“I was a complete anomaly,” says Diane Lane. “It was almost like a freak show to see a kid in the movies in the ’70s, and now it’s all kids.”
Yes, back in 1979, Lane was featured on the cover of Time magazine and christened one of Hollywood’s “Whiz Kids.” She’d just made her Broadway debut at the age of 12 in The Cherry Orchard opposite Meryl Streep when film icon Laurence Olivier fought with producers to get her out of her theatrical obligations so he could cast her in A Little Romance. Olivier, as is his wont, got his way, and after working with Lane christened her “the new Grace Kelly.”Lane went on to star as the lone ballsy female in Francis Ford Coppola’s testosterone-fueled teen flicks The Outsiders and Rumble Fish before seguing to more adult roles, earning a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her turn as an unfulfilled housewife who embarks on a steamy affair with a sexy Frenchman in Unfaithful.
Her latest film is Every Secret Thing. Directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Amy Berg, Lane stars as Helen Manning, the mother of a young girl, Alice (Danielle Macdonald), who’s—along with her alleged accomplice, Ronnie (Dakota Fanning)—hauled off to jail at a young age for a heinous crime. When she’s released seven years later, another young girl goes missing, and the two young women are the prime suspects.
The Daily Beast spoke with Lane about her new film and storied career, including her highly publicized—and ultimately canceled—turn as Hillary Clinton in the four-part NBC miniseries Hillary.
How did you get involved with Every Secret Thing? I’m a Frances McDormand fan, and it was her connection as a producer on it that sparked my interest first. And then I read the book, which was a fun, unexpected read. You get to see behind the scenes of mass confusion in the justice system. Nicole Holofcener, who wrote the screenplay, was going to direct it at one point, so I met with her and I’m a fan of hers, and then we hit a lot of snags with our schedules, so Fran found Amy [Berg] to direct, who was just this wunderkind. For me, the territory of this character was fascinating because I felt that her failure as a mother was the first domino in how such a horrible crime could take place, and the ensuing drama of the girls coming out of incarceration as adults. How do you look for a job? It’s all rather daunting.
This is a much darker turn—and film—for you. I remember around the time of Nights of Rodanthe you’d been vocal about your frustration with being typecast as a sunny character.
Well, yeah. Opportunity is key. They don’t make a lot of these, for whatever reason. I just thought it was a breath of fresh air to allow for the female experience to have nothing to do with the prerequisite sympathetic or nurturing presumptions. That’s a mask that we want to see. I understand a lot of people want to go and believe in fairytales, and that’s great and a big part of the entertainment industry, but there are other appetites that are more interested in the psychology. From my point of view, playing someone like this is definitely more of a hurdle—and also not, in a way. After so many years of being rather sunny, as you say, it’s refreshing to examine what’s not so “popular” about what exists in people.
Every Secret Thing is also a Hollywood rarity in that it’s almost entirely made by women. It’s written by Nicole Holofcener, directed by Amy Berg, stars you, Dakota Fanning, and Danielle Macdonald. Hell, even the lead detective in the film is a woman, played by Elizabeth Banks.
Yeah! And Laura Lippman wrote the book, too. I don’t think it was intended that way, but I think there’s a need for society to not just keep the female experience in the narrow confines of what’s appealing. Only living on candy is not a good thing, you know?
I totally agree. Now, I want to talk about Hillary, the aborted NBC miniseries that was supposed to air sometime in 2014 and star you as Hillary Clinton. What story was it going to tell?
It was going to start with the Monica Lewinsky morning-after. Waking up to that news had to be quite a morning in their house! And then it continued on until she was embarking on her presidential bid.
It seems pretty prescient, given that the series was green-lit back in 2013 and Hillary only recently declared she’d be running for POTUS in 2016.
Well… I remember going with my daughter to sit down and vote for a woman [in the 2008 primary], because I never knew that the opportunity would present itself again—just so she’d have the experience as a young person to say that it happened. And hopefully for her, it will become a commonplace option.
Why do you think it was canceled? I read stories about NBC receiving pressure from the Republican National Committee, who’d voted to boycott NBC during the 2016 presidential primary debates when Hillary was announced.
You know, I suspect that it’s possible that nobody wanted to fathom that a film could impact the psyche of the demographics who would be potential voters—meaning in one direction or another. I think it became about, “Wow, are we going to make a ‘pro’ or an ‘anti’ film?” “Are we going to elucidate aspects that will detract from the more important issues, or are we going to create speculation about things that are distracting from the agenda of the future of our country?” I do think there was cause for concern, because honestly, does anyone want to be a grain of sand tipping the scale in either direction? Only in hindsight can we guess the impact of media on the mentality of the voting body.
It was going to be a pretty positive portrayal of Hillary though, right?
I never got to see the final script. We only created an outline that was to be filled in, but we never got to the point that there was an actual screenplay. We did have an outline, though. I mean her whole life, depending on your opinion, is a positive or a negative. Are you anti things that she’s done or what she represents, or are you pro what she represents and the things that she’d done? But the one thing that I don’t think they can take away from Hillary is her experience. That’s a different conversation, but as far as that project, it was a fun, exciting, risk-taking moment for me to allow them to announce! It was so much larger than the project already; it was so unwieldy. I think we all were spared—everyone involved!
The first thing I ever saw you in was The Outsiders. Half of ’80s Hollywood is in that movie, and yours is really the only prominent female role.
It’s so interesting because it was all for the love of a woman. It’s like Helen of Troy, in a sense. What women represent to the male is, historically, a big burden. It’s a lovely dream but it’s the stuff of literature, art, and everything. Living up to what the male psyche projects onto the female is the stuff of books. You’d need a lot more than an interview to go into it! But at the time it was really the only film besides Bugsy Malone that was an art film for teenagers. It went deeper.
Tom Cruise must’ve taken a liking to you on that film, because I read that he asked you to star in Risky Business with him while you two were shooting The Outsiders.
That’s true. That’s true. My Dad was like, “There’s no way you’re playing a prostitute for that guy.” He said that?!
But then you almost played a prostitute later in Pretty Woman.
Oh, yeah. But that was a very different film, you have to understand. It was a movie called 3000, and it was a dark, dark psychological drama about a delusional prostitute who gets kicked out of a limousine at the end of the movie. They took that film and they dignified it, you know? She was not getting any jewelry. She might’ve for the weekend, but it was Cinderella-time.
So the version of Pretty Woman you’d signed onto was about a rich asshole playing mind games with a prostitute and convincing her that he loved her, only to kick her to the curb?
Correct. And every actress in town was auditioning in her underwear for that movie. It was a very uncomfortable time for everyone. Auditioning for Pretty Baby was pretty bad, too. It was a screen test, and I hated it. I get uncomfortable in my body now just remembering it. The fact that you go on meetings and hope you don’t get the part is always an awkward time.
How have you managed to stay relevant in this pretty sexist industry that tends to cast aside women of a certain age?
Part of that is the psyche I was talking about earlier that men project and filter the female experience through. I was watching a documentary awhile back about pedophilia—at least I thought it was going to be about that—and it turned out that the males of our species invariably go for the youngest opportunity because, in our DNA, that meant you could have the most babies for longer. I don’t take it personally anymore. I think it’s a default, and leftover. It’s like our fingernails; we don’t use them for much anymore.
I gotta ask about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, because the trailer came out recently and everyone lost their shit. Oh, that’s done. We shot that last year. I’m Martha Kent again. I’m not really allowed to talk about it! It’s one of those movies. Scenes were redacted! It was very hush-hush. I don’t even know a lot of the movie myself! I didn’t participate in a lot of green screen, though. My scenes were very earthbound, and normal.
Did you get to observe Ben Affleck as Batman? People are very curious how he’ll be as the Dark Knight.
Oh, yeah. It certainly impressed the hell outta me! I thought he was brilliantly cast. I love Ben, and I worked with him years ago on a film called Hollywoodland, and he played the actor playing Superman in that! It’s all so confusing and incestuous and curious, the trail that actors wander through in the course of their careers and how stories overlap. It’s funny.