because people don’t love Jews. (Laughs)
Fletcher: That’s very true. As the non-Jew here, I totally agree with that.
Rogen: We take a lot of shit. People don’t love us.
Fletcher: I think also making the movie and not wanting to focus on Jewish or anything like that, really wanting to focus on the mother-son relationship, so that all mothers and all children on both sides can appreciate the film and not just being in a group of people. I think that was also part of the thought.
Streisand: Anne isn’t Jewish so she had a lot to say.
Fletcher: Yes, and I hate Jews. Write that down!
Fogelman: The coolest part is when you’re focus-grouping the movie afterwards and you do all these previews early on. My favorite part was always watching when they would interview people and ask, “What did you think of the film?” and there’d be this wide swath of people that would all be saying “She’s just like my mother.” It would be a large African American woman or a small Indian guy.
Fletcher: And it was all ages. It didn’t matter.
Fogelman: So that was always the really cool part for me in the film, that everybody should be able to look at Barbra in the film and be reminded of their own mother no matter what.
Streisand: I was using your mother that I saw films of and pictures of who had this inspired way about her.
Fogelman: Barbra was my mom’s absolute hero. My mother was named Joyce, like in the film. She collected frogs. She was obsessed with Weight Watchers. My mom wouldn’t have known a celebrity if Tom Cruise came up and punched her in the face. She just wouldn’t know, but Barbra was everything to her.
Fletcher: That’s so sweet.
Q: Barbra, you look so beautiful in the film and here today. What is your secret?
Rogen: Sitting next to me helps. (Laughter)
Streisand: He is so bold.
Fletcher: He is fast.
Streisand: That was funny, Seth. Very funny.
Fletcher: I need to know the answer because her skin is flawless. I was too afraid to ask her what she did with that skin.
Streisand: It is not. No, if you knew all my self-doubt, my God. I don’t know. Maybe I’m slightly childish.
Fletcher: Your spirit is youthful.
Streisand: I kind of like the child part of me. Maybe it reflects in my face or something.
Rogen: It does.
Fletcher: Sorry. I was hoping to get some secrets.
Q: Barbra, you can sing and act in drama or comedy, compose, write and direct so well. What can you not do well?
Streisand: I can’t cook. I can’t cook at all. I mean, I would not know how to make coffee. I could sort of boil an egg. Maybe I could figure that one out.
Rogen: You should just try one day.
Streisand: I took cooking classes. By the way, I know how to make Chocolate Souffle.
Rogen: That’s pretty good.
Streisand: Just ask me if I *want* to make it. I may have somebody else make the Chocolate Souffle and I eat it. I found when I took cooking classes, when I tried to cook, put it that way, it was never appetizing to eat. I mean, I didn’t want to eat it. The joy was gone. I was always filthy with the stuff and covered in it. That’s screwed it up. And then, picking up and cleaning up. No. I don’t like that.
Q: For Dan, I loved all the characters you created for “Tangled” and I’d like to see more. Will we ever see a sequel to that movie?
Fletcher: You don’t want to talk about “Step Up”?
Fogelman: “Fred Claus.”
Rogen: They’ve made 5,000 sequels to that movie. What do you mean?
Fogelman: I’d heard rumors, but it’s more in Disney’s hands than it would ever be in mine in terms of “Tangled.” I know that there’s always talk about doing stuff when it makes that much money.
Q: Anne, were any of the scenes with Seth and Barbra that made it into the movie improvised or was most of it on the page?
Fletcher: Regarding script versus improv, I don’t know, to be perfectly honest. We had such a great flow of a great script written by Dan and amazing ideas from Seth and Barbra as well every day. As you know, their chemistry is insane, which means they’re incredibly connected. Actually, I’ve been around improv a long time in my life and these two people are insane with it. They can actually speak and listen at the exact same time. So it was always my goal to have that on screen as much as possible, because I think it’s magic and I don’t think that many people have that much of a click. I mean, lots of people do and they’re very good at it so I don’t want to discredit them, but these two have a very unique ability that I really loved and wanted the world to see. We did a lot of improv. Yes.
Streisand: You encouraged it.
Fletcher: And that script sucked, so that’s the other thing we had to really move away from.
Fogelman: I’d say the ten biggest laughs in the film are all stuff Seth and Barbra came up with. I’d say probably more the dramatic stuff, we stayed more on script, and a lot more of the comedy stuff in the car was probably Seth and Barbra just going with it.
Fletcher: The car stuff, for sure. But yeah, it was also in every scene that we would play around with stuff, and then we would discover they would always find things, because Seth’s brain works at a different capacity than any other human being, and it’s always brilliant and you always want it.
Q: One of the things that really stuck out to me in this film was that Andy Brewster was a refreshingly complex character and had a very distinct arc to it with a good range of emotion. Can you touch a little bit more on how you approached Andy?
Rogen: I really thought of it as a very real-time performance. You’re just thrown into the movie with him, so I thought I should try to be as real and natural as possible. He’s not a particularly funny guy. He’s not even in a particularly good mood for the majority of the movie. I thought that if you seem a little vulnerable, people seem to relate to that and that was the balance that [I went for]. We got options. Honestly, I would do takes where I was more harsh with Barbra and takes where I was less harsh, takes where I was more annoyed and less annoyed, and takes where I was fully entertained by her and takes where I was like “Oh, shut the fuck up.” We knew that it would be somewhere in there. To me, that’s how I act sometimes, especially when you don’t know. We knew that was going to be the line, like how annoying can she be versus how annoyed can he be? When does that start to get grating? You’ve got to make sure you relate with both of them. Is it too much on her? Is it too much on him? We talked a lot about it while we were filming, as far as, “Okay, that last take was harsh. We should make sure we get one that’s less harsh so when we’re editing, it doesn’t…”
Streisand: She’s playing an instrument. As the director, she modulates.
Rogen: I play my own instrument a lot, too, as you know. (Laughter)
Fletcher: On set.
Streisand: He couldn’t resist. But it is interesting, isn’t it?
Fletcher: It is.
Streisand: We started to show the movie, and then if they found him a little mean to me, she had to…
Fletcher: Yeah. When you test it, the audience will let you know how far to go. There were times where we tested him very angry, which by the way is the relationship I have with my mother, so I identified with it. I didn’t understand why [they didn’t]. Don’t tell her. And then, Barbra playing a little bit more annoying, and you really learned quickly that the audience responded to that and how far to go with it. So then, you are shaping these two so that you love both of them. In the beginning of the movie, you’re rooting for him. In the middle of the movie, you’re rooting for her. And it flip flops. You keep working at it.
Streisand: I love it because it’s a transformative kind of movie. They start at one point, both of them tragically alone and not finding a mate. And then, at the end, there are many more possibilities. The horizons open. Oh, there’s more to life than the GAP. He took me out of my shell. It was a very loving gesture. It’s about love. I always say it’s a different kind of love story.
Rogen: Which, to me, sounds gross. (Laughter)
Streisand: You would say that. See where your mind goes! It goes to the sexual.
Rogen: Exactly. Right in the gutter.
Rogen: Right in the gutter.
Q: Barbra, when you want someone to tell you the absolute truth about your performance, who is the one person you trust and go to?
Streisand: Just one person? Because it’s hard between my husband and my son and my manager of 50 years. That’s a long relationship. I trust a set of people.
Q: Would you say Jim Brolin? That’s your husband.
Fletcher: Let’s just say that. Let’s just put him down. (Laughter) I think you surround yourself with people who are pretty honest with you, Barbra. She wants the truth.
Streisand: Oh, I do. I don’t want to be schmeicheled. You know what that means? Schmeicheled means … How would you describe that? It’s a great Yiddish word.
Fletcher: Well, what that means is …
Streisand: It means smeared. I like the truth.
Rogen: Don’t smear Barbra.
Q: What about you, Seth? Who are the people you count on to give you the truth?
Rogen: My writing, directing and producing partner, Evan (Goldberg), is pretty honest with me, generally speaking. My wife is nice to me all the time so that doesn’t…
Streisand: That doesn’t count.
Rogen: No, it doesn’t count. Evan will be pretty honest with me, whether I like it or not.
Q: What did he say?
Rogen: He’s the producer on this movie so he has no excuse not to like it. I should have spoken up earlier.
Q: What do you want an audience to take away from the film?
Streisand: I want them to be moved. I want them to identify. I want them to see themselves in the movie. I want them to get closer to their children. A lot of things.
Rogen: All that.