A 40-YEAR CA­REER IS PEAK­ING AT AGE 53

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY ANN HORNADAY

NEW YORK — A recent un­con­trolled ex­per­i­ment re­vealed that if you men­tion the name Diane Lane in a room­ful of women, two things will hap­pen. An ador­ing gasp will go up. And then the “I loved’s” be­gin: Gasp: “I loved her in ‘A Lit­tle Ro­mance.’ ” Gasp: “The bus scene with Viggo Mortensen in ‘A Walk on the Moon.’ ” Gasp: “That train scene in ‘Un­faith­ful.’ ” “Lone­some Dove.” “Sec­re­tar­iat.” “Un­der the Tus­can Sun.” Gasp. Gasp. Gasp.

Lane’s friend Jane Fonda at­tributes the Diane Lane Thing to one thing: “Vul­ner­a­bil­ity. You want to pro­tect her. You know she’s kind, there’s not a mean bone in her body, and you sense that. She’s cau­tious, and so you want to wrap your arms around her and en­cour­age her, and at the same time, she’s a real sur­vivor.”

Along with the rest of us, Fonda also found her­self gasp­ing at the train scene in “Un­faith­ful” — for which Lane re­ceived an Os­car nom­i­na­tion — when the ac­tress’s char­ac­ter, a stray­ing wife, was al­low­ing shame, dis­be­lief and re­mem­bered de­sire to wash over her, some­times all at once. “And [then] she bursts out laugh­ing, and it’s like, ‘What?’ ” Fonda re­calls. “It was the most sur­pris­ing re­ac­tion; it was so ef­fec­tive and un­ex­pected and mul­ti­fac­eted. And that’s Diane.”

The Diane Lane Thing is deep, and it’s real. Men love her, sure. But women looove her, on a re­flex­ive, al­most pheromonal level that de­fies ready ex­pla­na­tion. She’s that rare Hol­ly­wood crea­ture who, at 53, seems both glam­orous and rad­i­cally au­then­tic, still ca­pa­ble of fur­row­ing her

brow, be­tray­ing a crin­kled frown, al­low­ing a panoply of com­pet­ing emo­tions to play across her face. Blessed with spec­tac­u­lar beauty, she’s some­how still re­lat­able. We

get Diane Lane, and, more im­por­tant, we feel as though she would get us should we ever be friends. Which, re­ally, we could be if . . . we could be.

Lane ex­pe­ri­ences the Diane Lane Thing first­hand, all the time. “They come up to me,” she says of her swoon­ing fe­male fans. “It’s very sweet. They say, ‘I love you.’ I don’t know [why]. I can’t take any credit for it.”

Isn’t that ex­actly what Diane Lane would say, in our BFF dreams? Over a free­wheel­ing two-hour lunch re­cently, Lane was mostly ev­ery­thing her ad­mir­ers would ex­pect: thought­ful, can­did, con­fid­ing, self-dep­re­cat­ing and in­stinc­tively care­tak­ing, at one point pass­ing a bas­ket of bread, tak­ing a piece and say­ing, “Re­mem­ber the ladies who waved away the dessert tray on the Ti­tanic.” She evinces an al­most sub­ver­sive al­tru­ism when it comes to her fe­male peers in Hol­ly­wood, re­fus­ing to play along with pop­u­lar myths of zero-sum suc­cess and Bette-and-Joan cat­fights.

Lane’s in­stinc­tive fem­i­nism is now com­ing into play in the form of two new gigs: She stars in not one, but two stream­ing se­ries, Net­flix’s “House of Cards” and the Matthew Weiner an­thol­ogy se­ries “The Ro­manoffs” on Ama­zon. (Ama­zon founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeffrey P. Be­zos owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.)

Lane still evinces mild sur­prise to be part of “House of Cards,” much less its sixth and fi­nal sea­son. In recent years, she has found even a fleet­ing im­age of the White House “trig­ger­ing.” She ad­mits to ad­mir­ing the show for its writ­ing and act­ing but shy­ing away from its ni­hilis­tic world­view. “There is a de­li­cious­ness to lean­ing into cyn­i­cism for hu­mor,” Lane ob­serves, “and then it kicks into a kind of ter­ror.” When she was cast a lit­tle more than a year ago — as An­nette Shep­herd, who with her brother Bill, played by Greg Kin­n­ear, evokes com­par­isons to sundry Kochs, Mercers and DeVoses — Lane took it as a dare. “And I love that feel­ing,” she notes. “There’s just a thrill about it.”

The pursuit of new thrills — and new plat­forms — looks like yet an­other canny move in a four-decade ca­reer that has proven to be ex­cep­tion­ally en­dur­ing, sup­ple and, in its most recent in­car­na­tion, steadily per­co­lat­ing. There was a time when Lane would have been forced to ac­cept an in­evitable wind­ing-down at this stage of life. “Now it’s like a con­test,” she says with her sig­na­ture cat­like smile. “Now it’s get­ting fun. Now I can say, ‘How far can I take this?’ ”

There was a mo­ment last year when the an­swer might have been, “Not as far as you think.” One of Lane’s first scenes on “House of Cards” was with Kevin Spacey, whose Frank Un­der­wood was the schem­ing Shake­spearean cen­ter of the show’s patho­log­i­cally trans­ac­tional world. The day is etched in mem­ory, she says, not be­cause of any dis­qui­et­ing sig­nals, but be­cause, in join­ing what had be­come a strongly bonded fam­ily over five years, she was un­der “ex­tra pres­sure to de­liver the goods and fit in with the vibe.” From there, she trav­eled to New York to be an Easter egg in an episode of “The Ro­manoffs”; dur­ing a break she learned that Spacey had been ter­mi­nated from “House of Cards” be­cause of al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct. The show hadn’t even of­fi­cially an­nounced her in­volve­ment yet.

Af­ter a three-month hia­tus to re­tool, the show’s fi­nal sea­son wound up be­ing much more fe­male-cen­tric, with Robin Wright’s Claire Un­der­wood — now the U.S. pres­i­dent — nav­i­gat­ing a poi­sonous and sex­ist po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, while play­ing mind games with An­nette, with whom she has a fraught his­tory. “All I know is I fell up­hill,” Lane says now, “be­cause I got more screen time with Robin Wright. She is for­mi­da­ble; Claire is for­mi­da­ble. And it’s de­li­cious for the au­di­ence, I think, to see two women like co­bra snakes, do­ing their mes­mer­iz­ing dance to­gether.”

There is no doubt that view­ers will watch Claire and An­nette’s lean-in-with-a-stiletto brand of fem­i­nism in “House of Cards” through the lens of #MeToo, Time’s Up, the Ka­vanaugh hear­ings and the Trump re­sis­tance. Of-the-mo­ment themes of ac­cu­sa­tion and be­lief also an­i­mate “The Ro­manoffs,” in which Lane’s char­ac­ter, Kather­ine Ford, is a pro­fes­sor of Rus­sian lit­er­a­ture whose choices as a wife, mother and fe­male pro­fes­sional are chal­lenged when a fam­ily ac­quain­tance is blamed for a trou­bling bound­ary vi­o­la­tion.

With the tes­ti­mony of an­other Dr. Ford still very much top of mind, Lane has been keenly aware of how her work is over­lap­ping with the zeitgeist in ways that feel both strange and acridly fa­mil­iar. “I re­mem­ber watch­ing ‘The Step­ford Wives’ when it was on TV, back when we had three chan­nels, and it chilled me,” she says, “as did the Anita Hill hear­ings just a few years later. And then there are just so many bench­mark mo­ments . . . . Did you ever put a bat­tery on your tongue? You never for­get that sen­sa­tion. And I feel sort of like, is that the norm now?”

Later, she will at­tend a per­for­mance of the Broad­way play “The Life­span of a Fact” with her 25-year-old daugh­ter, Eleanor, who has de­cided to be­come an ac­tress, too. “I’m so glad she waited to be ready on her own terms,” Lane says. “Be­cause I was hi­jacked.” There’s no bit­ter­ness in her tone, just re­al­ism: Lane’s fa­ther, ac­tor and act­ing coach Burt Lane, raised her in New York af­ter her par­ents di­vorced and her mother, a singer and model named Colleen Far­ring­ton, moved out of the city. (Lane has spo­ken of­ten of rid­ing along when he drove a cab for a liv­ing.)

She com­pares the kismet of her ca­reer to be­ing a toy in an ar­cade claw ma­chine. “I don’t mind it,” she says with a laugh. “I’m very grate­ful and lucky that I can live up to be­ing picked.” If she in­her­ited her mother’s be­guil­ing looks, she also ab­sorbed her fa­ther’s view of act­ing, which he con­sid­ered a near-sa­cred call­ing. Her first pro­fes­sional gig was at La MaMa The­ater at age 6, in an ex­per­i­men­tal pro­duc­tion of “Medea.” When she acted op­po­site Lau­rence Olivier in “A Lit­tle Ro­mance” — at the ripe age of 13 — he pro­nounced her the next Grace Kelly.

She didn’t ex­actly fol­low Kelly’s tra­jec­tory. But then again, Kelly didn’t fash­ion an en­vi­ably re­silient ca­reer over the course of more than 70 movies, TV se­ries and plays. Fa­mously, those didn’t in­clude “Splash,” “Risky Busi­ness” and “Pretty Woman,” all of which Lane passed on. What if she had done one of those in­stead of the near-uni­ver­sally panned “Cot­ton Club” or “Streets of Fire”? She ad­mits to hav­ing har­bored some sec­ond thoughts along the way but, she con­cludes, “Isn’t the road to mad­ness pon­der­ing the road not taken?”

Per­haps the most shock­ing as­pect of Lane’s bi­og­ra­phy is that, even as a vul­ner­a­ble child ac­tress, she was spared the kind of ex­ploita­tion and abuse that the #MeToo move­ment has un­cov­ered over the past year. “I was Burt Lane’s daugh­ter,” she ex­plains sim­ply. “I never knew that the couch was a verb. I’d heard the phrase, but I thought that was some­thing from the 1950s.”

As an adult, she’s also man­aged to carve out a zone of pri­vacy that, in an era of 24/7 celebri­tain­ment and ci­ti­zen pa­parazzi, is vir­tu­ally un­heard-of in Hol­ly­wood. Cur­rently sin­gle, she’s been mar­ried twice, to the ac­tors Christo­pher Lam­bert and Josh Brolin. She suc­ceeded in rais­ing her daugh­ter out­side the pub­lic eye long be­fore stars and their kids be­came a tabloid ob­ses­sion.

“It was just a con­sis­tent way of liv­ing,” she ex­plains. “The peo­ple who get pa­parazzi at­ten­tion all the time are the peo­ple who put them­selves where the pa­parazzi are. It ain’t rocket sci­ence. I lit­er­ally have walked di­rectly in front of pa­parazzi walk­ing my dog, be­cause I’m dressed like a civil­ian. It felt so de­li­cious, it was sort of like a mouse eat­ing a piece of cheese right in front of a cat.”

In­stead, she pur­sued the life of a job­bing ac­tor, ac­cept­ing parts through in­stinct, taste and luck. “I’ve al­ways got that lit­tle fly trap out, try­ing to catch what­ever’s in the wind,” she says. “I throw it at the wall. Old school.” Within a Hol­ly­wood cul­ture where one per­son’s gain is an­other’s mo­tive for jus­ti­fi­able homi­cide, she has adopted a fiercely non­com­pet­i­tive at­ti­tude to­ward her fel­low ac­tresses.

“When I look at films that I’m not in and I see work that I get lost in be­cause it’s so true, my hat’s off to these women so much,” she says. “And very rarely do I feel, ‘I wish I’d done that’ or ‘I would have done it dif­fer­ently.’ I com­pletely lend my­self to the of­fer­ing that’s on the screen or in the the­ater.”

It’s this sense of al­tru­ism that might ex­plain the undy­ing love of Lane’s fe­male fans. “Maybe I got the dose my mother didn’t get,” Lane says philo­soph­i­cally. “She was a great woman, but I think women re­sented her be­cause she was so beau­ti­ful and so ap­peal­ing to the op­po­site sex, and she knew how to play that like a fid­dle. That was her do­main, noth­ing I was ever com­fort­able with. So I’m think­ing, Okay, maybe I got mom’s dose of girl­friends, too. Maybe there’s a mu­tual good­will that some women feel I have for them.”

The Diane Lane Thing, in other words, goes both ways. “I do feel that one women’s suc­cess is a win for the team, be­cause we are col­lec­tively shar­ing in a jour­ney of fur­ther­ing our po­ten­tial,” she says. “So what’s good for the goose is good for the goose.”

MARVIN JOSEPH/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Diane Lane in New York last month. Women “come up to me . . . . They say, ‘I love you.’ ”

BE­LOW: Lane in the sixth and fi­nal sea­son of “House of Cards.” MARVIN JOSEPH/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Diane Lane’s long ca­reer has been marked by canny movies. She’s star­ring in the Net­flix se­ries “House of Cards” and the Matthew Weiner an­thol­ogy se­ries “The Ro­manoffs” on Ama­zon.

DAVID GIESBRECHT/NET­FLIX

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