The legendary star is celebrating the recent release of her new memoir 'My Name Is Barbra'
It’s been nearly a month since Barbra Streisand released her long-awaited memoir My Name Is Barbra, so it’s fair to think the legendary star has been enjoying some much-deserved down time in recent weeks.
It’s a surprise then, when during a recent phone call with PEOPLE, she quickly reveals that hasn’t been the case.
“[I’m] kind of overwhelmed,” she says, moments after putting in an ask with Renata, her longtime assistant, for some soup. “Just the demands of having to speak about what I’ve done for over 10 years. I’m sort of sick of myself, to tell you the truth.”
Luckily for Streisand, 81, her fans are on a different page. In fact, My Name Is Barbra was a near-instant bestseller, debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ hardcover nonfiction bestseller list and moving more than 55,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week.
While it took the star 10 years (which is “five times as long” as she thought it would) to write the book, it took even longer to live the riveting events that fill the tome’s nearly 1,000 pages. With her signature wit and the unflinchingly honest acceptance that hindsight is sometimes 20/20, Streisand’s book digs deep into her past, detailing everything from the Brooklyn childhood she spent yearning to please her mother, to her big Broadway break and award-winning turns in films like Funny Girl and The Way We Were.
There’s also, of course, musings on her personal life, including high-profile romances and dalliances with stars like Marlon Brando, ex-husband Elliott Gould (with whom she shares son Jason Gould, 56) and former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau — which all eventually paved the way for her to find everlasting love with James Brolin, her husband of 25 years.
Considering all of the legendary celebrities with whom she’s crossed paths, has Streisand heard from any of them following the book’s publication?
“Well, one person,” she says. “But I can’t tell you his name.”
OK. Well, was he happy with what she wrote?
“Oh yeah,” Streisand says. “If you write the truth, what would they be saying to you? ‘Well, you shouldn’t have said that?’ I said, ‘But it was the truth, and I probably made you look better than you were, picking out your positive aspects rather than something you said or did that was kind of cruel or hurtful.’ Do you know what I mean?”
For Streisand, diving deep on matters of the heart wasn’t an easy decision; in fact, it was hardly a decision at all, as the EGOT winner says she had to be convinced to include any talk of romance at all.
“I didn’t even want to talk about any relationships,” she says. “My editor said to me, ‘You cannot do this. People want to know certain things about your life that are personal.’ And I said, ‘Well, OK, I will, but I can’t talk about it in an interview past anything I put in my book.”
In addition to her personal life and music career, Streisand’s book covers her movie career too, from her beginnings as an actress to her evolution as an Oscar-nominated director, writer and producer. It also chronicles the heartbreak she felt in trying (and failing) to get a number of additional movies made, from The Normal Heart and Gypsy to a sequel for The Way We Were.
Streisand hasn’t starred in a movie in 11 years — and says it’s unlikely she has the steam left to make any more.
“No, not really. I mean, it was 2009 that I was fighting for the rights to play Gypsy,” she says. “In other words, it gets exhausting, trying to come up with the structure of the movie and then have it not happen.”
She continues: “If I could have made my movies, I never would’ve written a book. I had such good movies to make, meaning they were about things I cared about, very interesting subjects that… Why did I only make 19 movies in my lifetime? I had many movies that I wanted to make, and then I get lazy. I go, ‘Oh yeah, to do this one, I have to have all these fittings for period clothes. This one, I’d have to live in Arkansas to do this one.' I don’t know. It’s complicated, but I am complicated, I guess… I get lazy. Bette Davis made 80 movies. I made 19. She’s a wonderful actress and she liked working. I like time off.”
With her book finally out in the world Streisand had hoped that she could finally have some time off, time she could spend with Brolin. Instead, she’s continued on promotional tours for the book.
“It’s work. For some reason, I thought, ‘I’ll finish the book and then I’ll get in the car with my husband we’ll just travel somewhere, anywhere,’” she says. “Well little did I know, it’s not over with. You’ve got to talk about it, I guess.”
But talking about it means she’ll reach more readers, and in reaching more readers, she’ll be able to accomplish what she set out to accomplish in the first place: telling her own story, on her own terms.
“I guess when you get famous, there’s a certain section of people that want to believe bad things about you. This woman [who reviewed the book] talked about, ‘Well, I thought I was going to read a book written by a diva… She’s not anything like that. She’s a down-to-earth person. She’s vulnerable,’” says Streisand. “It’s like she saw me through the book, so I accomplished what I set out to do: set the record straight by telling the truth.”
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