February 4, 2009 in Features

Barbra Streisand talks about ‘Yentl,’ new CD, politics

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody Associated Press
File Associated Press photo

Barbra Streisand arrives for the Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in this Dec. 7 photo.
(Full-size photo)

Barbra Streisand remembers the buzz generated before she started filming the musical “Yentl,” and it wasn’t particularly good.

Despite her superstar status and two Oscars (one best actress trophy, another for composing) she recalls hearing negative comments about whether she could pull off the Herculean task of starring, directing, co-writing and producing the period piece about a Jewish woman who disguises herself as a man to pursue an education.

“Women being actresses, somehow, in certain people’s minds, in executives’ minds, it’s a frivolous job,” she said in a phone interview. “When you start to handle millions of dollars and production, that probably scared them.”

The movie’s success should have allayed those fears: “Yentl” garnered Oscar nominations and two Golden Globes. Now, 25 years later, the 66-year-old Streisand reminisces about what it took to get the movie made in a commentary in the special director’s cut DVD released Tuesday (MGM Entertainment, $29.99).

The two-disc set comes with other special features including extra scenes and rehearsal footage.

It’s not the only project Streisand is working on these days. She’s finishing an upcoming CD being produced by best-selling jazz singer Diana Krall, and she regularly keeps busy with her Web site, which features the liberal Democrat’s musings on politics.

Q.What was the most challenging part of making “Yentl”?

A. I think it was just getting it made, selling it in America. Because once I came to England, things were really wonderful. They had no fear of a woman being in a powerful position because they had a queen and the prime minister was Margaret Thatcher. Being a woman director there didn’t seem to scare them. …

It wasn’t until I came back to America it was an odd thing, directing this movie, before I started and after I finished, and that’s really fascinating to me. … At that time, you couldn’t even conceive of a woman being president of the United States, until two years ago … but times have changed.

Q. You were a very vocal critic of former President George W. Bush, but said he was very gracious after he gave you a kiss during the Kennedy Center Honors.

A. It still doesn’t change my mind about his politics, the ruination of our country. But, he was very disarming and very nice and kind of fun with it.

Q. I didn’t see you at the Obama inauguration.

A. I was supposed to go, I was asked to go, but I’m in the middle of this recording … and I just couldn’t go. It was the most thrilling thing to watch this man Obama, Barack Obama, become the president of United States. It’s such a wonderful thing for our country and our world. He’s so intelligent and so smart, and that is such a change, and such a relief.

Q. Diana Krall is producing your new album. Is she also singing on it?

A. I’m trying to convince her to sing with me, but she’s resisting it. She plays the piano for me on several songs, but it’s not over yet. I’m still working on her to try to do a duet with me. … We have to find the right song.

Q. When do you plan to return to film?

A. I’d like to get back to directing. There’s something I’ve been working on for many many years and it’s kind of almost time to get back into my directing role and there also is possible a sequel to “Meet the Fockers.”

Q. Your stepson, Josh Brolin, is an Oscar nominee this year.

A. Isn’t that great? It’s so great for him because now win or lose, he is an Oscar-nominated actor, and it’s wonderful to get the recognition of your peers.

Q. Are you going to be involved in this year’s Oscars?

A. Doubt it. I like to watch from home, eat pizza … I cuddle up on my couch.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email