DIANE LANE is an actress with some memorable movies on her resume. Anthony Mason talks with her for our Sunday Profile:
Diane Lane's acting career began on the stage of the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York. She was just 6 years old.
"But I played dead here a lot," she recalled. "'Just lie really still. Don't let the flower petals fall off your chest when you inhale.' That's what I remember."
At 52, she's had more starring roles than birthdays -- playing opposite the Brat Pack in "The Outsiders"; earning an Emmy nomination for the epic TV western, "Lonesome Dove"; and more recently, playing Superman's mom in "Man of Steel."
She's grown up in show business, and survived.
"There are so many child stars -- " Anthony Mason said.
"That's a term."
"Do you not like that term?"
"I don't know how I feel about that term. I mean, I feel sorry for whoever I hear that about. And I don't feel sorry for me."
Lane grew up in New York, moving often between her parents, who divorced just after she was born. She lived in residential hotels with her father, and in a grand old Broadway building with her mother. "It was a fixer-upper," she laughed. "I'm being honest! And we never got it all the way fixed up."
Her mom, Colleen Farrington, was a nightclub singer, and Playboy's Miss October in 1957. Her dad, Burt Lane, was a drama coach who started driving a taxi so he'd have more flexible hours for his only child. Diane would even drive around in his cab: "Oh yeah, I was his buddy. I would ride shotgun front seat."
When Diane was six, he dropped her off at her first audition. She had never done any acting up to that point. "My dad, he asked me if I wanted to be in a play," she recalled. "'Of course, I love to play, that's a stupid question.' I didn't even know what a play was. Literally, that happened."
She would spend six years with La MaMa. In the company's archives, Ozzie Rodriguez uncovered some vintage photos: "Okay, this is when I missed my cue," Lane said of one production shot. "I fell asleep by the heater in winter. That's what happened to me.
"So young. My face hadn't even formed yet!"
At 13, Lane was starring in a production of "Runaways," bound for Broadway. But then, director George Roy Hill offered her the lead in his next film.
Was she tempted to turn it down? "Laurence Olivier and George Roy Hill? In the first film that Orion Pictures ever made? No, I'm not that crazy!"
In "A Little Romance," she starred as an American girl who falls for a French boy, with Sir Laurence Olivier playing matchmaker.
"You make one film, and it lands you on the cover of Time magazine," said Mason. "And Laurence Olivier calls you the next Grace Kelly."
"No pressure there, right?"
"What do you make of that at 14 years old?"
"You don't. You compartmentalize it," Lane said. "I felt embarrassed, like, wow, will I ever be able to live up to it?"
Francis Ford Coppola thought she would. He cast her in three films in the '80s, including "The Outsiders" and "Rumble Fish." In the third, "The Cotton Club," a jazz age gangster film, Lane played sultry nightclub singer Vera Cicero.
"It was my nightclub scene," she recalled, "and Richard Gere was playing the trumpet in my ear, and I was supposed to be all confident. And I just wasn't really feeling it. That was the only fight I ever got into with Francis Coppola. He wanted me to be sexier. And he just finally said it: 'I don't know what that thing is that women do, but be sexy.'
"And maybe because I had a showgirl for a mom, I found I was very reticent to do that, When it's asked of me to be sexy on cue, I get a little gender gender-pissed-off."
"I feel like I was raised like a son, in a way, by my father, you know? I didn't feel genderized until I started to promote films and realized, 'Oh, there's a switch you're supposed to throw and be sexy.'"
But nearly 20 years later, she wasn't afraid to throw that switch. Again starring with Richard Gere in "Unfaithful," Lane played a frustrated wife who embarks on a torrid affair.
She has said that film was a lot harder to make than it looked. "I still have a herniated disc from the kissing scene," she said. "I'm still seeing the chiropractor, it's been 16 years."
Mason asked, "What did you think when you finally saw the film?"
"You know, when my Dad saw it -- it wasn't long before he died -- he said, 'You rang the bell.'"
It earned Lane an Oscar nomination.
In her latest film, "Paris Can Wait," Lane has gone back to the Coppola family. Francis' wife, Eleanor Coppola, is the director:
"When that bell rings, 'Where do you want me?'" Lane said. "I mean. I've made four films for Francis, and Eleanor was there."
Lane plays a wife who takes an adventurous trip through France with a friend of her busy husband. At age 80 it's Eleanor Coppola's debut as the director of a romantic comedy.
"I wanted to be part of her moment," Lane said.
Diane Lane has had many moments since she first landed on that cover of Time. But she asks Mason, "I don't know, do you think I lived up to it?"
"The larger question is, 'What did you expect from yourself?'"
"Well, the voice I hear is my father's, and he would say, 'Eh, you're a lifer.' Who wants to do anything all of your life? It just seemed so preposterously long and unfathomable. But now, I'm thinking it's a pretty good gig!"
To watch a trailer for "Paris Can Wait" click on the video player below.
For more info:
- "Paris Can Wait" (Sony Pictures Classics); Opens May 12 in New York and Los Angeles
- La MaMa, New York
- The Ziegfeld Club: The Liz Swados Inspiration Grant