Former child star Diane Lane grew into her abilities.
DIANE Lane loves a good metaphor as much as she enjoys a fine simile. The star of the new Disney film Secretariat – she plays the horse’s owner, Penny Chenery, who battles old-boy sexism in pursuit of Triple Crown greatness – sprinkles them in conversation (or its subcategory, “conversation in the guise of promoting a new movie”) like, well, like metaphors and similes.
Does she rely on directors to keep her on track? Indeed. “I wish I were some, some, stalwart kind of ... steel girder that everybody could rely on,” she says.
“But, frankly, I’m much more liquid. Or malleable. And sometimes it takes a while to get the wind in my sails.”
Diane Lane stars opposite John Malkovich in
Whatever her self-criticism and mental gymnastics on set, or afterward, it’s working. Lane has become one of America’s most reliable and appealing screen actors. Not movie star, exactly.
More like plain old movie star, without the “plain”. She is 45 and has not done any cosmetic damage to her face. This puts her in an enviable Hollywood minority and, shallow as it sounds, may well be a key to her likability factor among both women and men.
By age six she was touring in Medea overseas. “I had no front teeth in my first passport picture,” she says. She turned down a Broadway transfer of Runaways at age 13 to do A Little Romance onscreen.
She worked hard and dealt with successes and a tricky number of flops and now, married to actor Josh Brolin, she rides a career that occasionally intersects with a big global hit ( The Perfect Storm).
When Secretariat was running in 1973, Lane was eight, touring in Finland, the Middle East and other places with the offBroadway experimental theatre troupe La MaMa.
“I ran away with the circus. But my dad let me,” she says, referring to her father, the late Burt Lane, an acting coach who managed his daughter’s career as it was taking off. (He and Lane’s mother, singer and Playboy centerfold Colleen Farrington, split when she was less than a month old.)
Lane remembers Secretariat’s win well. “I remember all of us were so grateful to get our hands on an American magazine. There he was, on the cover of Time and Newsweek!
“I was still a little girl, at least in my head, and in love with horses. And I took it personally that he won. He was my ultimate rock star. I knew that horses were better than people anyway, so it was like: Finally! The world is waking up.”
Lane made the cover of Time magazine six years after Secretariat. She’d just made A Little Romance. She was one of a group of young actors on the way up (“A bouquet of fresh faces to light up the screen,” Time’s headline read). The attention was intense, the expectations great.
Her early films included a number of high-profile disappointments, including Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club.
Watching Lane in The Cotton Club, as a worldweary teenage torch singer playing opposite Richard Gere’s callow cornet player, you see a paradox in action.
Not yet 20, Lane is already a seasoned performer. Yet, inside the suffocating artifice of Coppola’s period film, she struggles to relax, find herself or someone halfway between herself and her character.
Then, sometime around A Penny (Lane) with her Walk On The Moon, her tech-beloved stallion. nique finally caught up with her emotional resources. And, suddenly, she eased into being the actress she’d been working toward all along.
Says her Secretariat co-star John Malkovich, who plays the horse’s trainer: “She’s very well prepared and thinks about what she’s doing. A lot. And she wants it to be good. To a great extent, film acting is listen and respond. Diane’s a very, very good listener.”
Lane’s father’s best advice? “Be a team player. ... I don’t know what it is, exactly, but there’s a negative drag on film sets after the second week or so, a mutinous vibe because the infinite capacities of the directors and everybody else become quite finite and everybody’s under the gun and it becomes work.
“And that’s when it’s my job, and everybody’s job, to pitch in and be a force for good. As a young person, it’s hard to realise your weight matters.
And the insecurity and the narcissism that goes with it really is a big fat waste of everybody’s time.”
Lane received a best-actress Oscar nomination for Unfaithful, to which she brought torrents of feeling in the role of an adulterous wife. The shoot, under director Adrian Lyne’s famously demanding control, was not easy, she says.
“I remember calling up my dad and complaining to him about Take 55 or what have you, and he said: ‘ Diane, did it ever occur to you that he might be trying to get you nominated?’ And I thought: Are you really my father? I think I called the wrong number for sympathy! And then he passed away before the nominations came out.
“He never got to know that he was right.” — Chicago Tribune/ McClatchy-Tribune Information Services n Secretariat opens in Malaysian cinemas in January next year.