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Barbra Streisand Reflects on Acting Career, Struggles as a Director During Tribeca Chat With Robert Rodriguez

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Barbra Streisand attends Tribeca Talks: Barbra Streisand with Robert Rodriguez during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 29, 2017 in New York City.  

On Saturday (April 29) evening in Manhattan, Barbra Streisand sat down with director Robert Rodriguez during Tribeca Film Festival 2017. Anyone confused as to why the stage/screen/singing icon was paired with the gore-loving director had that mystery cleared up less than one minute into the Tribeca Talks: Storytellers event by the Machete director himself.

"A lot of you are probably wondering why I'm here," Rodriguez said to the crowd. Apparently, his Streisand fandom dates back to his boyhood, growing up in a 10-child household in San Antonio, Texas. "In our household, there was no bigger star than Barbra Streisand," he explained to a crowd that needed no converting. "My mom loved to talk to her 10 children about two things: God and Barbra Streisand."

Over the course of 70 minutes (which included a Q&A&H* section at the end) Streisand and Rodriguez talked about her legendary filmography, her pioneering work as a female director and why you can't bring up walls in her presence. Here are a few highlights. 

Shutting Down the Stories About Her Fighting With Funny Girl Director William Wyler

"I learned to despise the media [working on that movie]. Every time I had a suggestion [on set] it was put in the paper like we were fighting." Why? "Opinions weren't popular in the '60s with women." In real life, she said she got along quite well with "Willy Wyler," recalling that he would run dailies by her and that they kept in touch until his death.

The Director She DID Have Issues With

"That was tough," she recalled of working with director Frank Pierson on the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born. "I was, in a sense, blackmailed into having that director," she said, explaining that Pierson used his script as leverage to get into the director's chair. 

Career Priorities

"I would say I'm an actress first, only because I started singing because I couldn't get a job as an actress, and I started directing because I couldn't be heard as an actress."

Yentl Backlash

While Yentl received praise in many quarters, Streisand said she tends to forget good reviews and focuses on the negative ones instead. Looking back on it now, she admitted, "[The criticism] must have hurt me more than I thought because I didn't want to direct for years after that."

Her Early Career Idol

"Johnny Mathis. He was so beautiful, those dark eyes. And he seemed like he was in pain a bit. I'm always drawn to pain."

Why She Loves Directing Herself

"There's less people to argue with."

On Female Directors

"I love when I see a woman's name on a movie and I pray it's good."

On Fear & He Who Must Not Be Named

Streisand: "Fear is an engine to create."
Rodriguez: "That's great – you turn fear into an engine, not a wall."
Streisand: "Don't mention a wall to me."

*Question & answer & heckle. The heckling was courtesy of the no bullshit New York crowd, who started shouting "ask a question" at audience members who told their life story to Streisand before getting anywhere near a question.