By THE NEW YORK TIMES
At a gala on Monday night Barbra Streisand will receive the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Chaplin Award for lifetime achievement. The society cited in particular her work on “Yentl,” the first movie to credit a woman as director, writer, producer and star, along with other big-screen turns behind the camera (“Prince of Tides” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces”) and in front of it (“Funny Girl” and “For Pete’s Sake”).
Before the gala Ms. Streisand answered readers’ questions, and hundreds took to the ArtsBeat blog to declare their affection and post their queries.
Amid a few invitations to dinner and to sing at weddings, readers touched on a range of topics — the cinematography on “Yentl,” potential new projects (like “Gypsy”), Ms. Streisand’s years at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, the recent Duck Sauce hit song named after her. Here she answers those questions and more:
Q. I’m sure you heard about people naming the six people they would want at an intimate dinner party. You are always on my list, along with Jacqueline Kennedy, Buddha, Mary Magdalene, Martha Mitchell and David Hockney. So, my question: Who’s at your dinner table? OLDE WACHOVIAN, New York
A. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Edward Hopper, Gustav Klimt and Fanny Brice.
Q. What’s the biggest public misconception about you? DEB, New York
A. It takes a lot of time to answer a question like that. At the moment, I’m not that interested in myself.
Q. At the premiere of “Yentl” Steven Spielberg famously said it was the most auspicious directorial debut since “Citizen Kane.” I expected that to mark a turn in your career toward directing, but you have only directed two films since then. Was directing just too all-consuming, or was it hard to get funding for the kind of films you wanted to make? MARK, Key West, Fla.
A. The latter. I tried for 25 years to get funding for “The Normal Heart” and couldn’t. My latest project about Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell was also very hard to finance.
Q. One of the most wonderful things about “Yentl” (among many) is the gorgeous cinematography by David Watkin, your director of photography. My favorite scene is when Yentl arrives at the yeshiva and we hear “This Is One of Those Moments” as the light streams in through the windows and pours over the books and tables in the library. Can you tell us a little about your collaboration with Watkin in terms of how you arrived at your vision for the lighting and the look achieved in the final film? It’s absolutely sumptuous to watch, especially on the big screen. Many congratulations on your well-deserved Chaplin Award. And please keep making movies. INWOOD 207, New York
A. Thank you. David Watkin was wonderfully talented. I showed him Rembrandt paintings as an example for the look I wanted. Then I flew to see those Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I wanted to see up close how black the blacks were in order to decide what film stock to use.
Q. I really enjoyed your direction and acting in “The Prince of Tides.” What are a couple of the specific challenges when a person both directs and acts in the same film, and in this case is also the producer? How do you retain objectivity in carrying out all these different roles for one film? JONATHAN, Tamarac, Fla.
A. It’s actually easier to direct and act — takes less time, fewer people to debate with. Producing allows you to weigh decisions based on the financial versus the artistic, which can lead to interesting creative choices. As for being objective, I am very objective about myself. It is always “her” up there and never me.
Q. I remember you screened “Yentl” for a class of University of Southern California cinema students back in the ’80s. As I watched from the audience, I thought “Yentl” might help open the doors for women in film. What are your impressions about the industry today? Do we find fewer women assuming those major roles — director, producer, writer and star — because the jobs are so specialized, or are there other factors? CAROL, Atlanta
A. After all these years I don’t think women have come far enough in the industry. When it comes to assuming more than one major role on a motion picture, it’s something men are admired for. However, it seems that women are still perceived as a threat.
Q. The world is coming to an end and the artistic treasures of the world are being sent out into the universe in a space capsule in hopes some civilization in the future will retrieve and preserve them. There’s only room in the capsule for one of your movies. Which one do you want to save? RSB56, Evanston, Ill.
A. Probably “Funny Girl.”
Q. Thanks for being an inspiration to so many. Obviously you love films. What specific films have inspired you the most over the years as a person and filmmaker, perhaps from your early childhood to today? Include movies you never tire of watching or have in your DVD collection. Heartfelt thanks and please make more movies as a director or actress! BRUCE ROGER, suburban Philadelphia
A. “The Hairdresser’s Husband”; “Sunshine” with Ralph Fiennes; “Mrs. Brown”; and “On the Waterfront.”
Q. How do you feel about Duck Sauce naming that disco hit after you? Appalled? Flattered? Indifferent? MARY, New York
Q. Wondering, in your long, great career, what’s your biggest regret? Something you did and fell flat, something you didn’t get to do. BAPPLE30, New York
A. I always loved “Up the Sandbox.” It was a complete flop, but I still love it. What do I regret not doing? “Cabaret,” “Klute” and “Julia.” I was offered those roles before such wonderful directors were attached. If I had known that the directors were going to be Bob Fosse, Alan J. Pakula and Fred Zinnemann, I would have said yes immediately. But I’m glad my girlfriends Liza Minnelli and Jane Fonda delivered such strong performances.
Q. Barbra, you recently returned home for your concerts in Brooklyn. As far as I’m concerned there is one more homecoming you should make: a return to the Broadway stage. Have you given thought to bringing your career full circle with a return to the theater? DOUGLAS CURTIS, St. Paul
A. If I only could do four shows a week!
Q. I am a native New Yorker and a lifetime fan of your music! What is your fondest memory of Erasmus Hall High? My dad is a fellow alum. LISA, Vancouver
A. The architecture and the Choral Club.
Q. Are you still planning to play Momma Rose in “Gypsy”? Please say yes! JIM C., Seattle
Q. Hubbell Gardner or Nicky Arnstein? Why? L. BEZOZO, New York
A. It’s like choosing between your two kids … . I can’t!
Q. During 1965 I sat at a desk in my earth-science class at Erasmus, which had the following carved into the desk: barbra ’59. I always wondered from that time on if it was really you who wrote that? LINDA KLASSEL, Baltimore
A. I would never hurt a piece of furniture!