UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN - Q&A with DIANE LANE
An Oscar nomination for UNFAITHFUL last year reinforced Diane Lane as a bona fide star, but the radiantly beautiful actress has been a fixture on the big screen for years. Of course, it helps that she made her movie debut at age 13 opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in A LITTLE ROMANCE. Since then, Lane has appeared in literally dozens of films, three of them directed by Francis Ford Coppola - THE OUTSIDERS, RUMBLE FISH and THE COTTON CLUB - and done her share of television work too, including appearing in the popular drama LONESOME DOVE. Now at the age of 38, the New York-born Lane is tackling her biggest role yet as a freshly divorced San Francisco writer who starts a new life in the Italian country in the romantic comedy UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. Sandra Oh plays Lane's best friend and hunky Italian actor Raoul Bova her new love interest in the picturesque, optimistic film, which is probably the next best thing to actually going to Italy oneself. "This isn't a stereotypical woman going to Italy to have an affair with a stereotypical Italian man," says Lane, who's sporting an engagement ring these days from actor Josh Brolin. During a recent break in between films, Lane talked to us about wedding plans, Oscar night and a voice she just can't get out of her head.
When we meet your character in UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN her life is falling apart and she feels completely hopeless. Did you find that easy to relate to?
Yes, the character felt very close to my heart. Having gone through a divorce earlier in my own life, I can tell you that the experience can make you very insecure because you build up a life with this other person and you believe in the whole thing and then it all goes away. But I had a child [Lane's daughter Eleanor is now 10] and she was a great gift to help me heal and get on with my life. My character in this film isn't a parent and doesn't have anywhere to channel her affection and attention. She has to leave and start from scratch in a place where she doesn't even speak the language and knows no one.
That's a pretty radical step for anyone to take, isn't it?
Well in a way that's the fairy tale of the movie - and we can all live vicariously through what she's going through to heal her broken heart, drawing on all these people who come into her life and all of their stories. I think it's a nice time in history when at least some women have the money and the freedom to do things like go to a foreign land and start over. I've done plenty of period pieces where a woman's emotional life wasn't the priority - it was all about the laundry and bathing the children. It's very rare to find a role that allows you to go through so many emotions and gives you so much to do as an actress.
What kind of difference does it make to you that this film was written and directed by a woman [Audrey Wells]?
It was refreshing for me, because it seemed rather pure in the sense that this really was a female experience told through a female's eyes. I do feel it was a gift for me as an actress, having just come off UNFAITHFUL, which was very much the male perspective of a female's experience. I was ready to cleanse the palette and take on a straightforward, unapologetic female point of view, adding the humor and awkwardness of what it's like to be female and want a man but not have one.
What can you tell us about the man your character does meet in the film?
Raoul Bova plays Marcello, who at first seems to perpetuate all the stereotypes you expect from an Italian lover. So here are these two characters having what one would hope would be an independent meeting of the minds, but all this cultural prejudice is placed on them so they're forced to deal with it right there in the dialogue. I found that humorous and very refreshing, and I thought Raoul did a marvelous job of not being too cavalier or two-dimensional, but having a huge heart and being sensitive to the fact that real people's feelings are involved here.
Making a movie in Italy sounds like a bit of a dream. Was it?
Everyone romanticizes the idea of being in Tuscany for three months, but let me tell you - I was very homesick in Tuscany. I was very much in love, in the most romantic place in the world, and I couldn't be with him. And my daughter was in school so I couldn't be with her. So I was very torn. It wasn't Tuscany that made me do the movie. If anything, it was the hardest part about the whole experience because it's hard to concentrate when you're in paradise. But Josh [Brolin] came over with the kids and we had Thanksgiving dinner on a rooftop. Audrey Wells, the director, also has this big maternal instinct and she provided an amazing feast for those who wanted it. So when the kids came to visit, we went to Florence and we walked at night and got to see the architecture and history of the place. But I have to say that I felt more there reading Frances Mayes' book than being there filming the movie because I didn't get to go out and see very much. I'd like to go back someday and really experience the place.
Sorry, we can't help but notice the amazing ring you're wearing. Is it an engagement ring?
Yes. Josh designed it, which is the real beautiful thing about it. It's about five times the size I would've ever dreamed of wearing on my hand [laughs] and whenever I look at it, I think of the headdress that Kate Hepburn wore in LION IN WINTER. I often wonder if I should tell him that, but there never seems to be a good time.
Have you set a date for the wedding?
We have the season - we're waiting for the spring - but that's as far as we've gotten because between us we have three children, three different schools, so it's a lot of planning. But I doubt we'll have a big wedding because we like our privacy and it would be too complicated to have all the people we'd like to have, so we'll have a relatively traditional ceremony with relatives and then have a big party for everybody afterwards.
Speaking of privacy, how strange is it for you to have so many people interested in your personal life all of a sudden?
It's interesting because Josh and I were together for a year when I got the Oscar nomination for UNFAITHFUL and suddenly I had to do all this publicity and walk down these red carpets, and you have to have a date and he was my man, so naturally people would ask about our relationship. And now I find myself having to talk about us as much as the work I do, and it's not so fun anymore. I like to keep that side of my life private, so maybe in the future I won't subject us to that anymore. Besides, red carpets tend to make me feel overwhelmed and sometimes give me slight anxiety attacks.
What was your experience at the Academy Awards?
Because of what was going on in the world at the time, there were no red carpet interviews this year, so there was none of that frenzy. I didn't have to spend an hour and a half talking to everybody. I was able to go right to the ceremony and skip all that pain. I mean, what can you say for an hour and a half? But people do love to watch the parade of Hollywood royalty and I love it too. I mean, who dresses like that? It's over-the-top and it's just a parade of fashion. So in that sense, it's Cinderella time.
Career-wise, how has the Oscar nomination affected you?
There's always a finite amount of roles for women around but there's an infinite number of actresses who want the job, are appropriate for the job, could do the job, whatever. So I moved up the list, as it were, and am now able to see things a bit earlier or even hear about them rather than just sort of seeing the movie come out and thinking, "I didn't even know about that script. Why didn't I know about it? Why didn't I at least have a shot at it?" So it's a very pleasant thing to be able to have more choice rather than just be grateful for employment because statistically speaking, I'm an anomaly and even in my union, very few women are working. So in case I'm peaking right now, I'm enjoying it and trying to make the most of it.
So have you decided on a next project?
Yes, I found a script that I love very much but it doesn't have a director attached to it. It's for two women, two equal parts, which will be a break from all the European lovemaking that I've been doing, that everybody thinks is in my contract now! It's a psychological thriller that's very different from the things I've been doing. The frame of reference is not all about love and marriage and all of those issues.
Talking about taking on different roles, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN marks the first time you've had solo billing above the title. What kind of pressure does that place on you as a performer?
I am feeling a lot of pressure. In the past, if a film didn't do well I could always say it was nothing to do with me. But this is nervous-making. The good news is I've never been in a film that's been so well taken care of by its studio in terms of promotion and I feel very grateful that it's getting the amount of attention that it's due. The bad news is all of my excuses have been eliminated.
So after so many films, what keeps you motivated?
I'd say the voice of my late father inside my head because he dreamed bigger for me than I dreamed for myself. So sometimes I let him win. I could easily live a much simpler, humbler life and be really lazy and be OK with that, but this voice won't stand for it. You know, I have to get out there and keep trying.
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