Peter Bogdanovich on Streisand

Filmmaker reflects on Kennedy Center honoree

Whenever people hear that I worked with Barbra Streisand, they always ask if she was difficult. And they always look slightly disappointed when I say that she was just great: a joy, a lot of fun, brilliant, very funny, a real trouper — all of which she was. The picture we did together, “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972), was her fifth and my third; we were both pretty young — she hadn’t turned 30 yet — and the world was our mutual oyster. I’ve never had as much pure fun making a film before or since, and a good portion of the reason for this was Barbra’s willingness to try anything, jump into the thick of it. The spirit was infectious and it’s still palpable on the screen.

The only reason the movie got made was because of Barbra. She wanted to do a film with me, and John Calley at Warner’s gave me carte blanche to do whatever we wanted. I thought she’d be great in a 1930s kind of screwball comedy, and there hadn’t been any made for quite a while, so it was a bit of a gamble. The truth is, that kind of comedy is so easy for Barbra that she can be sort of bored with it, and I don’t think it’s her own favorite picture; but you’d never know from seeing the movie because she threw herself into it, as she does with everything she tries. And she’s done it all: singing, acting, producing, writing, directing. She’s a stickler for details: Listening to one of our songs, she yelled out, “Where’s the breath?!” She missed one little breath. She was right — it was better hearing the breath. She has perfect comedy instincts and, really, the only thing difficult about Barbra is explaining her magic. But she’s just got it, that’s all.

“What’s Up, Doc?” became the second-highest-grossing film of 1972, right after “The Godfather.” Peter Bogdanovich begins work on a film for Odd Lot Entertainment in early 2009.