Dan Fogelman is a mama’s boy at heart.
The screenwriter’s own road trip five and a half years ago with his mother Joyce, winding from her condo in New Jersey to Las Vegas, inspired his script for The Guilt Trip, out in theaters today, starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand.
In the movie, Streisand’s Joyce Brewster lovingly nags Rogen, playing son Andrew, as they embark on various quirky road adventures, including her feasting on an enormous steak. Check out this exclusive featurette, below, with clips from the film and Fogelman narrating video of the road trip he took with his mom, who did in fact attempt to chomp down on a huge steak in Texas herself.
EW also chatted with Fogelman about Jewish mothers and working with Streisand. On top of The Guilt Trip, Fogelman’s schedule will be stuffed in the coming months, from wrapping up on Last Vegas, an older buddy-trip flick starring Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Michael Douglas that he co-wrote, to directing his first feature film Imagine, with Al Pacino and Jeremy Renner, starting in April.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you and your mom go on the road trip that inspired The Guilt Trip? It seems so bittersweet, this movie, since she passed away after.
DAN FOGELMAN: We took the trip about five and a half years ago. That video is from about five years ago. She got sick about a year after we took the road trip. It was really sad. It’s been a strange surreal process getting the film made. I was determined to get it made. My mom was a small, quiet person that you wouldn’t naturally make a movie about. But on top of everything, she was a mom. You always take creative liberties.
That footage of your mom digging into a steak in Texas is hilarious, like Barbra Streisand does in the film.
My mom had a hollow leg. My mom was a tiny little thing that could eat unendingly, much like Barbra can eat. It’s really the most disturbingly large thing you can see, and she couldn’t put it down anymore, and we had to pull the plug.
How was it working with Barbra Streisand, who is such an icon? I heard your mom was already a big fan.
My parents are divorced. My dad is alive, and in the movie briefly. Barbra went to the same high school as my father in Brooklyn. She’s always the small-town girl made good. Whenever you meet someone of my father’s generation, they always have something to say about her: “My cousin, Harvey Rubenstein, loves Barbra.” Barbra is funny and interesting, and she’s living this iconic life, but she’s also strangely normal.
What are some of the similarities between you and your mom, and Seth and Barbra, in the film? What are some of the differences?
Well, my mom’s name was Joyce. She collected frogs. I don’t know where it came from and when it started. You would go to her house, and it was one of the terribly strange yet morbid moments, and we had to clean out her house, after she died. And we thought, “What the f—k are we going to do with all these frogs?!” My mom loved to eat but always counted Weight Watchers points. My mom was always walking around in a T-shirt that was a relic of a college I went to and a bunch of TV shows I worked on.
Barbra reminds me a lot of her. Of course she has unlimited talent and wealth. They remind me of each other. The character is very different from me and Seth. I’m not a scientist. My mom and I drove each other crazy on the trip. At some point, we were going to slit each other’s throats. But we had a really fun and healthy relationship.
So how long was the road trip? It’s interesting spending so much time as an adult with a parent, on the road.
Two weeks. We drove from my mom’s condo development in New Jersey to Las Vegas. Three quarters of the things that happened in the film happened in the movie. I kept an email journal that I sent to about 100 people every night. People thought we were going to kill each other, but we had a really nice time. I was probably 30, 31 when I took the trip. I’m 36 now. It’s rare to spend that much time with a parent. To get that much one on one time with your mom when you’re 30, and she’s 60, is rare.
What’s a road-trip moment with your mom that didn’t make the movie? What was a high point, a low point?
One of the most fun things we did, that’s not in the film, is we stopped in Nashville. I took my mom down to that strip with all the country western bars, and we had bourbon, and then had ribs. It was very cool. That was a highlight. The low point, at one point, is we were struggling with the GPS in the middle of nowhere, and I was getting a little lost. And my mom wanted to stop for directions. And my mom had to pee every five minutes. So we stop at a gas station, she goes in, and then we pull off for the highway, and my mom started crying and said, “I didn’t ask for directions!” I drove my mom absolutely bonkers, but it was never vicious. It’s a complicated dynamic. You realize at some point in your life that your parents exist as fully formed, with their own hopes and dreams.
What are you up to for the holidays? There’s a lot on the horizon for you too, other projects.
My girlfriend and I have a place north in Los Angeles, and we go up there. ... I’m excited for people to see the movie and enjoy it. It’s a daunting thing. And I’m shooting a film that’s just wrapping, Last Vegas, about four old childhood friends who reunite for a trip, with Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas. I’m starting a film next April called Imagine, with Al Pacino and Jeremy Renner, I’m also directing.
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