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‘It Was Like I Was Trying to Fade Away’: Barbra Streisand on Hollywood Before #MeToo and How Things Have Changed

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Good news for Barbra Streisand fans: Netflix announced Sunday that six of the Hollywood icon’s musical specials will be available for streaming — in addition to a re-edited version of her 1976 movie A Star Is Born, ahead of the remake starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, out this fall. Scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor have been put back in, including Streisand performing an instrumental version of “Evergreen.” Certainly interest in her work has proven to be evergreen, as she’s the only artist to boast a No. 1 album in each of the past six decades.

During that time, she’s seen firsthand what it’s like to be woman acting, producing, directing and singing. Even as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought new attention to the ongoing conversation about whether women are getting the credit they deserve in Hollywood, she’s still the only woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Director; that was in 1984 for Yentl.

She spoke to TIME about what’s changed — and hasn’t.

TIME: In the context of all these other specials streaming, how does the Netflix concert special you did most recently — Barbra: The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic! — reflect where you are in your life right now?

STREISAND: It’s kind of looking back and trying also to do new things. There’s lots of new things in me — specials, new songs that I’ve never performed live. I can’t see myself doing any more concerts, but you never know.

Why not?

Because it’s tough. It’s really hard. When you record you stand in the booth with headphones, and I have never gotten use to these things that performers wear [during live shows] today in their ears to give them that sound. That’s the sound of what you hear in the recording studio. I’m not part of the moment on the stage. I’m not fully there with the audience. I’m sure most performers do this brilliantly. I’m not good at it.

The trailer for the new A Star Is Born just came out. What do you think of Lady Gaga?

I think she’ll be really good. I haven’t seen the trailer, but I was on the set one day, and that was fun to see. I’m sure they’ll have a hit. But I think one can see all these versions of A Star is Born. The Judy Garland version was fabulous. When I did my version I wanted to change the characters to singer-songwriters. That’s the reason [for the re-edit] I put back the scene where I am a singer-songwriter. It was never in the movie all these years, and I thought, ‘What the hell? Why would I have cut this out?’ I was really the producer as well, but I made myself the executive producer and put myself in the last credits in the roll-up. It was like I was trying to fade away.

Do you think the different takes on A Star Is Born — from 1954, 1976 and 2018 — say something about the times in which they were made?

It’s a story that’s for the ages. It’s a universal theme —one performer is going up and the other one is coming down, and the tragedy of that — and it’s a wonderful love story, how the man kind of sacrifices for the woman. Usually it’s the woman sacrificing for the man, like [in 1972’s] Up the Sandbox, the first film from my own company, Barwood Films. She goes to see a doctor and he asks about how well her husband is doing. She had to live through her fantasy life. I was examining those times when I made that film. It was a big flop in the theaters. Nobody wanted to see me as a housewife and it had no singing in it.

Another one of your projects that seems like it might be a reflection of its times is Yentl; it was 1968 when you acquired the rights to the Isaac Bashevis Singer short story on which it’s based. How did the spirit of the times factor into that decision?

When I was making Yentl, that was like a parallel story, trying to get this movie made was like a woman in a man’s world. Gender discrimination made it so hard for me to get the movie made, it was like, ‘You want to direct it?’ Directing was a male job. ‘And you also want to produce? You also want to be responsible, fiscally, for the budget?’

Even A Star Is Born, which was before Yentl, the deal was that my budget was $6 million, and I would have to pay any overage. We didn’t get paid anything upfront. I enjoy the responsibility of having to make these interactions between being fiscally responsible and aesthetic choices, artistic choices.

In terms of Hollywood, why do you think #MeToo is happening now and not earlier? In your experience, did women talk about these issues?

I don’t think they did. I think they accepted the way it was, being used to getting hit on. What I like about now is there’s going to have to be a new conversation [about] how women and men talk to each other. I had to do research for Yentl about gender differences and why this was happening — why were women excluded from being educated in certain countries and so forth — so [after the film came out] I endowed a chair at USC in the study of intimacy and sexuality between men and women in a changing society. It’s what we’re talking about now.

When I was doing Yentl and thinking, ‘Why does this happen? Why is it that women are subservient to men?’ I thought this must have gone way back to the caveman. He’s grunting, he has his woman, and they screw — however you want to say that — and months later all of a sudden, out comes this thing, another human. Now, he’s got to be completely in awe of her ability to have this happen. He has to also be frightened by it. Sometimes in religious writings, you can see how a certain kind of chauvinism gets into the language of how a woman is supposed to stay home and cook the dinner and have the children while he goes out and does the hunt. But I think he had to subjugate her in some way in order to feel more powerful because she seemed so powerful to him.

In 1991, you said the “really big problem” in Hollywood is “women against other women.” Is that still the case today?

I do think it is still a problem today. I have a close group of friends who are women, and we are totally supportive of one another. But then there are other relationships that have to do with a power struggle, who’s more important or who gets the last say. I’ve experienced it somewhat, where women are jealous of one another. You have to acknowledge these feelings.

How have you experienced it?

When Yentl came out, the most vitriolic reviews were written by women.

Do you think that dynamic stands to threaten the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements?

Well, they seem to be a wonderful group of women who are really supporting each other. Women having been kept down for so long — I always think it’s like that ladder that goes up to the top, the head of the pin. They think there isn’t that much space for all of them, so they have to knock each other off of the ladder. I think that’s changing now. Women are banding together to say, ‘We’ve had enough of this kind of sexual abuse.’

There’s going to be a moment probably when men are frightened to hire women and are afraid to even give them a hug. I think they’ll have to ask the question, ‘Is it all right if I hug you?’ and if the woman says, ‘Yeah, it’s O.K.,’ then the hug happens.

On another note, how did it feel to go viral for cloning your dog?

I guess I got some flack from that, but I got a wonderful letter from the Pet Fund. They do cancer research on dogs and cats, and they said, ‘What you did is what we do.’ They use that technique to do cancer research for animals, so I felt better about it. You can’t clone a soul. You can’t clone a personality. They look like [my dog] Sammie, but they’re not Sammie.

And how’s your memoir going?

Very slowly. I’ve been doing this for three and a half years. My chapter on A Star Is Born is 50 pages long. When I want to talk in detail about something, it’s detail. I was supposed to write it in two years. Well, I was just getting warmed up.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com