In a career spanning four decades, Diane Keaton has played a variety of roles, from dramatic epics ("The Godfather" trilogy, "Reds") to comedy classics ("Sleeper," "Manhattan").
She's best known for her Oscar-winning turn in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" in 1977. In fact, she was so convincing, audiences couldn't tell where Annie ended and Diane began.
"I never said 'la-di-dah' in my life until he wrote it!" Keaton said. "But I was a person who, as you know, couldn't complete a sentence. So he did get that right."
And in her new movie, "Morning Glory," as a morning show anchor, she's as convincing as ever. She said she delivered her lines "a little dicey" because, Keaton explained, "I lead with my personality, Diane's personality. And I feel like it's okay for me to have the run-on, you know, in d-- in life, Diane. But you can't do that with what you do. You cannot.
"Count me out of your job," Keaton told Couric, "because I couldn't do it."
"So I don't have to worry about you kind of being on my heels?" Couric asked.
"No, I'm not!" she laughed.
Of course not. Because the only thing this Oscar-winning actress has ever wanted to do is . . . sing?
"I thought I was going to be a singer," Keaton said. "And I did everything I could to be a singer"
And sing she did - on Broadway, no less, in the musical "Hair." She was 22.
Does Keaton have a good voice? "No, of course not!" she laughed. "I did have a little solo. My song was 'Black Boys Are Delicious':
"Black boys are delicious,
Chocolate flavored treats.
Licorice lips like candy,
Keep my cocoa handy."
"You know, so that's what I sang. I don't think I'm gonna get any jobs singing any time soon. But I'd like to. I still have aspirations. Do you think I have a chance?" she laughed.
Keaton said she had a huge crush on writer-comedian Woody Allen from the moment she saw him, at an audition for the stage comedy "Play It Again, Sam."
Allen and Keaton would go on to form one of the great on-screen/off-screen partnerships of the 1970s. But first Keaton would have to measure up . . . literally.
"He was 5'7", he is relatively short fellow," she said of her audition. "So they put us head to head, and they measured us, and I got the part 'cause I wasn't taller than he was! So you know, this is like the way it began. And he was hilarious."
And in Keaton, Woody Allen had found his foil.
She said of 1973's "Sleeper," "I just liked being his stupid sidekick, I loved it. He would say things like, 'You can't even do a joke?' And he's right, so he was very smart about it. And then he would, like, have me set up the joke for him.
"That's what I'm good at - being the idiot," she laughed.
Keaton is the master of self-deprecation. But in truth she's not unlike her character in 2003's "Something's Gotta Give."
She's lived life on her own terms: She's always worked, she never married, and she didn't start a family until she was 50 years old.
"I'm a late developer," she explained.
Keaton says her mother, Dorothy (who died in 2008), encouraged her daughter to just be herself. It was an unexpected stance from a woman who created a very conventional domestic ideal for her daughter. Dorothy had even won pageant after pageant for homemaking.
"My mother was Mrs. Los Angeles," Keaton said.
"And Mrs. Highland Park before that, right?" Couric said.
"Oh yeah, we can't forget that! I mean, that's a very moving thing," Keaton laughed.
"Your life is in such stark contrast to your mom's, who was sort of a domestic goddess, if you will," Couric said.
"Uh-huh. She must have written about 90 journals in the course of her marriage to her father. So I have everything. I have the letters, to my father when I was born. Oh my God, it just makes me sad thinking about it, because you know, it's moving when it's your mother, you know? It's weird. I have this opportunity to know my mother in a way that I never knew her, because she was the kind of mother who was the great enabler. She was always supporting me, every single thing that I ever did. I mean, we were partners."
But Keaton says she felt very much alone on the set of her first major film, playing opposite Al Pacino in "The Godfather." She says she doesn't even know how she was cast in the first place.
"I would always fail," she said of auditions, "because they would always say to me, 'You're too kooky.' And so you don't get the part because you're too kooky."
"Because I was a little off-center - Oh, you're making fun. Oh that's really not nice!" she laughed. "But, yeah, I felt I was miscast."
(Left: Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in "Sleeper.")
Did she feel that way once she saw the film? "The only thing I thought about it, when I saw me - not the movie, the movie is absolutely brilliant - was, the wig is horrible!" she laughed.
"What was it like working with Al Pacino?" Couric asked. "Because you guys were involved in a relationship - "
"Well, obviously, hello? No, not then. But I would've liked it!" Keaton laughed. "I'll be frank. I mean, he was beautiful and so talented, and oh my God, yeah, I had a big crush."
But their relationship didn't last. Suffice it to say, they were very different people.
"Al was more of a real actor, kind of really about acting always," she said. "Al was the kind of guy that if you were around him, he'd read Shakespeare, get it? Like, he's doing 'The Merchant of Venice,' I mean, hello? I couldn't stand doing anything like that, ever. Are you kidding? Night after night, doing a play? I'd rather (shoots self in head) That's like my idea of hell."
In fact, Keaton does work hard. She even tolerates shooting multiple takes for scenes - something she first learned to accept working with another long-time boyfriend, Warren Beatty, on "Reds" (1981).
She said of the train station scene, "We must have done that 64 times. And I only got it on the last take. So my feeling about a lot of takes is, count me in, count me in. Because maybe you're gonna save me, you know?"
"What is your relationship like with these people now, Diane?" Couric asked. "Do they stay in your life? Do you have friendships with these guys?"
"Some," she replied. "Woody is a friend, he is a friend. I don't really see Al, I don't see Warren. But I have great memories of them. And it's fun to see Warren as a father, and Al as well, both people that you never thought of as parents are now parents."
"And you of course are a mom now, too," Couric said.
At 50, Keaton adopted her daughter Dexter, now 14, and then five years later, her son Duke, now 9.
She said what motivated her had a lot to do with the passing of her father. "I think, quite frankly, that I liked being a daughter. I really enjoyed being a daughter. I don't think I wanted to be somebody who could take those, you know, parenthood on, until I had to accept that I had to move on."
And now her own daughter is helping to reshape her ideas about femininity.
"My whole idea of what a girl should be, you know, all about style and be skinny like Twiggy, and you know, and Dexter is great, big, you know, strapping athlete, and gorgeous. You know, and so it's just sorta like, Oh my! It's like a blessing. It's like, 'Oh thank you for let's get rid of your ideas, Diane, and let's take a look at how other people might view life.' It's so fabulous. It's such an adventure."
One thing Keaton has never become is a wife. "I think that the reason I didn't get married was because I would have to compromise too much," she said. "I think I took my cue from my mother there. I didn't want to have that. I wanted to try more adventurous things for myself. And I think that I didn't know how.
"And I was also afraid of men," she continued. "Oh yeah. I was afraid of men, yes. I was always being turned down or overlooked. And you know, it was hard for me to kind of compromise. I think I wasn't really marriage material."
"Yeah, in some ways I do," Keaton said.
(Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford play morning TV anchors in the comedy "Morning Glory.")
Today at 64, Diane Keaton's life is full - full of work, family, friends, all lovingly draped in her own inimitable humor.
But she still seems to have that "insecurity thing."
"Yeah. It's in there, it's the DNA," Keaton said. "But I'm going to fight it. I'm going to keep going. I'm going to try as many things as I possibly can. Except for flying. I don't want to fly. I talk to the pilots, they all look at me like I'm crazy. But I think they're crazy, so how do you like that?" laughed Keaton (who was nominated for an Emmy for playing aviator Amelia Earhart). "I don't want to fly. I want to be adventurous, but I don't want to fly!"
For more info:
"Morning Glory" (Official Website)