Diane Lane keeps faith, keeps working

Who needs superstardom? Roles keep coming in

Film

May 12, 2002|By Ron Dicker | Ron Dicker,Special to the Sun

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- It was one of those humbling moments at which a veteran actress might take offense. But not Diane Lane.

Recalls Lane, who stars in the erotic thriller Unfaithful, which opened "Some lady came up to me in yoga class the other day and said, 'I loved you in A Little Romance and I'm glad you're back.'

"Where was I? Out working. My checks clear."

Lane laughs a throaty laugh.

Lane has flirted with fame since her precocious turn as a 13-year-old with Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance (1979). The cover of Time magazine heralded her as Hollywood's next sensation, but some flops have kept her from getting there.

"To stay working, it's probably better not to have that mega-stardom," she says in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. "You can be sure there's a price to pay for that and maybe I'm not willing to pay it."

The 37-year-old Lane's complex performance as an adulteress in Unfaithful could be her biggest bid to break into the short list of actresses. The timing isn't bad either because the film follows two recent movies that boosted her profile for different reasons.

'An extraordinary sexuality'

In A Walk on the Moon (1999) Lane rose above the film's modest indie roots to earn praise as a Catskills-summering wife who falls for a local while her husband works in the city. The Perfect Storm (2000), in which Lane starred as the doomed captain's feisty woman, marked a rare appearance in a bona fide hit. Lane said she was thrilled to be in a movie that everybody saw.

Her last two films, Hardball and The Glass House, opened the weekend after Sept. 11 and were forgotten. Now the New York native will vie for audiences' attention by playing another wandering wife ("It's against type," she assures).

In Unfaithful, Lane's most provocative scene comes after she has strayed for the first time with a French book dealer (Olivier Martinez) in Manhattan. She is on the train returning to her husband (Richard Gere) and son in the suburbs, and lust and regret emanate from her tear-stained face.

"She has an extraordinary sexuality that comes at you," said Adrian Lyne, director of Unfaithful who made another cautionary tale of infidelity, Fatal Attraction.

Lane's resurgence comes at a time of personal upheaval. Her father, Burt Lane, a drama coach who nurtured her career as a tyke, died in February. "I don't have resolution yet," Lane said.

Lane credits her father with imparting a strong work ethic. "I am shocked sometimes at how people who get a zero or two on their paycheck beyond me, how they can not be a positive force on their own movie set. How does that work?"

'I get work'

Disappointment has tested her good will. After starring in two Francis Coppola films about troubled teens, The Outsiders (1983) and Rumble Fish (1983), Lane acted in a couple of 1984 box-office duds, The Cotton Club with Gere and a musical called Streets of Fire. Three years would pass before Lane appeared onscreen again, as a stripper in The Big Town.

Her role as a prostitute in the 1989 TV mini-series Lonesome Dove rejuvenated her career, although she never has quite scaled the A-list summit. "I don't think I've done anything that needs to be recognized more than it was," she says.

Lane has an 8-year-old daughter from her marriage to actor Christopher Lambert, whom she divorced in 1994. Lane described her relationship with her ex as amicable. She's happy to report that she has a new man. She met him in a restaurant and he is in show biz. She won't say more.

Lane has no job lined up but isn't overly concerned. Just because she isn't a household name doesn't mean she has to wonder where her next paycheck is coming from. "I get work," she says. "That's how I get recognition, to get hired again. That's more important to me than getting on the cover of a magazine."

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