Streisand talks Yentl, new CD and politics

new york  |  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 an interview. “When you start to handle millions of dollars and production, that probably scared them.”


Barbra Streisand directed, co-wrote, produced and starred as an Orthodox woman who disguises herself as a boy to go to yeshiva in the hit 1983 film “Yentl,” just released on DVD. photo/ap/courtesy of mgm

The movie’s success should have allayed those concerns — “Yentl” garnered six Oscar nominations (it won for best score) and another six Golden Globe nominations. It won the Globes for best comedy or musical and best director for Streisand herself.


Now, 25 years later, on the eve of the DVD release, the 66-year-old Streisand reminisces about what it took to get the movie made. The two-disc set comes with special features, including rehearsal scenes and Streisand’s commentary.

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

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. They were the most supportive, helpful, wonderful group of people. I’m very grateful for that. It wasn’t until I came back to America [that] 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 the 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 a possible sequel to “Meet the Fockers.”