In her latest romantic comedy, Something’s Gotta Give, Oscar winner Diane Keaton plays a divorcee torn between Jack Nicholson and Keanu Reeves, but ultimately desperate to love again since her divorce. While in the movies, Keaton’s character may long for Happily Ever After, the never married actress is content being a perpetually single mother. Comfortably ensconced in a New York hotel room, the still beautiful 57-year old is likened to the late Katherine Hepburn who lived much of her later life alone.
“I think that Katharine Hepburn, on the other hand, was completely devoted to Spencer Tracy for her entire life, so I think that in that and in so many regards, we had entirely different lives, emotionally wise.” Not that she hasn’t craved that lifelong companionship that defined much of Hepburn’s life and admits to having fallen for the odd leading man. “Well, I think that when you’re acting, you do.” But no longer is that likely, she insists. “Oh, I think that’s probably not going to happen.” Keaston scoffs at suggests that she and co-star Jack Nicholson had something of a fling, and even laughs at the notion, “not for either one of us. I mean, we work together and we’re a good team.”
Keaton is as happy playing mother to her two children, three-year old Duke and eight-year old Dexter. “Motherhood has completely changed me. It’s just about like the most completely humbling experience that I’ve ever had. I think that it puts you in your place because it really forces you to address the issues that you claim to believe in and if you can’t stand up to those principles when you’re raising a child, forget it. I mean, we can all sit here and talk, but it’s another thing to act that way in your life. So, I think that children are completely challenging and completely intoxicating. I’m completely in love with my kids, but I also realize that I have to try and be a better person everyday. I have to wake up and say, ‘Okay, use your brain, and not your impulses,’ because all my life, I’ve used my impulses and not my brains, a lot.”
Children, she adds, are also challenging “in the sense that you have to really be careful about how you give your love, what you expect in return, and your own selfishness. You have to be on guard for things like this, and I think that it’s sort of like, when you’re in love with a man and you fall into that, you’re so demanding.” Keaton admits that pre-motherhood, she had always been “such a horribly demanding person, expecting men to constantly think that I’m engaging or all of those things that are just deadly for a relationship. So my feeling is that with children, you really have to be your best self, always, and be honest.” Asked if she would consider marriage now, she smiles slightly. “Well you know, I wouldn’t rule it out, but at the same time, I do not see that in my future. I mean, there’s a certain point in your life where you can’t help it, you’re biologically charged and driven towards the opposite sex. You dream about men, you love them, you’re excited by it, and I don’t feel that way now. There’s a kind of freeing aspect to that, but I do believe in love.”
As to many of her romantic characters on screen. In Something’s Gotta Give, Keaton’s character falls in love with a much younger doctor, played by a charming Keanu Reeves. Keaton says that while such a relationship is possible, “I do think that she’s someone different than me other than the turtleneck she wears”, she adds laughingly. Yet there were aspects of her that could relate to, “because I think that these are the problems that a lot of women in their mid-fifties face; will you ever be in love again, have you cut yourself off from any kind of real intimacy, what is it like to reveal yourself, the most horrifying thing of all, will you be accepted, could you be loved, and all of these things. That’s a very dangerous territory for us.”
The movie also addresses the fear that we have of intimacy, as well as the agist aspects of relationships, arguing that when we’re afraid of intimacy, it’s easier to choose a younger man or woman. “I think that it really addresses the things that we’re most afraid of. I don’t think that men are different from women or that women are not so different from men about this issue of intimacy. I just have to keep going back to the core and think that we’re all afraid of it and when we’re afraid of it, you run to something much easier, something that looks like candy. It’s like: ‘Yeah,’ but it doesn’t really give you the substance that you’re looking for, really, in your best self. So, I don’t think that it’s like saying that it’s bad one way or the other. I think that this movie is just about can two very complicated people really give. It’s about giving.” The film also satirises what we call the Hollywood norm. “I don’t think that Nancy [Meyers] is afraid of making fun of all of us, herself included. I mean, I’m just an uptight little control freak in this movie who never has been in love. What does that say about someone? She’s just been guided by her goals in her life, this successful, oriented, smart woman.”
Some 40 films after Keaton’s splash in The Godfather films and Woody Allen’s early classics, the actress never looks back at her career. “I don’t really want to go back there. I’d rather just keep it in my mind as a memory and life goes on. I’m not going to sit there and look at myself.” Yet she does at least concede that for the most part, she has become more comfortable as an actress over the years. “My feeling was that nothing was expected of me. I was a very normal, average, ordinary person, and no one expected or looked at me and went, ‘Oh, she’s got a future.’ So, I think that everything has just been a slow, steady persistence on my part and because I got opportunities, I used them as best as I could with the tools that I have such as they are.”
Keaton insists that she is tailor-made for comedy and her tools were always pre-designed for that, never for drama. “I’m limited, so, I kind of know where I fit as an actress. I kind of get it now, finally, after all of these years of trying to be a dramatic actress. I kind of think that’d I’d like to continue dealing with these things in a funny, lighter vein, but also truthful and honest.” It is comedy that gave Keaton unanimous recognition, not to mention an Oscar, for 1977’s Annie Hall. Keaton recalls that night with laughter. “My memory was of just being shocked because it was very peculiar. I didn’t that there was a chance in hell that I could win for a comic performance and I was up against really heavy hitters like Jane Fonda. It just didn’t seem quite right, but it was great.”
Keaton says that she “would like to do a musical comedy, and I would like to direct more.”Asked what advice she would give to young actors enjoying similar early success, Keaton simply says: “Oh, you know what I’d say, work, more work. Work as much as you can. Don’t be precious”.