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While this year’s Golden Globe director nominees include an unprecedented three women — Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Regina King (One Night in Miami) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) — in 1984, Barbra Streisand was an anomaly.
That night she became the first — and to this day, only — woman to win that Globe, for Yentl. The musical saw Streisand playing a young Jewish woman in 1904 Poland who masquerades as a man to study in a yeshiva, where she falls for another student (Mandy Patinkin).
In accepting the directing award, Streisand said, “I’m very proud because it also represents, I hope, new opportunities for so many talented women to try to make their dreams become realities, as I did.”
The remarks drew warm applause. But how well has the movie business fared for women in the four decades since? THR caught up with Streisand, 78, for a look back at the night she made Hollywood history.
What are your memories of the night Yentl won best musical or comedy motion picture and and you won best director of a motion picture at the 1984 Golden Globe Awards?
I was totally shocked and couldn’t believe it when they announced my name as best director. It was an incredibly thrilling moment for me. And deeply meaningful, because I had been trying to make this movie for 15 years. There was so much controversy around it. People had made such a big deal about an actress who tried to do more than one job. I was doubly surprised when they told me in the press room that I was the first woman to get this award.
Then to sit down and be called up again when Yentl won best picture comedy or musical was overwhelming. When I got home that night, I couldn’t sleep from sheer excitement. Of course, eating a pint of coffee ice cream probably didn’t help.
In your best director speech, you said you were proud of how it meant “new opportunities” for other talented female filmmakers. Looking back 37 years later, how has Hollywood delivered on that?
Why do you think that is?
I’ve always thought women are intrinsically powerful. And some men still don’t want the competition. Thirty-seven years ago, the industry was mostly run by men. Directors were mostly men.
It’s taken years for women to accept their own power and say, “I can do this!” Initially, I was looking for someone else to direct Yentl, until I realized that none of the men I approached had as strong a vision of this movie as I did. So I took the chance.
It’s only recently, with the #MeToo movement, that women have come together in strength to support each other. And that makes a huge difference.
This year, a record three women directors have been nominated for director of a motion picture. What are your thoughts on that? Does this mark a turning point for women in Hollywood?
It sure does. I love it. I never thought I’d see the day when three out of five nominated directors would be women. It brings a huge smile to my face.
There were wonderful movies in the last few years directed by women. Queen & Slim, Little Women, Mudbound, Wonder Woman, The Nightingale. And they were all overlooked. So it’s really gratifying to see these three very distinctive films made by incredibly talented women nominated.
l think there’s more equality now — not only in Hollywood but in society in general. And I see more and more powerful women all around the globe, some even running their own countries and doing a fantastic job! I’m thrilled.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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