Saturday evening in New York saw the unlikely pairing of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and the iconic Barbra Streisand take to the stage at the 16th Tribeca Film Festival for a memorable discussion as part of the Tribeca Talks series.
Rodriguez immediately addressed how the improbable duo came about, revealing that Streisand was the most adored star in his household when he was growing up. When she became the first woman to write, direct, produce and star in a major American movie with Yentil, he was inspired as a budding young filmmaker and his five sisters felt empowered.
Rodriguez shared: “It speaks volumes about the widespread appeal of Barbra Streisand. I grew up in a large Hispanic family of 10 kids in San Antonio, Texas, and in our household, there simply was no bigger star than Barbra Streisand.”
When he finally met Streisand as an adult, he says he was starstruck and he continues to be impressed by her, “she’s the most actively creative person I know,” he told the Tribeca audience.
The From Dusk Till Dawn director then went on to ask her about her unprecedented career as a singer, actor, director, producer, author and songwriter. Streisand revealed that she’s spent the past two years writing her autobiography and one thing that surprised her during the process is discovering good reviews of her work, “What I remember is the bad reviews. I forget the good reviews.”
Streisand spoke of falling for Marlon Brando on the big screen and her initial desire to act: “I think it’s because I wanted to escape reality. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t a happy kid. And I used to go to the movies a lot, Saturday afternoons. I didn’t know they had time schedules so I would come in any time of the day…I loved the make-believe world, the world of colour.”
With Streisand having worked with William Wyler, Gene Kelly and Vincente Minnelli as directors on her first three films as an actress, it was Wyler she wanted to go to for advice on what not to do before making her directorial debut. Unfortunately Wyler died before they had chance to discuss her embarking on Yentl, but Wyler’s widow sent a note to Barbra advising her that if she was ever on set without knowing what to do, she should just remain quiet for a moment and she might hear the late Wyler whisper some advice.
Streisand told Rodriguez that she felt she hadn’t encountered any sexism as a female filmmaker in London while making Yentl because there was a female Prime Minister at the time as well as a female monarch. The same wasn’t to be said when she returned to America though and she didn’t make another film as director until The Prince of Tides eight years later.
“I always had opinions. And opinions in the 60’s were not popular for women,” Streisand said. “It’s interesting; they had them in the 40’s! But that was during the war, you know when men went to war and we were left with the women.”
Although Streisand has won two Oscars, five Emmys, ten Golden Globes, ten Grammys and a Tony Award, Rodriguez believes she was snubbed by the Academy Awards as Best Director.
Streisand said, “They don’t want to see a woman director, I don’t think…I don’t know how many women wanted to see a woman director.”
When Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, it was Streisand who presented her with the award.
Streisand believes that there still aren’t enough female filmmakers working today, “I love it when I see a woman’s name on a film and always pray that it’s good!”
Rodriguez asked Streisand about the experience of going back to just acting in a film she wasn’t directing and she opened up about some of the differences of opinion she’d had with Sydney Pollack on The Way We Were and Frank Pierson on A Star Is Born. Talking about her collaboration with Pierson on A Star Is Born, she said, “he yelled action, but I yelled cut on that film.”
On acting in films she’s also directing like The Prince of Tides, Streisand revealed she focused on the rest of the cast first and put herself in last, “there are less people to argue with, so it’s easy.”
Although Streisand said she doesn’t know what she’ll do next, she revealed that she’s long wanted to make a film about the legendary stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, which would allow Streisand the chance to play all the great roles that Bernhardt took on including Juliet at the age of 74.
This marked the final event in the Tribeca Talks: Storytellers series and the 16th Tribeca Film Festival closed on 30th April 2017.