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Did Barbra Streisand and Meryl Streep refuse to croon at the Oscars?

April 3, 2009 | 10:39 am

Barbra Streisand and Meryl Streep turned down invitations to participate in the big musical production number staged by Baz Luhrmann at the Oscars, according to a source close to the show.

At least Streep — who was asked to stand up at her seat in the audience and belt out a few bars of "Mamma Mia!" — declined immediately, according to the source. Streisand — who was asked to appear on stage to croon a few bars of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" — insisted upon being wooed in grand diva style and kept Luhrmann dangling, waiting for her decision, then bowed out. The courtship included Luhrmann going to Streisand's home in Malibu where he "hangs out with her for a while, and almost talks her into it . . . but she drops out at the last moment," said the source who asked not to be identified because he fears backlash from the academy.

Barbra Streisand Meryl Streep OscarsStreisand's rep did not respond to our request for comment. Streep's rep denied that she was asked to perform, but a separate source, one close to Luhrmann's crew, called both diva reports "absolutely true, 100% accurate." When contacted by Gold Derby, Luhrmann did not deny the reports, but politely "declined to comment."

The Oscarcast production number ended up featuring other musical stars: "Dreamgirls" thrush Beyonce Knowles, "High School Musical" sensations Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgensplus "Mamma Mia!" love birds Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper. The segment included song bits from those tuners and "Moulin Rouge" "The Sound of Music," "West Side Story," "Grease," "All that Jazz," "Singing in the Rain" and "The Wizard of Oz." It ended with Oscar host Hugh Jackman proclaiming "the musical is back!" as the audience at the Kodak Theatre leaped to its feet to cheer the spectacle.

Why did Streisand and Streep refuse to join in? Gold Derby asked some ardent fans of both stars, who know their idols' peccadilloes well, to speculate.

"I'll bet you that several things made Babs say 'no,'" said a fan. "When Streisand performs, she doesn't just sing a few bars and she doesn't share the stage. When she did perform at the 1976 ceremony, it was to sing her own composition 'Evergreen' just moments before she and lyricist Paul Williams won the Oscar for best song. Also, she's always worried about how she looks, especially performing live. When Streisand filmed her concerts, she was in charge of the lighting and camera set-ups. This self-confessed control freak would have to cede that territory to the Oscar crew. She would not be able to show herself off in the most flattering light and that is especially a problem for her now that she has packed on a few pounds and can't seem to lose them."

The second source cited above says Streep told Luhrmann "no" because her schedule couldn't accommodate rehearsal time, but a fan offered his own speculation: "Streep isn't comfortable singing live in public. She doesn't do concerts. She only sings in the controlled environment of a recording studio, so Baz's request probably freaked her out."

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Photos: Associated Press, Universal Pictures

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