DIANE LANE: why the Hol­ly­wood star needs magic in her life

She’s been act­ing since she was seven years old, but Diane Lane had a very dif­fer­ent dream. The Hol­ly­wood star tells Juliet Rieden about her wild child­hood, miss­ing her mum and play­ing a bad­die in the new sea­son of House of Cards.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents - Sea­son Six of House Of Cards is stream­ing now on Net ix.

Diane Lane is gig­gling. She’s just re­mem­bered a par­tic­u­lar night she spent at the White House a few years back. Barack Obama was still Pres­i­dent and Diane was one of the guests at the an­nual White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Din­ner.

This is the glit­ter­ing fundrais­ing bash where jour­nal­ists mix with politi­cians, se­na­tors and spe­cially in­vited celebri­ties, and the Pres­i­dent gives a usu­ally pretty funny speech.

“When the cast mem­bers from House of Cards ar­rived it was like roy­alty had walked in, be­cause th­ese peo­ple [the polti­cos] are so in love with them­selves and they think that all the plot points are re­ally about them,” Diane ex­plains, still laugh­ing. “It was the penul­ti­mate one in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and a good time was had by all. It made the Os­cars feel like a pup­pet show.”

Diane was su­per ex­cited to meet Barack and Michelle, but she sensed some­thing else was go­ing on for the other guests. “For th­ese peo­ple [work­ing in the White House], the ac­tors are not play­ing char­ac­ters; this is real life. They’re re­ally in­vested.”

The fact that most of the key char­ac­ters in the show are self-serv­ing, ruth­less and du­plic­i­tous at best and men­da­cious and mur­der­ous at worst, didn’t seem to bother this po­lit­i­cal clique, but it’s an irony not lost on Diane. “They were just ex­cited to have a show about them. It may be dark but they can’t turn away,” she says.

Hop for­ward a few years and Diane is now one of that hal­lowed cast. “I never had any imag­i­na­tion that I would ever be asked to be part of that show at that time,” she adds.

The 53-year-old star of stage and screen was hur­riedly hired, along with Hol­ly­wood’s Greg Kin­n­ear, as part of the re­vamp of se­ries six of the hit Net ix drama when Kevin Spacey was sacked fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct last year.

In this nal se­ries Robin Wright’s Claire Un­der­wood is in the Oval Of ce, pre­sid­ing over a gov­ern­ment that has shat­tered glass ceil­ings and is awash with women. Diane plays

Claire’s child­hood friend An­nette Shep­herd, who is now a schem­ing in­dus­tri­al­ist and, with brother Bill (Kin­n­ear), takes on Madam Pres­i­dent. “She’s just de­li­cious to play. I re­ally had a good time,” says Diane.

Th­ese char­ac­ters re­ally are de­spi­ca­ble, but they also ooze charisma and I won­der does Diane think the show ac­cu­rately rep­re­sents US pol­i­tics?

“Oh God, I hope not,” she says. “But I’m sure there are peo­ple who will say ‘yes’ to that ques­tion. I think that there is some truth to it. Of course, it’s hy­per­bolised to make a point or have hu­mour but ... there have been peo­ple who have said that they learned more from watch­ing the show about pol­i­tics in this coun­try than any other school they could nd.”

Diane ad­mits she’s feel­ing the pres­sure of join­ing a show that is “so pop­u­lar, with so much weight and ex­pec­ta­tion ... I don’t like it when there this much an­tic­i­pa­tion,” she says. “I’m like ‘hello I’m new here’, but the taller they come ...”

Child star

But I don’t think she need worry. Diane may be new to this House, but her act­ing ca­reer is leg­endary and to date spans 45 years. The na­tive New Yorker started out as a child ac­tor with the very cool La MaMa Ex­per­i­men­tal Theatre Club and made her de­but in Greek tragedy Medea. Soon she had Shake­speare and Sopho­cles un­der her belt and was tour­ing Europe and the Mid­dle East with­out her par­ents.

“Well, it was bet­ter than day care. That was the run­ning joke and frankly it wasn’t un­true,” she quips. “I was a com­pletely nor­mal kid born in Man­hat­tan and I kind of like that iden­tity of be­ing a scrappy per­son, the salt of the earth.” The tours were long and var­ied and a lot of fun.

“It must have been kind of a mixed bless­ing for the oth­ers, to have a kid in your theatre com­pany. But it is very good for keep­ing every­body’s spir­its in check. Pri­or­i­ties. Some­body’s got to stay sober!” adds Diane, laugh­ing.

“We went to some ‘Red’ coun­tries which was fas­ci­nat­ing to me. I didn’t know what that even meant. I thought it meant that it’s Red! And I grew up with artis­tic, cre­ative, pas­sion­ate, free peo­ple who kind of adopted me and es­hed out what was miss­ing in my ac­tual fam­ily, so I was in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate.”

Diane’s fa­ther Burt was a part-time taxi driver, part-time act­ing coach while her mother Colleen was a singer/model and Play­boy’s Miss Oc­to­ber 1957 centrefold. They di­vorced when she was two weeks old, so Diane was used to spend­ing time be­ing passed from one to the other. Her re­la­tion­ship with each par­ent proved com­plex and at times a lit­tle stormy, and I sus­pect Diane learned very young to rely on her own judge­ment.

She says her par­ents weren’t at all con­cerned that she was trav­el­ling un­ac­com­pa­nied around the world. “I think my mother saw that I thrived in it ... It was a dif­fer­ent world, noth­ing bad hap­pened – there was no rea­son to be fright­ened of I don’t know what. You could hang out with peo­ple,” she says.

“I kind of like that iden­tity of be­ing a scrappy per­son ... salt of the earth.”

On one Euro­pean tour, young Diane be­came very at­tached to a tor­toise. “I bought it on the River Seine in Paris,” she con­fesses. On re­turn­ing to New York, nat­u­rally the tor­toise came too and some­how Diane smug­gled it through cus­toms. Dif­fer­ent times in­deed!

“It was in a cro­cheted bag and I wore it around my neck and he would poke his lit­tle head out and I would tap it and put it back down,” she ex­plains. “When I went to go run­ning into my mother’s arms, I held that tur­tle up to her face and I thought she was go­ing to faint. She shrieked. You don’t ex­pect to see a tor­toise com­ing at you. I had that tor­toise for 14 years or some­thing.”

Diane doesn’t re­mem­ber be­ing lonely or home­sick, but took it all in her stride. “We were off the radar, no­body was mind­ing our busi­ness. We were like a trav­el­ling band of gyp­sies. It was just wild. Kids are so full of life and crazy. Any­way, I man­aged to have a re­ally fab­u­lous child­hood; in fact, in some ways I think I peaked in those years be­cause of the di­ver­sity and the free­dom and the amount of travel and by the way, trav­el­ling light. You can do that when you’re 10. All you need is your sneak­ers. You don’t need any­thing. Now I re­quire help.”

Be­fore she knew it, Diane was back in New York treading the boards with Meryl Streep in a stage pro­duc­tion of Chekhov’s The Cherry Or­chard. She was just 12. Then the fol­low­ing year she starred op­po­site Lau­rence Olivier in the lm A Lit­tle Ro­mance. Olivier was blown away by Diane and called her “the new Grace Kelly”.

“He was like a 72-year-old man who had a lot of mileage on his soul but also had a tremen­dous no­blesse oblige and largesse d’esprit. And I’m still hum­bled and try­ing to live up to that,” she says, even though at the time she was a lit­tle per­plexed.

“I didn’t re­ally know who Grace Kelly was. I had seen her in some black and white movies late at night with my dad. I didn’t know if he was think­ing about pic­tur­ing me mar­ry­ing roy­alty or was he talk­ing about the way I looked or the way I acted? It was de nitely a com­pli­ment. But I won­der how Grace Kelly felt about that. When you’re 13 you don’t pic­ture your­self look­ing like a movie star at 27 years old.”

The ac­co­lades con­tin­ued to roll in and at the age of 14, Diane was on the front cover of Time mag­a­zine, dubbed one of “Hol­ly­wood’s whiz kids”. “At the time it felt a pres­sure,” she says.

It all sounds in­cred­i­bly thrilling but does Diane think she missed out on her child­hood at all? “I wouldn’t know,” she muses. “I can say that I re­mem­ber play­ing games with peo­ple, I re­mem­ber peo­ple sit­ting on the oor with me and we’d have great times. I was a kid in the ruins of Perse­po­lis with the theatre com­pany. Just be­cause I was there and with a theatre com­pany didn’t mean I wasn’t a kid. I got to see them shep­herd­ing lla­mas through the streets of Beirut. I got to see amaz­ing sights. All round var­i­ous parts of the world – Venice, Italy, the canals of Am­s­ter­dam. I didn’t know how rare that was at that time. It was so good to travel and see.

“[But] in hind­sight I missed my mother very much and I felt as though that was the most suf­fer­ing re­la­tion­ship from the years of work­ing as a kid. I don’t know how much of that had to do with the fact that I was liv­ing her dream.”

It’s quite sur­pris­ing to hear that even though act­ing came nat­u­rally to Diane and she was ob­vi­ously in­cred­i­bly good at it, it wasn’t the ca­reer path she had wanted to pur­sue.

“I have a the­ory that I’m liv­ing my par­ents’ dream, mean­ing my fa­ther taught act­ing, my mother wanted to be an ac­tress. This was not my dream. My dream was to be a lawyer and go ght for bet­ter ju­di­cial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Ruth Bader Gins­burg was my hero. Not the Supreme Court but more about cre­at­ing laws that were more just across the board. That was my child­hood naïve fan­tasy for my­self

and I went to re­ally good schools but then I got my rst movie.”

Diane’s ca­reer blos­somed with a run of lms and though she had fun, when pushed, Diane con­fesses it wasn’t all rosy. “I prob­a­bly re­sented it. I know I re­sented things like miss­ing rock con­certs or the Christ­mas spe­cial when it came on, back in the day when we had three TV chan­nels.

There was some nor­mal kid stuff that I pined for and it made my child­hood a lit­tle bit pre­cious to me in the way that get­ting to play with dolls with my girl­friend. I re­mem­ber that day be­cause it was one day.”

Be­com­ing a mother

In 1988 Diane mar­ried French ac­tor Christo­pher Lam­bert. Their daugh­ter Eleanor was born in 1993 and though they di­vorced a year later, they re­mained good friends. Diane was a sin­gle mother for a while, dur­ing which time she has said she “barely dated”, but then she fell in love with Bar­bra Streisand’s step­son, Josh Brolin, and be­came step­mother to his two chil­dren Trevor and Eden.

Josh and Diane were to­gether for nine years and rais­ing Eleanor and two stepchil­dren now seems like a blur. “Chil­dren are time ac­cel­er­ants. They’re go­ing through so much all the time and you’re so busy try­ing to gure out and think on their be­half and be present for what­ever they’re go­ing through on that ex­act day, that you look up and you re­alise, what do you mean, you’re all grown up, what do you mean?” Diane laughs.

“Of course, it’s a life­long thing to be some­body’s mother and I’m just hav­ing the best time – when­ever I see Eleanor it’s the best thing that’s hap­pened to me.”

I won­der if back then Eleanor wanted to fol­low in her mum’s foot­steps into child act­ing. “No, she shied away from it,” says Diane. “She went to a school where there was lots of per­former-type kids. It was just in the gene pool of that school, and she didn’t want it. I watched her shy away and then sud­denly she changed her mind. I think that was very hard be­cause she pro­tected her­self in the most vul­ner­a­ble years and I pro­tected her, too. You know, when you’re form­ing your self-know­ing, that’s a re­ally tricky time, es­pe­cially in to­day’s uni­verse.”

Eleanor is now 25 and an ac­tress in her own right, and mother and daugh­ter are in­cred­i­bly close. Grow­ing up she also got on fa­mously with her grand­fa­ther, who died in 2002. Diane says her daugh­ter would have loved to have had more time with him, “to bene t from the wis­dom of her grand­fa­ther”.

“He loved her so much,” says

Diane. “He was like, ‘I’m done with you, I want that one’.”

On a re­cent trip to New York, Eleanor was de­lighted when she found her­self as a pas­sen­ger in the very cab her late grand­fa­ther used to drive. She recog­nised the taxi num­ber and im­me­di­ately called Mom. “She was call­ing and Facetim­ing me, she got the driver on the phone, it’s like we were crazy peo­ple,” says Diane. “It was a joy­ous mo­ment. It’s our lit­tle thing and I love it and I have it. Some guy is driv­ing around with this cab num­ber and the fact that I think it means some­thing is prob­a­bly silly but you need a lit­tle magic in your life. Every­body needs a lit­tle magic in their lives.”

For Diane, much of the magic in her life came from her late par­ents. “He was a very won­der­ful fa­ther and I’m very grate­ful to him. We had our power strug­gles, for sure, a few epic, but even­tu­ally even he al­lowed me to grow up. My mother did the best she could with what cards she was dealt in life and I think we had a fan­tas­tic re­la­tion­ship. I don’t know that I’ll ever meet any­body that I’ll laugh as much as I did with my mother, from a core place.”

To­day Diane says she still feels a con­nec­tion with that girl who was com­pared to Grace Kelly. “I think she’s in me for­ever. It’s not go­ing to go away. But it does get framed dif­fer­ently as time adds dif­fer­ent spins and re ec­tions on things. I think I al­ways have that in­no­cent part of my­self still with me, ab­so­lutely.”

And look­ing back, does she have any ad­vice to of­fer her 14-year-old self? “Yes, I would say wear it lightly and trust your­self.”

Diane now spends her time qui­etly and res­o­lutely, still work­ing of course, but also pur­su­ing con­ser­va­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing ght­ing off-shore oil drilling and un­der­wa­ter frack­ing ... and she’s lov­ing life. “I just feel like my daugh­ter’s grown and now is the best time – where I’m not dis­tracted by any­thing re­ally. I get to live a very sim­ple life and I can fo­cus on what I care about more and more ... hope­fully.” AWW


Clock­wise from right: Diane meet­ing Prince Philip; at­tend­ing the Os­cars in 1981 with Ti­mothy Hut­ton – the pair dated in the early ’80s; catch­ing a train in Europe dur­ing her time with La MaMa Theatre Club; pic­tured around the time she filmed A Lit­tle Ro­mance.

Clock­wise from above: Diane as a child with her mother Colleen; three gen­er­a­tions – Colleen, Diane and Eleanor; with her fa­ther, Burt.

Diane and Robin Wright in House of Cards. Be­low: Away from act­ing, Diane is cham­pi­oning en­vi­ron­men­tal causes.

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