The Man Behind Barbra’s New Movie


Barbra Streisand returns to the screen where she belongs in The Guilt Trip, in which she and Seth Rogen go on a mother-and-son drive that puts them at cross purposes which melt into mutual appreciation.

The film is written by Dan Fogelman, who based it on a real-life road trip he took with his mother some years ago.

I just talked to Fogelman for insight into Babs, moms, and guilt, and here’s what went down:

Hi, Dan. Did you write a book about your trip?

No. There was talk of a book, but if I wrote any more about my mom, my brain was gonna explode. This was a six year process.

Why did it take so long?

It’s harder and harder nowadays to get a movie made. Barbra is a really hard get. She doesn’t love working. She loves to work, but she doesn’t love working. Our director was determined, and that took a minute. It went through two different studios and was a labor of love to get made.

So I assume you were thrilled at the casting of Barbra.

Yes. Barbra was my mom’s be-all as a celebrity. Tom Cruise on down could walk into my mom’s house and she’d have no idea who they were, but Barbra Streisand was it for her. Seth and Barbra were the pairing everybody wanted for this film. If we hadn’t gotten that, I don’t know if it would have gotten made.

You’re Jewish, obviously.

Yeah. In the movie, they don’t have a Jewish last name, but they use a few Yiddish phrases. In the process of making a film, you do all this testing and putting it in front of audiences. Sometimes you have a focus group after a screening, to discuss it. It was always fun for us to watch this wide swatch of people say, ‘She’s just like my mother.’ You’d watch an African American woman say it and an Indian woman. Despite the fact that they’re ostensibly Jewish.

Was the Jewishness toned down a little for the film?

No, I don’t think so. I don’t know that you can tone it down. We didn’t give them a Jewish last name, but Barbra modeled herself after my mom. They played the characters. Everything that happens in the film happens in my two-week trip with my mom. I’d send the daily update to everybody–that became my form of note taking. My mom wore sweatsuits, she was obsessed with Weight Watchers, we listened to the book Middlesex in the car, and my mom ate a steak on stage like that. I have a Youtube video of my poor little mom trying to down this 70-ounce steak.

In the movie, it’s just 50 ounces.

We took it down a little. Barbra’s not a meat eater and she was overwhelmed by 70 ounces. She’s a real trouper. That scene took two or three days. In some of the shots, they used other things to represent the steak, like watermelon, which they burned.

Watermelon was harmed during the making of this film! But not Barbra Streisand, so it’s OK. Congrats.