Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is Barbra Streisand too old to play Gypsy Rose Lee's mother?

There has always been something about Barbra Streisand that gets people talking. Perhaps some of you are old enough to remember how she was slammed as being a controlling bitch, especially when in the director's chair. I'm not a whopping feminist but it seems a clear cut case of double standard to me. Men are rarely labeled control freaks. Case in point, if you watch the behind the scenes features for  The Social Network on blu-ray, you can see David Fincher in full out control freak mode and everyone calls the guy a genius.
Okay, now that I've got that off my chest... with Barbra Streisand always striking a controversial chord, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the news that Universal announced today - read my post here about the Gypsy musical adaptation based on Gypsy Rose Lee's memoir and the stage musical -  should have stirred up such a fuss!
According to Nikki Finke, Hollywood big and littles are saying
"Streisand is just too old to take on the iconic role of Rose, the bigger-than-life stage mother of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. But with her landmark 70th birthday looming on April 24th, Streisand knows it is now or never. And with a potential hit comedy – The Guilt Trip co-starring Seth Rogen — scheduled for release by Paramount on November 2nd, her movie career is on an upswing, and she probably feels the time is right for one last, hopefully great, screen musical and the one iconic stage musical role she’s never played. No word yet on who will direct, but it’s not likely to be Streisand — although that would be interesting. She hasn’t directed a musical since Yentl in 1983 or a movie since The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996.
The part is so strong it could be major awards fodder, a thought probably not lost on Streisand, who has won two Academy Awards (Best Actress for Funny Girl in 1968 and as co-writer of 1976′s best song, “Evergreen”, from A Star Is Born) but has only been Oscar-nominated twice for her acting and not since 1973′s The Way We Were.
Playing Rose earned Rosalind Russell a Best Actress Comedy or Musical Golden Globe for the 1962 Warner Bros film version as well as a Globe for Bette Midler in the 1993 TV movie remake. The 1962 movie,which co-starred Karl Malden and Natalie Wood, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on November 1st and is ripe for a remake since it really never had the power of the stage play, which won a 1960 Tony nomination for its star Ethel Merman and has been revived on Broadway four times since winning Best Actress in a Musical Tonys for Angela Lansbury (1975), Tyne Daly (1990) and most recently Patti LuPone (2007).
So by the time Streisand gets around to doing this she may be 71 or even 72, which in real-life terms would mean she would have given birth to her kids in her 50s (the real-life Rose did all that in her 20s). And if an actress like Anne Hathaway is cast as Gypsy, audiences probably would have to accept the fact there are really 40 years between them and just believe. But we are talking Barbra Streisand and perhaps the greatest musical role ever written for a woman. It’s worth a shot. Of all the famous Broadway and film Madame Roses, LuPone in 2007 was the oldest at 58. Bernadette Peters was 55 when she got a Tony nomination for her Rose in 2003, the same age Russell was when she did the only theatrical film in 1962. Merman was 51, Lansbury was 50, Midler was 48 and Daly was just a tyke at 44 when they all played the role, so Barbra has a good decade and then some on them all, which certainly will add intrigue to the project. It may be part of a developing trend among Hollywood stars now. Sally Field, at 64, just completed playing Mary Todd Lincoln, who was in her mid-40s during the events depicted in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln, and she’s a full decade older than her co-star Daniel Day Lewis.
Barbra has played the age game before — on the opposite end of the scale. She caused great controversy being cast as much older matchmaker Dolly Levi in the 1969 film of Hello Dolly at the age of 27 over the legendary stage Dolly Carol Channing,  who was 43 when she started playing the role in 1964 and is still singing those songs at 91. Shirley Booth was 60 in 1958 when she played Dolly Levi in the non-muscial version The Matchmaker, but Streisand pulled off the age gap then and I wouldn’t bet against her doing it now. But the clock is ticking on this one."
The thing that really disturbs me here is Finke's throwing out Anne Hathaway's name as a candidate to play Gypsy. As the stripper? I think not! She seems far too pinched and rigid to play the part Natalie Wood made famous. IMHO! Besides Natalie Wood was 24 to Rosalind Russell's 55, Anne Hathaway is already 30 and would be 31 or so to Streisand's 71 or so. And as we all know, today's 70 is the new 50. Age, schmage, I can't wait to see Barbra on the big screen again. Check out Patti Lupone performing Everythings Coming Up Roses at the 2008 Tony awards. Can you imagine Barbara Streisand doing that iconic number? I get chills thinking about Barbra bringing it for one last time and I want to see it!

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