High Drama, Low Comedy

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KWAKU ALSTON FOR TIME

The cast of "Meet the Fockers": Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and Barbra Streisand

Technically, meet The Fockers is a sequel to the $166 million-grossing 2000 comedy Meet the Parents. Actually, it's an excuse to watch some of America's most iconic actors ply their craft as they get electrocuted, teach Tantric sex to senior citizens and rescue dogs from RV lavatories. (Imagine a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Meatballs, and you're close.) TIME's Josh Tyrangiel sat down with the Fockers (Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Ben Stiller) and the Byrneses (Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner and Teri Polo) to discuss comedy, Cialis, the unexpected tenderness of Kevin Costner and, in De Niro's case, to grunt quite a lot.

BARBRA, YOU HAD TO BE COURTED EXTENSIVELY TO DO THIS MOVIE. WHY WERE YOU SO RELUCTANT TO SIGN ON?


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BARBRA STREISAND: I'm just lazy. It's work when you go do a movie. You've got to get up early in the morning and put on makeup and have costume fittings. It's a pain in the neck.

TERI POLO: I remember having discussions with you on the set where you'd say, "Let's go already. I wanna get home. I hate acting." What finally convinced you to do it?

BLYTHE DANNER: A little begging never hurts.

STREISAND: It was nice to be wanted. It's happened to me very few times. I don't know what it is, whether people are frightened of me, intimidated or what. I once asked someone to direct a movie I was going to produce, and he said, "Are you going to tell me where to put the camera?" I thought, Oh, God. I don't tell anybody where to put the camera. Sometimes I might suggest something ... [Much laughter.] I also didn't want to do a whole movie. I was asked to do White Oleander, to direct and play the part of the mother, but it seemed so overwhelming. I have to give two or three years of my life to this? This was much more like a fun experiment, to see what it's like just to act.

HAVE YOU BEEN OFFERED OTHER ACTING ROLES OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?

DUSTIN HOFFMAN: Oh, yeah. They wanted her to do the Cameron Diaz part in There's Something About Mary, but she turned it down. Everything J. Lo's been offered, she could have had.

STREISAND: You know what's nice about being older--

HOFFMAN: Sing something for us, Barbra.

STREISAND: Shush. When you're older, there's much more generosity when you act. It's not competitive anymore. You want the other person in a scene to look good, and vice versa.

HOFFMAN: She promised if she looked good in this movie, she'd teach me how to sing.

DIDN'T YOU SING ON BROADWAY ONCE?

HOFFMAN: One song.

POLO: You did?

BEN STILLER: Was that in Death of a Salesman?

HOFFMAN: One song, in Jimmy Shine with Cleavon Little. It was a beautiful song. [Sings.] "She's a laaaaady." Yuck. I can't sing.

DANNER: Cleavon Little played my husband in the play in which I met my real husband Bruce.

STREISAND: Who?

DANNER: You remember the guy who farted a lot from Blazing Saddles? He was a lovely man.

STREISAND: You know I resent this thing about Hollywood and moral values--

HOFFMAN: Amazing. There she goes.

STREISAND: I just can't stand it. What movies are out now that have questionable moral values? You know what I think has questionable moral values? The Cialis commercials.

POLO: I love that you're just so blunt.

STILLER: Can we talk about my career, please?

HOFFMAN: There's something I want to ask. Meet the Parents was a really good comedy. It had layers, and it hit some interesting notes. But with this thing, I don't ever recall being in a movie that seemed to get this kind of steam going before it opened. I mean, it's just a nice movie. Why do people seem so interested?

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