Barbra Streisand revealed in a new interview that she was disappointed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s 2018 remake of “A Star is Born,” without acknowledging that her 1976 version of the classic show-business story was widely panned as a “a massively misguided vanity project” and one of the worst movies she ever made.
While appearing on the Australian talk show “The Project” to promote her new album, “Release Me 2,” the 79-year-old singing legend criticized the film for not being as original as she thought it could be, especially when it came to casting non-White leads, the New York Post reported.
“At first, when I heard it was going to be done again, it was supposed to be Will Smith and Beyoncé. I thought, that’s interesting,” Streisand said. “Really make it different again, different kind of music, integrated actors, I thought that was a great idea. So, I was surprised when I saw how alike it was to the version that I did in 1976.”
Streisand previously praised the new “A Star is Born” and gave it her “blessing” when she visited the set in 2018. Cooper directed the film, which received eight Academy Award nominations, including for best picture and for Cooper and Lady Gaga for their performances. The film’s love ballad “Shallow” won the Oscar for best original song, and became one of the most memorable songs of 2018-2019.
Lady Gaga, in particular, was singled out for showing yet another side of her prodigious talent. By shedding makeup and her usual elaborate stage personas, the pop goddess was praised for delivering an emotionally authentic performance that proves she’s a compelling, Oscar-worthy actress.
Streisand told Vanity Fair in 2018. “I think (Cooper) did a wonderful job with (directing Gaga).” However, she also expressed disappointment at that time that the movie didn’t have a multiracial cast. She had also hoped that its love story would focus on two rap stars.
Instead, Cooper and Gaga played rock musicians. All five versions of the “A Star is Born” story, including the 1954 remake with Judy Garland, tell the doomed love story between a male superstar on a downward trajectory and a talented female newcomer on the way up.
Streisand, likewise, played an up-and-coming rock singer, while raspy-voiced Kris Kristofferson portrayed the more established veteran, who discovers and nurtures the young woman’s talent and falls in love with her.
Streisand noted in her new interview that the 2018 “A Star is Born” was “successful,” even if it wasn’t more “original.”
“I thought it was the wrong idea, but, look, it was a big success, so I can’t argue with success, but I don’t care so much about success as I do originality,” Streisand continued.
Streisand’s “A Star is Born” also made lots of money and won her an Oscar for the song “Evergreen,” but it’s not a good movie. Streisand was panned for offering what New York Times critic Vincent Canby called a “bogus” and “condescending” performance. Roger Ebert said there’s no way audiences can buy Streisand, already an Oscar winner for “Funny Girl,” as the “unknown who hitches her destiny to a star.” Today, her version of “A Star is Born” is considered one of her worst films.
Then again, the film has its strange charms. It offers up a study of Streisand’s ego at that point in her career, as well as of the excesses of 1970s culture and fashion, including Streisand’s Harpo Marx perm.
Mid-1970s Streisand also seemed eager to show a new side of her prodigious talent. With the help of her then-boyfriend, hairdresser-turned-future powerhouse producer Jon Peters, Streisand used “A Star is Born” to transform herself from the box-office darling of old-fashioned musicals and period dramas, like “The Way We Were,” into a tanned, sexy rocker queen, according to film historian Karina Longworth.
Streisand and Peters turned the production into “a misguided vanity project,” which was a “landmark” of 1970s cinema — a “landmark of Hollywood hubris,” said Longworth in a 2014 episode of her “You Must Remember This” podcast.
Peters wanted to make a hip new movie for his “lady” by dusting off the old “A Star is Born” story and updating it for a 1970s audience, Longworth said. A script already was in circulation by the husband-and-wife screenwriting duo John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion, who set their story in the rock world with the idea that James Taylor and Carly Simon could star.
As Longworth and the film’s director, Frank Pierson, later recounted, the production was immediately troubled. Dunne and Didion eventually left the project because of the various demands of Streisand and Peters, who were co-producing. Streisand also supervised the editing and had the final cut, which snipped out other characters’ scenes to favor more close-ups of Streisand, Longworth said.
There also were rumors that Streisand and Peters regularly engaged in “knock-down-drag-out fights” during production, but they were united in their view that the film was “a perfect vehicle to elevate their own love story to the level of myth,” Longworth said.
“‘A Star is Born’ let the two fulfill their wildest dreams, while cementing both of their reputations as monsters,” Longworth said.
These days, Streisand’s “monstrous” “A Star is Born” persona is in the past. She’s mostly known as a national treasure, having picked up numerous awards from women’s organizations and U.S. presidents and been named to various industry lists that honor the greatest movie stars of all time, the greatest entertainers of pop culture, and the world’s top recording artists.