MEET THE FOCKERS - Q&A with BARBRA STREISAND, DUSTIN HOFFMAN and BEN STILLER
Barbra, how was it the night before the shooting started, did you get any sleep when you had to wake up 5 a.m.?
BARBRA STREISAND: I can't remember what happened the night before. I really don't like getting up 5 a.m. I like to stay up late because it's quiet and there are no phones ringing, and I can read and think and play computer games.
I really meant that were you nervous?
BARBRA STREISAND: Yeah, I think I was. It's been awhile and I really wanted to see what that felt like again.
Ben, this is a heavy weight cast. Who was the most intimidating one to work with?
BEN STILLER: Very quickly after meeting Dustin, the whole image I had of him was shattered. I was intimidated by the idea of working with Barbra, Dustin and Robert, but it left very quickly after we went into rehearsal, after a couple of days, we were all just actors sitting around, trying to make this thing work. And I felt a very warm feeling from both Barbra and Dustin as parents (Barbra touches his hair). There's a lot of physicality, and Dustin would do that to me too which wasn't quite as nice.
Dustin and Barbra, how are your own parenting skills?
BARBRA STREISAND: (turns toward Dustin) Honey?
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: I'm somewhat unconventional as a parent. I once had to talk in a college one afternoon when my son was about 15. He wasn't there, but after the talk I left, and outside the science class which was next door to the room I spoke, there was a case of condoms affixed to the door.
BARBRA STREISAND: He loves to talk about condoms.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: Well, yeah because when I grew up we all tried to avoid the word and say rubbers.
BARBRA STREISAND: Or plastic (laughs).
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: So I can say it now without getting shocked to the system: condoms. And I took the case of condoms and I went home. My son who is now 23 was on the phone in his bedroom and one day I was going to have a sex talk with him, but I just opened the door, walked in while he was on the phone and dumped the condoms on his head and walked out. That was me giving him the sexual education, and that's the character.
BEN STILLER: I wish my father had done that to me.
BARBRA STREISAND: I don't think we as actors sit and think consciously about...so much of it is instinctive and visceral and you bring what you know and observe in other people to a character. It's a hard question to answer: How do you bring your own parental skills to a role?
But sometimes you must have thought you wouldn't have been reacting the same way in real life?
BARBRA STREISAND: In reality too, I'm in love with my dog Samantha because there is a way I speak to her (uses Ben Stiller as a prop): "You the poodle, good morning (with baby talk voice while scratching and petting Stiller)", so I thought that's the way I would love my son. And my dog is right outside (they bring her in and show [her] to everybody. It's a white, middle sized poodle).
Ms Streisand, can you talk about your look in the movie?
BARBRA STREISAND: First thought I had since I was going to be Ben's mom and he has dark, curly hair (Ben: "At least in the movie") so I thought that I want to look like him. I have a 6 year-old god daughter, she has very curly, longer hair and I just thought that they were stuck in the time zone of the 70s, so I guess instinctively I started to dress like her and look like her. Then when the movie was done and I was looking at the poster, I was thinking that looks so familiar to me. Then I thought, that's how I looked in A STAR IS BORN and that was in the 70s but I didn't think about it consciously before the movie started. But then I had a perm (in this movie she wears a wig).
Mr. Hoffman, you became grandfather yesterday. How does it feel and do you have any parenting tips to young parents?
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: It's time for me to be a grandfather (laughs) before I'm dead. It didn't hurt me. The cliché is, we hear people who are about to become grandparents say "I don't want to be called grandpa or grandma!" But, it's fun, it's wonderful. It's an extraordinary feeling because you get closer to your own mortality, and the grandchild, they say, you skip the generation. In other words; you are more like your grandparents than you are like your parents. That's what you hear, right?
BARBRA STREISAND: No, I never heard that.
BEN STILLER: No, me either.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: So, when I look at Gus, that's his name, and I can see that he's got my stuff. It's a feeling, I must say, that is different from what I have with my own children. I think they have my stuff too but the magic is...and he's got more stuff. It's wonderful and I can't express it in words.
Ms Streisand , you have a grown son in real life too. How is he doing and how proud are you of him?
BARBRA STREISAND: He is doing very well. As a matter of fact he is an incredible artist. He's made films and one of them appeared in Sundance, he's very gifted and he can write music. He became a wonderful artist around 15 and now he designs wonderful cards that can be a book or whatever, that are called 'Straight Words'. Hopefully he is going to come out with them. They are incredible sayings that are then drawn; like Jason draws a wonderful picture of a man's face with a tear, like Picasso, it's so beautiful and it says on it 'the purity of sadness will never lead to madness'. So they are thoughts with drawings.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: One more thought, I feel exactly like both the Fockers feel: you cannot give a kid too much love. Impossible.
Did you talk about politics during the shoot or did the political stuff come out in some other ways?
BARBRA STREISAND: We all appeared at the same fund raiser for John Kerry, put it that way.
BEN STILLER: But it definitely came out a few times in rehearsals, it wasn't intentional, it just came out. Because we've been working on the movie for 3 or 4 years, I guess 3 and a half years in terms of Jay trying to get the script to a place where it's supposed to be. It was always in the original idea of the movie that Greg's parents were very different from the Burns's.
Was it always a sure thing that you were going to do the sequel?
BEN STILLER: Not until we had a script that everyone thought was funny and good. That's why it took a while. Because right after we shot the first one they started to work on another script and it took a number of tries and different writers to get to a place where everybody felt that we should be.
Were you excited to get Barbra and Dustin as your parents?
BEN STILLER: Extremely. We wouldn't even believe it that we would...when we talked about who the parents would be, Dustin and Barbra were high in the sky ideas of who we'd like to see.
Did you at any stage consider using your own parents as parents in the movie?
BEN STILLER: I let the casting process happen with Jay and the producers. I was not going to be the guy saying "hey, hire my parents!" I think it would've been a little bit crazy going to do a movie with them, for me, on a certain psychological level. It could be a little bit confusing. In terms of the relationship with my folks, it's like Barbra said, you don't even think about it but this really is drawn on the realities of your life and stuff. So, like Dustin says how he likes to be touchy-feely and invade my space to get me crazy, my dad does that. It's just loving, pure loving, smothering thing that sometimes kids are like...and you don't understand it until you have a child of your own, that feeling you have as a parent. I have a 2 and a half year old, and all I want to do it hug and kiss her, and she's already getting enough of it (laughs). You don't understand it as a kid until you have one of your own.
Dustin and Barbra, how did you keep up the physical, horny energy on the set?
BARBRA STREISAND: He doesn't have to work on it! It's natural.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (bangs his hand under the table) When I read it and we talked about it and that she's a sex therapist, and I talked with Jay and I always go by what I don't like in the movies that I've seen. And most of the sexual play I've seen in movies is crap, I don't believe it: tongue down the throat, and there is always a montage scene where the camera pans past her panties and up to the bed and he's on top of her and then suddenly you see a flip over and it's always the same. So I thought what can we do that's honest and Barbra and I have know each other since the beginning of our careers and personally we have an affection toward each other and we thought the same, that sex is not really sex in the literal sense. It's this: (he starts kissing and hugging and touching Barbra). It is and you've never seen that.
BARBRA STREISAND: It's very natural and it's also about kindness. I think that Dustin is very kind and supportive because we were improvising a lot as actors and people. In other words; if I say something in the scene that's not written in the script, he says "listen to her, she's right". That's a very kind thing to do in a marriage, to support your spouse and it's also kindness from Dustin towards Barbra. It is real.
You've known each other for a long time but you haven't acted together before. Did this change your relationship?
BARBRA STREISAND: We're leaving our spouses and running away together!
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: That's a good question. We never socialized in all the years we knew each other. I came to see her in concerts, but we never...I'm busy doing my stuff, she's busy, I'm on one coast, she's on the other. I don't think either of us is party people, she loves to be at home and that's the same with me. But there was always a familiarity about us, and since the film, it becomes very intimate working together every single day, it's interesting that the familiarity is the same as it was; it was rich and deep then as it's now. It's no different. We hang together, so to speak.
Do you remember some jokes you made together in the acting school you attended at the same time?
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: We tease each other now because I have said in the past that we met at the Theatre Studios in New York where we were both janitors cleaning the toilets and she hates when I say that!
BARBRA STREISAND: Well, he was kind enough to be at my AFI tribute and he tells the story, but the truth is that he was the janitor who cleaned the toilet bowls, I would have never cleaned the toilets! I was baby sitting to pay for my lessons. We had 'a work scholarship'. So I called him up after the AFI thing and told him "don't say that I cleaned toilets with you, I didn't. I was a baby sitter". But he said "yeah, but mine is a better story." But I said that I believe in the truth.
Jay Roach said that the massage scene with Robert De Niro was the one that convinced you to take the role?
BARBRA STREISAND: Because I told him that there was no contact between my character and De Niro's character in that script I read a year ago, so I suggested what if I was somehow sexually massaging him or...I had to have some interaction. If you have me and De Niro in a movie, you have to have something, so they wrote the massage scene.
What kind of research did you do for it?
BARBRA STREISAND: Well, I love massages, so I worked it out the night before with my own masseuse, the choreography for the scene so we could repeat it over and over again. But I had to watch tapes of sex therapists and they are very funny, just funny because it's so matter of fact, so practical, so pragmatic. What is lovely about our relationship in the movie, is that in real life, later in life when you are in a relationship, is to keep it hot, to keep it sexual, to never let that die because it is a life force and it's fun.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: Before the movie started or just after it started Barbra and I talked about "so, how much sex do you get?" and we confessed that between the two of us we get about 7 days a week of sex. I was once and she was 6 times.
BARBRA STREISAND: (keeps saying 'watch it' while Dustin talks, then starts laughing) He makes up stories!
Ms Streisand, do you have any plans for new albums or concert tours?
BARBRA STREISAND: Well, Barry Gibb is writing a new album that we are doing together. Somebody suggested to do an album with songs from different countries from the world and that would be a good idea, so maybe a Brazilian album. I would never do a concert tour again like I have done in the past because they took too much energy singing 30 songs a night. But when I did this Kerry, little concert, I said that "I'll do this but I can't get off the floor, I can't walk around too much, go up and down elevators and singing that many songs. If I sit on a stool and sing, I can manage that." So that's the kind of thing I could do.
Barbra, do you have plans to direct again?
BARBRA STREISAND: I like directing and if I direct, my next picture will be without acting in it. I would like to have the experience of just directing and not having to have your hair done and putting make-up on and learn lines. That would be a thrill, but I'm not looking actively for it but if it comes my way and it's something I feel passionate about I'll do it.
Does sex get better with age?
BARBRA STREISAND: Definitely. I think it does. You get freer; less inhibited and you really enjoy the enjoyment and as you said, there is a sense of mortality and it's like living each day to the fullest and experiencing the body.
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: Unfortunately when I started out with sex, when I was a teenager, I was what we call in this country a premature ejaculator. Once a premature ejaculator, always a premature ejaculator. But the benefit is that when you get to be as old as I am, you're still a premature ejaculator but it takes about an hour.
(Lots of laughter)
BARBRA STREISAND: Very funny! (Laughs)
Dustin, how was it to play yourself in a movie?
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: My kids saw some rushes and they said "Dad, this is the first time you're being dad the way you are at home."
Miss Streisand why did it take so long for you to accept the role?
BARBRA STREISAND: Because I'm having good time doing things that are not judged, that don't have to be judged; gardening. Actually I was judged because I have a rose named after me and it just won best fragrance. It's called Barbra Streisand and it starts out as burgundy and it changes to mauve with edges and it becomes lavender. It's very beautiful rose. So, the point is that I am having good time staying home being with people I love and building a house, designing a house, constructing. Building a house is a very creative experience; it is like making a movie. I didn't miss work and I think that when you are happier in your life you don't have this feeling of sublimation like there is a void in my life so I have to create something, like a movie or an album. So I resist work. I'm just lazier. Well, I do write on my political website. But I really love to be wanted and a lot of people are intimidated by me, especially directors. And Jay wasn't at all, he's just so collaborative and open to ideas. I think that's a sign of true talent; when you are not afraid of other peoples' opinions. You want to take from them.
You said that you don't want to be judged...?
Yeah, I read articles, today I don't care as much, but you read articles about yourself sometimes and they call you egoistical but I hate talking about myself, I hate having interviews; you're asked to talk about yourself and then you're called egoist. If you make a movie and you have to direct and star in it, as a woman I think you are more harshly criticized...
DUSTIN HOFFMAN: Well, if a guy is strong and tough, they say "well, he's strong and tough" and if a woman is like that she's a bitch. That's how it translates.
That's why Martha Steward is in prison, isn't it?
BARBRA STREISAND: That is so true but her stock is going up.
Going back to the massage scene. As Ben Stiller put it in the movie: How was it riding Robert De Niro like Seabiscuit?
BARBRA STREISAND: It's hard work, I sound like president Bush (laughs), it's hard work but somebody has to do it. (Lot of laughter) We worked on that scene like 16 hours straight, I think. That was tough, just difficult work.
Did you hurt him?
BARBRA STREISAND: I hurt myself, my wrist and my back.
It looked like you had great time doing this movie, does it mean that we are going to see you more in the future as an actress?
BARBRA STREISAND: I don't like working that much. I don't like getting up early in the morning. I like playing the stock market in the morning. That's at 6:30 a.m., I'm tired by 8:30 a.m., I'm finished playing the stock market. Then I have to go to sleep for a while. I read the newspapers at night, so I don't have that much time to go to work. I'm working (laughs).
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