Cast: Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand
Director: Anne Fletcher
Genre: Comedy, Action, Romance
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis: Seth Rogen - neurotic inventor, Andy Brewster - in a moment of weakness invites his overbearing mother - Barbra Streisand - on a cross country business road trip of a lifetime. Over a hilarious 8 days and 3,000 miles, they ultimately learn they might have more in common than they ever thought. The crazier it is, the closer they get.
Release Date: January 24th, 2012
'You want to drive cross country with me?"
This holiday season, Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is about to embark on the mother of all road trips . . . when he is guilted into bringing his mom, Joyce (Barbra Streisand), along for the ride on a cross-country adventure that careens through comical curves on the way to a surprising connection.
Across 3,000 miles and 8 days of shifting American landscape, Andy will be flummoxed, freaked out, analysed, annoyed and lured into one anxiety-cranking situation after another by the woman who knows him -- or rather, nudges him -- better than anyone. But the farther they go, the closer he gets to realizing he has more in common with mom than he ever imagined. And now, as they approach Andy's dreamed-of destination, it turns out that a little unsolicited mother's advice might be just what a down-and-out guy most needs to turn his life around.
The hilarious twists, sudden turns and emotionally bumpy terrain of an epic mother-son journey are brought to life in The Guilt Trip by the one of the most unlikely pairings in recent movie history: the affably charming star of hit teen buddy comedies, Seth Rogen (50/50, Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express), united with the legendary actress, artist, filmmaker and Academy Award® winner Barbra Streisand.
As Andy Brewster, Seth Rogen plays a struggling young inventor searching for a lucky break. As his mother Joyce, Barbara Streisand is a pesky parent and vibrant widow ready to unravel her lonely lifestyle. But when they come together in the front seat of a sub-compact, with years of family habits and secrets between them, it shakes up both their lives. Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, 27 Dresses) turns one of life's most awkward situations – unthinkably close quarters with a parent -- into a series of funny, relatable, and poignant moments that anyone who ever tangled with family bonds will recognise.
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions present a Michaels/Goldwyn production of an Anne Fletcher film, The Guilt Trip. The film is written by Dan Fogelman (Crazy Stupid Love) and produced by Lorne Michaels & John Goldwyn and Evan Goldberg. The executive producers are Seth Rogen, Barbra Streisand, Mary McLaglen, Dan Fogelman, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Evan Goldberg and Paul Schwake. The behind-the-camera crew includes cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (The Proposal), production designer Nelson Coates (Flight), costume designer Danny Glicker (Up in the Air), editors Dana E. Glauberman (Young Adult) and Priscilla Nedd-Friednly (The Proposal) and music by Christophe Beck (Crazy, Stupid Love, The Hangover).
Hitting The Road . . . With Mom
There may be no two people on earth more capable of pushing each other's buttons than a grown-up son and his mother – but in The Guilt Trip a mother and son end up pushing all the right buttons to come closer in the midst of a wild and crazy trip that threatens to drive them both crazy.
The film's comically moving journey began with a real-life road trip, when screenwriter Dan Fogelman took his mom on an marathon two-week escapade across the U.S., one that was as full of revelations and surprises as it was rife with typical family love and friction. It was an experiment that jibed with a movie idea that had been cooking in Dan Fogelman's mind for a long time.
'I've always been intrigued by mother-son relationships," says Dan Fogelman. 'And I wanted to write something about that moment in your life -- which sometimes doesn't come until later in life -- where you really see your parents for the first time as actual human beings; when you suddenly say -Wow, this is not just my mom, but a person with a whole life and relationships and past loves that existed long before I ever existed' and that transforms how you react to each other."
He continues: 'So I called up my mom and said -Hey, I'm going to pick you up; would you like to go on a cross-country trip with me?' I really had no idea what might happen if a mother and son were actually locked in a car for several days together. But it was an incredible trip and pretty much everything that happens in the movie came from those two weeks with my mom."
Dan Fogelman was prepared for anything on his experimental escape with his mother, but he had an even better time than he imagined. 'Some of my friends said to me, -what are you doing, how can you possibly drive cross country with your mother?' And of course, we had our moments, but we also have a very fun, cool relationship," he notes. 'As soon as we took off, I started writing down everything that happened to us verbatim – from getting stuck in an Arkansas snowstorm to mom attempting to eat a 72-ounce piece of meat at a Texas steak house."
From these personal experiences were born the characters of Andy and Joyce Brewster, a son and mother who have each reached a kind of fork in their road when they set out on their trip together. Andy might have too much going on in his life and Joyce not enough, but they are each in need of broader horizons . . . they just can't imagine finding that in their often exasperating relationship, until they do.
'Andy's at a crossroads in his career, faced with a do-or-die proposition of trying to sell this device he's invented and Joyce has been leading a kind of solitary life," notes Dan Fogelman. 'When Andy hears a story about a guy his mom once loved before she was married, he decides to track him down, and that's what leads him to bring his mother across country with him, hoping to reunite her with this love of her life. But she thinks her son just wants to spend time with her, which of course warms a mother's heart."
This duo might have mixed-up agendas, but ultimately Andy and Joyce want the same thing: to open up their worlds, which in turn, allows them to see each other in ways they never have before. It was this mix of the acutely funny with moving questions about what family bonds mean that drew director Anne Fletcher – who was a sought-after choreographer when she cut her teeth directing the hit dance drama Step Up, then went on to conquer the modern romantic comedy with 27 Dresses and The Proposal. With The Guilt Trip, she saw a chance to combine everything she loves in movies: comedy, fluidity and heart.
'I completely, personally identified with this story 100 percent," Dan Fletcher recalls. 'I felt like it was a picture of my relationship with my mom and also my brother's relationship with my mom. I immediately thought, -I have to tell this story as a love letter to all moms.' We snipe at them, we're short with them and yet they're still always there for us because they love us more than anything -- and they know no matter how rude we can get sometimes, that we love them."
At the time, the idea of Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand taking the lead roles was just that: a madcap fantasy that seemed highly unlikely to come to fruition. But Fletcher could see it no other way and committed herself to making it happen.
'From the first time I read the script, it was Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand for me," she explains. 'I just knew they would connect in the right way to bring this story to life. It took a lot of time and meetings to work it all out, but it was everything to me because that was literally how I saw the movie. There were no alternatives."
Anne Fletcher set out with a team of veteran comedy producers – 'Saturday Night Live" creator/producer/maestro Lorne Michaels and his partner John Goldwyn, along with Seth Rogen's long-time partner Evan Goldberg -- to see if what sounded just about impossible could actually be achieved.
Lorne Michaels was taken right away with Dan Fogelman's screenplay. 'I love that there is an instant familiarity with these two characters. I love how the story reflects how mothers irritate sons and sons irritate mothers but at the same time, that you really feel their connection to each other," he says. 'John Goldwyn was with me on it from the beginning and brought a really great perspective to getting the script right."
John Goldwyn adds: 'The thing that impressed me most about the script was how truly authentic it was – you could really sense that Dan Fogelman was writing from real life and his own relationship with his mother. There was also something very fresh about it, because the mother-son relationship has never really been explored in quite this way. Still, we understood from the start that we would to find just the right balance between comedy and emotion in the story, and then we needed the perfect casting and the dead-on right director, which ultimately is what happened."
Indeed, John Goldwyn credits Anne Fletcher's insistent loyalty to the film with helping the team to shepherd the film to fruition. 'She always spoke so eloquently about this movie from her heart," he explains. 'Obviously, she had just done two big, crowd-pleasing hit movies with Step Up and The Proposal but this would be a very different kind of challenge. I was sure when I met her that she had what it would take to tackle this story, because in her gut, she was already devoted to staying with her vision of this story no matter what. And I think ultimately, Barbra Streisand came on board in part because of Anne Fletcher, and because she was excited to work with one of a few truly commercial women directors. Barbra Streisand is a great supporter of women and I think she enjoyed that about Anne Fletcher, and also I think she enjoyed that Anne is someone who calls it like she sees it. She doesn't swaddle her words in velvet – she's very direct and I think Barbra Streisand liked in a woman director."
Like the rest of the team, Lorne Michaels couldn't help but personally relate to the story. 'It makes you think reflexively back to those times coming home to visit when you just move into your old room because it feels both kind of wasteful and weird to stay at a hotel . . . and the bed is smaller than you remember . . . and it's hard not to become 14 again in that moment. But what is interesting about Andy is that he has that experience – and then he comes to a realisation that the roles have changed. He realises that his mother's life was always centred around him but now he wants to take care of her because she gave him the chance to only think about himself for all those years growing up."
He continues: 'Dan Fogelman had written this screenplay after taking a trip with his own mother, whose dream it was to have Barbra Streisand play her if there was ever a movie. So it was a lot of fun to get the script to a point where you had Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen in a room reading together and you could see that there was a real chemistry and magic there. I never do a comedy without a full read through because that's what we do at SNL. I have to hear it play to know it works – and when the two of them were brought together, it really worked."
Goldberg was also enamored by Dan Fogelman's story and having worked with Seth Rogen for so long could instantly envision him as Andy. 'The script was extremely surprising to me," he recalls. 'I am pretty pessimistic when I start reading scripts, but I can pretty confidently say this was the best script I've been handed in my life. The first time I read it, I even cried a little bit at one point. And then it kind of blew my mind."
He adds: 'As things got underway, it just seemed so natural to put Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand together. The best part is that in these roles, Seth Rogen is the straight man and Barbra the comedic star. And while some people may come to see The Guilt Trip for Seth Rogen and others for Barbra Streisand, I think both will be amused to find they are just as intrigued by the person they didn't come to see. It's kind of the ultimate mother-son comedy -- I can't wait to take my mom to see this movie."
Rogen Takes The Wheel
To bring to life the long, strange, ultimately life-transforming trip that Andy Brewster undertakes, the filmmakers chose one of today's most distinctive comic stars: Seth Rogen. Seth Rogen has shown an unusual ability to be hilariously awkward, likeable and true-to-life all at the same time, coming to the fore in a series of films, several of which he wrote, for director Judd Apatow. He was most recently seen in Jonathan Levine's acclaimed comedy-drama 50/50 alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
But The Guilt Trip would give Seth Rogen a role unlike any other: a down-on-his-luck scientist-turned-inventor and a son who is aggravated, annoyed, overwhelmed and then completely changed around by taking his mother on his last-ditch trip to try to make a success of himself.
Producer Lorne Michaels, who has worked with Seth Rogen as a host of 'Saturday Night Live" several times, notes that it was a bit of a leap into the unknown for the star. 'Seth Rogen has been mostly writing and producing his own works, so to come into this as just as an actor took a lot of trust – and comedians are not really built to trust," he observes. 'But he came in and was brilliant. He knows how to confidently riff on a character. And he and Barbra Streisand really made room for each other; and that's what people do when they are stuck in a tiny car. If you don't make room for each other it's going to get crowded. They both really did their part to make each other comfortable."
Lorne Michaels' partner John Goldwyn was also impressed with Seth Rogen from that first read-through with Barbara Streisand. 'You could hear a pin drop," he remembers, 'and we all knew something special was happening, even though it would take more time before Barbra Streisand committed. Seth Rogen just has great comic instincts, but he also was very brave in taking on this role because it's the first time he's made a major departure from the kind of characters he's best known for," John Goldwyn observes. 'I think it is a break away performance from him. It's very fun but it's also wonderfully restrained and it presents him in a new way."
Anne Fletcher knew Seth Rogen from choreographing him in his breakout role in The 40 Year-Old Virgin – and she always felt he was a dead-on match for Andy Brewster. 'I've loved Seth Rogen in all his movies," the director says. 'There isn't anybody who can replicate him. He's brilliantly funny but he also has the right sensibility for this role because he's a good actor as well as comedian. And I think it's exciting that he hasn't done anything quite like this before."
Seth Rogen might never have done a film like this before, but he felt an instant affinity for it – and especially for its playful honesty about family relations. 'One of the things that made me want to do the movie is that I think it really taps into a lot of things all people experience with their mothers," he says. 'I think we all find ourselves getting annoyed when we really shouldn't be, and then we feel bad about it, and then even that becomes annoying! But at the same time we really love our mothers and care about them. That's the relationship between Andy and Joyce and it's kind of like the relationship I have at times with my mother. It was a lot of fun to read the script, because I'd never seen a movie about how annoyed you can get with your mother while still wanting very much for her to be happy."
The more he thought about it, the more Seth Rogen saw the film as the one kind of buddy movie no one has yet dared to make – about the very specific, and definitely complicated, buddy relationship of a grown-up guy with his overprotective, misunderstanding but kind of amazing mom. 'I like making movies about relationships, and as I read this, I realised I'd never really seen a buddy movie about a guy and his mother, and that's what is so funny about it," Seth Rogen observes. 'It was like Super Bad, or Pineapple Express, but instead of two dudes, it was Andy and Joyce, and that was such an interesting idea."
For Seth Rogen, Andy's driving force throughout their trip is not just the mountain of guilt that's accumulated over the years, but a real desire to see his mother more fulfilled in her own life. 'I think he sees Joyce as being a bit too settled, and not realising that there's a lot of fun stuff that she could still be doing – and he also sees that this causes her to focus all her energy on him!" he laughs. 'But the tricky thing is, that no matter how annoyed he gets, all he really desires is to see her being happy."
That's what leads Andy to try to finagle a meeting between his mother and what he assumes is her long lost love – though the outcome of that agenda goes in a direction he could never have foreseen.
As for joining forces with a global icon and cinematic powerhouse on the level of Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen says he went into their first meeting together essentially cold. 'I really had no notion what Barbra Stresiand would be like," he explains. 'And when I met her, to be honest, she really reminded me a lot of my friends' mothers and my mother to a degree."
Seth Rogen continues: 'We read the script together and it came off really funny. I couldn't deny that it seemed like the two of us together in a movie was going to be a very comical thing."
Streisand Brings The Guilt – And The Emotion
To play Joyce Brewster in all her colourful, contrasting shadings – overbearing and loving, lonely and adventurous, meddlesome and savvy -- Anne Fletcher always believed she needed to somehow bring Barbra Streisand to the role. At first, that desire seemed almost irrational. After all, Barbra Streisand, one of the most universally recognised and accomplished personalities in all of show business, had not appeared as the lead in a film since the 1990s . . . and she had a reputation for hand-picking her projects carefully and sparingly. But the upside was too huge for Anne Fletcher to ignore. Not only did Barbra Streisand come to mind every time Anne Fletcher thought of Joyce, but she clearly had the rare power to find and bring out the heart and depth in the most quirk-filled of characters.
An Oscar® winner as Best Actress for Funny Girl and an Oscar nominee for The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand is of course not only an icon on screen but also an acclaimed singer, film director, writer, producer, designer and author. As a testament to the remarkable breadth of her work, she is the only artist ever to have been awarded the entire gamut of Oscar®, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Directors Guild of America, Golden Globe, National Medal of Arts and Peabody Awards, as well as France's Legion d'Honneur and the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. Most recently, she's been seen in the hugely popular Meet The Fockers series, playing wife to Dustin Hoffman and mother to Ben Stiller. But this would be something rather different – a leading role that was not only full of comic repartee but also would put her character through a transformation at a time in life when she least expects to have her perspective – on her son or herself -- changed.
'Barbra Streisand was genuinely the only person I could truly see making this story something special, the one person I felt could reach both people's hearts and their funny bones as Joyce," says Anne Fletcher. 'I knew she was brilliant at comedy and I also knew her abilities as an actor could be mind-blowing."
But first Anne Fletcher needed to get Barbra Streisand on board, and that process evolved slowly over numerous meetings and re-workings of the script with Dan Fogelman. 'It was a long, but fun, journey," says John Goldwyn. 'Everyone wanted to see it happen, especially since Barbra Streisand hasn't played a role like this in two decades, but we all understood that she had to come to her own decision. Even Seth Rogen said: -Give her the room. This is a big commitment and she doesn't need this role, so she has to want to play it.'"
Anne Fletcher recalls that everything changed at her very first encounter with Barbra Streisand. 'We vibed with each other instantaneously," she remembers. 'The thing I remember most strongly is that Barbra Streisand right away demanded honesty and truthfulness. I loved that because I'm not someone who can tiptoe around the truth. We talked for about five hours, and her big question was: -Why would you want me for this movie?' And I told her it was her ability to reach people. I think Barbra Streisand has an incredible talent for being able to be funny and at the same time completely sincere. She captures things which are very true to human experience, which is truly rare among female actors. And that's what we needed for this role: a genuine mother."
Dan Fogelman says Barbra Streisand was on his mind even as he was writing. 'The character is based on my mother and Barbra Streisand is my mother's hero," he muses. 'She was a Jewish girl from Brooklyn who grew up idolising Barbra Streisand, so from the beginning that was the dream."
But when that dream became reality, even Dan Fogelman was taken aback. 'There is something wildly exciting about seeing Barbra Streisand play somebody this real and this opposite from anything she has been seen in recently. She and Seth Rogen found an incredible chemistry as mother and son."
Barbra Streisand recalls that it was her son who finally convinced her to take the part. 'My son fell in love with the script first," she says. 'I said no to it for a couple of years because I had just played a mother twice in The Fockers and I thought -I don't want to play a third mother.' But this mother was so real and personal, and since my son loved it, I thought okay. Also, Anne Fletcher was so adamant about me playing it and so sweet saying -I won't make this movie without you.' It was like, oh my God, now I've got to worry about her finding another job! I felt motherly towards her, also."
Once she jumped in, Barbra Streisand took hold of Joyce and began to see all her layers, and her vivid unfolding as a woman who hasn't left the comforts of home in years. 'You have a woman who lives in a sheltered kind of world, but it's a safe world. It's safe and it's warm," she observes. 'It's okay. But it doesn't have passion. So she busies herself with frogs, ceramic frogs, and her book club and things like that. But what Andy does for her is give her an adventure – he gives her a way to expand her world, which really pays off. He becomes a better person so that they both can become better people. It's a transformative relationship without them even realising it."
Anne Fletcher would later send to Barbra Streisand a collection of photos and videos of Dan Fogelman's actual mother to help her dive into the character even more deeply. 'She really almost channelled her," says Anne Fletcher, 'and at the same time she was channelling everybody's mom. I don't think you can walk away from Barbra Streisand's performance as Joyce without identifying with something in her."
Lorne Michaels felt similarly. 'Barbra Streisand is someone who is always very real, even in a comedy, and she has a way of being strong without having to show it all the time," he says. 'She's so comfortable in her own skin that she could take on this role with ease. She plays Joyce with a strength and vitality that are ageless."
Adds John Goldwyn: 'She gives a performance like you haven't seen from her in a long time: Intelligent, nuanced, really funny . . . and then, she sneaks up on you and breaks your heart."
Once on the set, Barbra Streisand's rapport with Seth Rogen only strengthened. 'You just never know what's gonna come out of either one of our mouths, you know?" says Barbra Streisand. 'It was fun, because we were both very much in the moment. We work alike in a sense and from the first day, we knew that this was going to be wild. '
She goes on: 'I think anyone who is very in the moment is more than just a comedian, is more than just funny. So Seth Rogen has that and he has that realism that comes from within."
Anne Fletcher especially loved the way Barbra Streisand played off Seth Rogen's improvisational style. 'What's great about the two of them is that Barbra Streisand cannot be thrown off her game. She is ready to play 100 percent. She knows her character and no matter what gets thrown at her, she'll go with it. There were only a couple of times that she broke up during an improv moment -- because Seth Rogen took it so far, she couldn't help but burst out laughing – but she really thrived off of it."
Seth Rogen, too, was surprised by Barbra Streisand's improv savvy. 'She really can go with the flow in an amazing way and she came up with some very funny stuff," he says.
Adds Evan Goldberg: 'On the one hand, Barbra Streisand is an absolute perfectionist when it comes to character, taking everything through a process. But then when the camera starts rolling, she is simply dead on. She's got all the right reactions and knows how to land a joke or move you."
or Lorne Michaels, the rapport between Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand was enhanced by Anne Fletcher's willingness to let it evolve organically in the moment. 'Anne Fletcher knows a lot about performance and that's where her energy goes," he observes. 'Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen are completely different in their approaches but Anne Fletcher managed to get out of both their ways and yet always be there for them. She knows what she wants and is unwavering but also patient. She created an environment where they were safe to explore the comedy and the level of emotion that is in this picture."
Barbra Streisand continually surprised Anne Fletcher, even in her demeanor when the cameras weren't rolling. 'She's such an icon that you start to think she might be a certain way, but she was beyond down to earth, and so much fun to be with," the director comments. 'She connected with everyone in the cast and crew and was always genuine."
One of Barbra Streisand's most challenging scenes comes when Joyce suddenly steps into the spotlight with an attempt to chow down a 50-ounce steak at a Texas steakhouse – plus side dishes --in an hour's time in order to get a free meal. Anne Fletcher says Barbra Streisand attacked his gastronomic adventure with gusto.
'Barbra Streisand is a true foodie. She loves food with a passion," the director notes, 'and she had so much fun with this scene. We used a lot of different things to stand in for the steak so she wouldn't get too sick of it. We had a skirt steak, then we had grilled watermelon and ahi tuna. But throughout, she just went for it. She was so committed and I think that moment brings out the classic, physical side of her comedy in a beautiful way."
Laughs Barbra Streisand, 'I usually go more towards pasta, vegetables, fish, things like that. As a matter a fact, I had thought -I can't do this scene' at first. I thought, -How am I going to eat this much steak?' But they were very clever in disguising other things, and in the end, it was worth it. With me, there's the filmmaker part and the actress part. The actress didn't really want to eat the steak, but the part of me that's a filmmaker knows that this was the best scene for this movie, so those two sides argue . . . and then the filmmaker wins."
Another favourite scene for Barbra Streisand comes when Joyce learns of her son's ulterior motives and, distraught, heads off for some drinks in the hotel bar. 'I've never played drunk before," notes Barbra Streisand, 'and I've never really been drunk, so it was a lot of fun or me to play that scene."
But most of all, Barbra Streisand enjoyed playing Joyce because she's so reflective of the funny, poignant ways we all struggle to be seen for who we are with our family members. 'Sometimes you resent the people you love and need the most," Barbra Streisand concludes. 'Love is so fascinating in all its forms. And I think everyone who has ever been a mother will relate to this."
As the journey of The Guilt Trip is set into motion, Andy and Joyce Brewster find themselves meeting friends, strangers and blasts from the past who will change the course of their trip. This roster of colourful characters gave the filmmakers a chance to bring together a talented supporting cast who add their own touches to Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand's journey. Sums up Anne Fletcher: 'This is really Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand's film, but for the smaller parts, we were very lucky to get really amazing actors who each came in and added something special to their moments."
These include Kathy Najimy, who came to the fore in hit comedy Sister Act and has since been seen in a wide variety and film and television roles. In The Guilt Trip, she plays Gail, leader of Joyce's 'weight loss club" and of a trio of chatty friends that includes English actress Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows) and Rose Abdoo, who was also seen in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. 'They were very funny and wonderful improvisers," says Barbra Streisand of Joyce's New Jersey crew.
Also taking key roles are Yvonne Strahovski and Colin Hanks, both recently seen in 'Dexter," who play Andy's long lost high school love, Jessica, and the all-too-ideal husband, she now has at her side Nick. When the Brewster's car breaks down in Nashville, Tennessee, the couple turns out to be Andy and Joyce's only chance at rescue – and give both an eye-opening insight into the myths surrounding Andy's unresolved romantic history.
'They are only in a couple of scenes, but the casting works so nicely," says Dan Fogelman. 'As Nick, Colin would be a completely non-threatening person but under the circumstances he's wildly threatening and overwhelming to Andy in a strange way. And as Jessica, Yvonne Strahovski is so lovely and sweet that you get why he's been so hung up on her."
Colin Hanks was thrilled to have the chance to work opposite Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, even in such an awkward scenario. 'We decided to play Jessica and Nick as so kind of perfect that they're annoying," he explains. 'But you also see that they're genuinely happy together. I think it creates a really touching moment between Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, because Joyce finally sees the reality of her son's situation with Jessica, and she finds a great deal of empathy for him."
Adds Yvonne Strahovski: 'I think Joyce hasn't quite let go of the memory of Jessica and Andy being together. So the scene becomes a kind of pivotal moment between them. For me, it was so much fun to watch Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand playing mother-and-son. Their dynamic was so real."
Seth Rogen agrees that their scene is a turning point for Andy and Joyce. 'Joyce has been kind of nagging him about this relationships and I think she sees that it all went down differently than she thought and that her son is a lot more wounded by it than she realised," he observes. 'I think it's a moment when she appreciates that her pushing him on the subject has real emotional repercussions for him. I think a lot of people have that kind of moment with their mother."
Another transformative role is that of Ben Graw, the dashing cowboy who roots for Joyce in her steak-eating quest, then charms her almost to the point of breaking her ironclad resistance. Taking the part is Brett Cullen, most recently seen in in The Dark Knight Rises, who won Anne Fletcher over after a concerted search for just the right kind of rugged allure. 'It was a tricky role to cast, because he had to be someone not only charming and manly but able to sweep even Joyce off her feet. As soon as I saw Brett Cullen, I thought -He's the guy.' Then I had him meet Barbra and when I saw the two of them together, I knew we were done. They were a perfect pair together."
Adds Seth Rogen: 'The ironic thing is that the role could have been played by James Brolin [Barbra Streisand's real-life husband], but that would have been too weird, so Brett Cullen came in and he was really, really good and amazingly authentic. I think he actually comes from an oil tycoon family. He was really natural and he didn't come across at all as a kind of Yosemite Sam character, which was my fear."
Rounding out the main cast are Adam Scott of 'Parks and Recreation" and Ari Graynor (The Sitter, 'Fringe") as the son and daughter of Joyce's long lost love Andrew Margolis, who complete Andy and Joyce's journey with an unexpected twist.
With the cast set, shooting began in Los Angeles – and despite The Guilt Trip's 3,000-mile journey, the main production never left Southern California. Instead, Anne Fletcher and a team that included veteran cinematographer Oliver Stapleton and production designer Nelson Coates largely recreated the wide-open American road in one city.
'It was challenging, but we had such a great team," says Anne Fletcher. 'Nelson Coates found amazing locations in Los Angeles that could look and feel just like other parts of the country. Then our great director of photography, Oliver Stapleton, and the first A.D., Joe Camp, headed out a real road trip to get additional footage. I like real locations but movie magic can also be very, very fun."
Since a good portion of the film takes place in the car, a lot of work was done on a process stage, where the focus was entirely on Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, with the knowledge that backdrops of the USA, from Alabama to the Grand Canyon, would be added later.
This worked so well in part because Fletcher was interested less in highlighting what Joyce and Andy see out the window and more in what they see in each other after all the mashugana situations they find themselves in. All the elements of the film, from the design to the costumes to the music, centred on that.
Lorne Michaels notes that the film's road trip – while as funny and full of surprise curves as road trips traditionally are– also becomes a kind of rite of passage. 'The great thing about road trip movies is that as an audience, you really feel you are getting somewhere. You're in the car with these characters, and we all know what that is like: it's about the music, it's about conversation, it's about looking out the window. But it also always about moving forward and so that metaphor hangs over the story of Andy and Joyce in a powerful way."
Executive producer Mary McLaglen, who also worked with Anne Fletcher on The Proposal, says: 'Anne Fletcher's filmmaking is all about performance and getting inside the character's minds. She's great with actors and she creates a very fun set for everyone."
John Goldwyn adds: 'Anne Fletcher created an environment that was natural and relaxed and was great for Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen to really build their relationship. We had such a great team, and I also think Lorne Michael's understanding of talent and ability to quickly zero in on solutions was very valuable throughout this movie."
The set of The Guilt Trip was not only fun, it also inspired more than a few calls home as cast and crew couldn't help but keep in mind their own mothers. Producer Evan Godberg even headed out on his own 5-day trip with his mom at the end of production.
Barbra Streisand hopes that audiences will experience a similar impact. Concludes Barbra Streisand: 'I think it would be good if sons and mothers go to see The Guilt Trip together, you know? And maybe they will feel closer at the end."