What does one do in Hell? Well, if you’re up to atoning for your sins with a little brutal punishment, you might check out Under the Tuscan Sun. It’s a cinematic beating that will leave you with two black eyes and a couple of broken ribs. I ducked out of its massive weight. I can only be punched in the nuts so many times before I pass out, hitting the floor in a flaccid heap.
The fallen angel Mormos, on the other hand, digs pain. He went to see this heavy-handed flick and left its vicious ways with a smile. He’s now using it as a torture device for newcomers that haven’t yet adjusted to the heat down here. He likes the movie, but he’s a sadist. (Check out my review HERE.)
Last week, I sent Mormos topside to interview Diane Lane. This is what he came back with…
OI: What appealed to you most about this role? It was obviously right after Unfaithful...Was it the story? The location?
DL: Everyone likes to joke and assume it was the location. It was actually very hard and bad for me to be away from home for three months. Any way you slice it. My daughter was starting fourth grade. I’d just started a relationship. The last thing I wanted to do was be in the most romantic place in the world and, at the same time, be missing everybody. It was not really a plus for me to be that far away. It was a fourteen-hour plane ride back home. But, when I met with Audrey Wells (the director) for the first time, and I got the script, I knew it was going to be a big exhale for me. It was so antithetical to Unfaithful. It was about hope rather than about something scary. It was not a cautionary tale, but more of an encouraging tale. I loved the fact that I was going to be working for a woman. As contrast to working with the very male mindset of Adrian Lyne and the male perspectives placed upon myself, me as an actress, the character I was playing, the fact that I was the villainess in the film, and how I could compensate for that in Unfaithful. It was a lot. This was really a breath of fresh air for me, selfishly, as an actress. Also, I wanted to see the movie. That’s a good sign. I liked the story. I knew that if I saw the movie, I’d feel all nice inside. Which is rare. They don’t seem to make enough movies like this for my taste. They make just enough every year. You do get one of these. And I wanted to be in something like this, because it seemed very rewarding to me.
OI: There are a lot of signs and omens in the film. Do you take notice of these in your own life, or believe in anything like that?
DL: Definitely. Especially in hindsight. Sometimes, I’ll see these things at least once a week. Usually, I’ll think that, if a person with a crystal ball had of told me what was going to occur, I would have bet the house that it wouldn’t happen. And I’d be gladly wrong.
OI: You think those signs are there; you just have to watch for them?
DL: Yeah. I think they’re there. And I think that staying grumpy whilst waiting for one’s wish list to procure itself in life, that's...What did I say? It’s about letting go and letting God. I know that sounds really corny. I think there’s actually a book called that. But, that’s my character’s dilemma. It’s funny. When we try to force our hand with the cards that are dealt to us, when we try to swap out our cards and get a better hand...We’re not the best person to be playing God in our own lives. Getting comfortable with awkward times is the key to getting to the end quicker and moving on to something more desirable.
OI: Were you familiar with the book before you got involved with this project?
DL: Not before. I was actually instructed by Audrey not to read it. But I didn’t listen. I was so curious. It was a best seller. She said, "Look. If you crack it open, I can’t blame you. But, know there is nothing for you to mine from the material as an actress because I had to create an entire screenplay." It’s a completely different medium. What makes a book work and what makes a film work is not necessarily the same thing. One is very plot driven, and one is much more internally experienced. I felt like I was in Tuscany more while reading the book that Francis wrote, than actually being in Tuscany. I was stuck on a movie set. I just wanted to go be in bloody Tuscany. I want to go back one day and experience it. The book was great for that. There was no conflict, or crisis, or character arc in the book. There was no resolution. Except for the house being a metaphor for life.
OI: Had you met the author before making the movie?
DL: Not before.
OI: But you’ve met her since?
DL: Oh, yeah. She’s lovely. She was out; busy, promoting Swan at that time. I’d met Ed earlier on (the author’s husband). He was in town. They’re great. I got to have dinner at their house. It seemed like the easiest thing in the whole world. She really does cook like that (Diane’s character cooks a lot of Italian food in the film). When I grow up, and I get a life, and I’m her age, I plan on knowing all these things too. That, again, was a difference in the story. We see my character meet Ed at the end, to set us up for what we imagine will be the book in essence. It’s sort of a prequel to the book in a way.
OI: Do you feel that you are, at heart, a romantic?
DL: Yeah. Scary, but true. Very much so. I look for it. I crave it. It’s out there to be found. There was a time in my life when I was resentful of all things romantic. It wasn’t in my repertoire of what I was going through at the time. I didn’t want to hear about how happy everybody was. "How nice for you." I understand that attitude, completely. But now, yes, I’m a romantic.
OI: You said that you just started a romance. You’re in Tuscany. Could your boyfriend not make it over there?
DL: He came twice, but he was making Mr. Sterling at the time. He was sort of parenting with his daughter, and staying in LA with my daughter because of my absence. It was a very guilt ridden time for me. He was basically being a knight in shining armor, getting it all done in my absence. I think I came home nine days before Christmas. There’s no pressure there. You hit the ground running with jetlag. I would have loved to have had a month just to prepare, but Christmas doesn’t wait. And I have a bigger family now, too.
OI: Did being away from your family help in creating this character?
DL: It did help. Yeah. I didn’t sleep very much during the making of this movie because of the slowness of email. And being on-line. By the time I got that done, my daughter would be home from school. Then I’d get on the phone with her. Then I figured I might as well check in with "so and so." By that time it was two in the morning. And I had to get up at six-thirty.
OI: How old is your daughter?
DL: She just turned ten. I’m in denial. Did you just see how long it took me to figure out how old she is? Two digits.
OI: Does she have any aspirations of being an actress?
DL: I don’t think so. Every girl does. To that degree she does. But not any more so because of me. I think I’ve tried to give her a more realistic appreciation of things. She’s a writer. That’s her main thing. You have to show up for some things in person, but for the most part you get to do it at home. That’s nice.
OI: Have you ever had to remodel a house with these types of frustrations?
DL: Oh, yeah. In Georgia, Paris, Santa Fe, and a pretty big project here in Los Angeles, too.
OI: Were the workmen that colorful?
DL: You do, inevitably, become sort of close with the people that are in your home, seeing you and your house in such disarray. You better choose wisely when you hire, because you’re going to bond whether you like it or not. And they’re still very close family friends, in my experience. Their son is 21 and graduating West Point. When I met him, he was seven. It’s funny how that works.
OI: So, it’s not a bunch of guys with plumber’s crack?
DL: Not so much.
OI: Are there any projects that you are working on currently, or down the road?
DL: Yes. There are two. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to do them. It’s kind of a Rubik’s Cube. There’s a lot more involved than just me and my daughter. Now, I want to be home even more. I’m in that Los Angeles demographic of actresses.
OI: What do you "want" to do next?
DL: Wow. I know what you mean. I would just like to play a real irreverent bitch. Someone that doesn’t care about being popular, that doesn’t care about being sympathetic. An evil queen. Something like that. It would be fun. I want to be the bad guy. I could do it on horses. I’d be in a western. Maybe a Bostonian one, where it’s not the West, but it’s around the same time in history. I wouldn’t do any caveman ones. I don’t want to go that far back in time. I feel like I did because of the Greek Tragedies, but that was theater.
OI: Has a lot changed because of the Academy Award nomination?
DL: No, except people get to ask me that question. The publicity that came out of that affected the grocery store checkout line. I’m standing there, and someone will say, "You look like Diane Lane." I tell them, "Yeah, I get that a lot." It’s better than being called Diane Ladd. I had ten years of that. I’m out of that now.
OI: Are the roles getting better?
DL: The roles are what they are. It’s like, where’s your name on the list? There’s a finite amount of work, and an infinite amount of actresses. In a sense, I get to know about the scripts a little sooner. And I have an element of choice in what I do, instead of being grateful to be employed at all, which is the majority of my union. It’s definitely gotten better. Now I feel more accountable. Before, it was like, "I don’t write them!" Now I feel more responsible for what I run myself through. That’s a nice problem to have.
OI: The easiest way to stay close to your family would be to take a TV series. Would you consider something like that?
DL: I’ve learned not to say "never." Because as soon as you do...I can’t imagine it, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it.
OI: Would you prefer doing comedy or drama if you did something like that?
DL: Oh, I’d love to be funny. Who doesn’t want to be funny? That would be very desirable to be funny and get paid for it. They say it’s one of the hardest things.
OI: It seemed like they could build a sitcom out of when your character was in that divorce hotel.
DL: That is hilarious. It was fun. There was an awful lot of opportunity for some comedy in there. I’m glad. I’d love to see it with a real audience. Civilian versus us. Then I could actually hear the responses. Maybe I’ll sneak into one of those someday.
OI: How method are you? You really looked like you were struggling over that divorce. That didn’t look like it was make-up. It looked like you’d actually been crying all night. How did you get to that point?
DL: Staying out all night. That would have been great. But usually, an hour later, an actress is supposed to look her best. It’s one of those things.
OI: It looked really real. Not that you could ever be ugly. You just looked like you’d been run through the mill.
DL: Yeah. That wasn’t make-up. That was just your basic shattered. "I want you shattered!" I can do that. I can do that. Thank you. I missed the question?
OI: If that wasn’t make-up, how did you get to that place?
DL: I don’t know. I feel like we’re going into territory about how the actor does what they do. I find that incredibly boring. It’s worse than hearing about how some old card trick is done. I don’t know. Every day, you read a script, and you see those moments that demand to be filled in emotionally. It will be just some small sentence. She’ll be sitting on the sofa, but you know that she’s gone through some stuff. I remember this one time...I don’t remember what movie it was, but it was left very open. It didn’t specify that she’d been crying. I got to the set, and they’re like, "You’re going to be crying, right?" And I’m like, "Oh, excuse me while I go in my trailer and flog myself." Because it was written in a way that I didn’t see that. Never again. Now, I have to really look for those scenes and see that. I don’t want the directors telling me that in advance. I was young.
OI: Your father recently passed away. He was also an acting teacher, am I correct?
DL: I think, technically, that’s accurate. He did run a workshop, and they did go over the craft of acting very extensively. This was during the fifties.
OI: What did he teach you?
DL: I remember my dad talking about it...Not a whole lot. I came across some early clippings where he was quoted. He found young actors falling into a trap of, "If you’re sad, you play sad." And that’s not what goes on. Actually, people are so busy trying to cover up the fact that they’re sad, and that, in fact, creates something else. There’s all this internal conflict about concealing how one actually feels, and how we present ourselves to the world in a certain way. That was my father’s one-liner on what he thought was missing from a lot of the acting that he saw. He was very into explaining to me a strong work ethic. That one bad apple on a set, or in a theater company, could bring everybody down. And that people with an ego can really make it about themselves. Suddenly, it takes the mind off the job at hand. In that sense, he made me a team player, through the theater years, too. He made a lot of jokes; "I gave you a short name so it would look bigger on the marquee." Things like that. It’s embarrassing.
OI: One last question. I’ve heard that you’re a big shoe fan.
DL: What website did this come from? I’ve had this question more than one time today. Here’s the deal. I remember going to sleep in my mother’s closet, because it was a cool place to go to sleep on the floor. When you’re little, things seem huge. She had shoes from the floor to the ceiling. It was a walk in closet in New York City. I’d look up at those shoes, and I’d smell the leather...And I think I got a bit of a thing from it. You know? I used to think, "One day, when I grow up, I’ll have shoes too." So, yes, I'm guilty of that. I think my mom had more than me. My daughter likes to...It will probably be contagious to her, and that's okay.
OI: Do you have a favorite pair?
DL: In the Eighties, I had this pair of shoes that I held onto for so long, they didn’t fit anymore. Because your feet keep growing all your life. They had peacock fathers on the heel. It was so eighties. It’s really embarrassing. But, I gave them all away. Because, when you carry a child, your feet do grow. So I had to give all my shoes away, which I loved, to friends with smaller feet.
Dont't forget to also check out: Under the Tuscan Sun