Diane Lane: A Career with a View

Diane Lane, an actress who's hardly 30 but has been on screen for 16 years, shows us her slick L.A. aerie and gives us a tour of some interesting Tinseltown terrain while she's at it.

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In the kitchen of her lushly teched-out condominium high above the streets of Los Angeles. Diane Lane is sneaking a smoke. Looking miraculously teenage in a gauzy white button-down shirt and baggy jeans, the 30-year-old Lane puffs greedily before cupping the cigarette behind her back. Who is it she's keeping an eye out for? Her daughter, Eleanor--a militant unit-smoker who, at age two, could burst in at any moment. Lane checks the marinara sauce she's poured out of a bottle into a pot on the stove, and exhales a plume. "These days, this is my idea of a party." she says, rolling her eyes.

This looks like the home of someone who likes to throw parties," I say. Lane responds, "I never entertain here. I've never even fixed a meal here. Ever, I'm not kidding." Suddenly stubbing out her cigarette, she decides that the marinara sauce is likely to be a disaster and proceeds to phone a local pizza joint that delivers. In the meantime, she opens up a bottle of wine. Not just any bottle, either. It's a claret from Francis Ford Coppola's own vineyard, a gift from the director of three of Lane's best early films, Rumble Fish ('83), The Outsiders ('83) and The Cotton Club ('84) and of the new film Jack, which Lane has just completed.

It's interesting to talk to Lane in this domestic setting, because her home, in a luxe building that looks nothing like the funky-elegant Chateau Marmont but rivals it for number of stars who have been in residence, is as much a statement as it is a domicile. Lane spent a good chunk of her childhood living in run-down residential hotels while her father eked out a living as an acting coach in Manhattan. She remembers threadbare sheets, him rooms, and countertops that never seemed to come completely clean regardless of how hard she scrubbed. Hence, "I have the prerequisite showplace apartment," she admits. "It's a mentality that I inherited from the older set. You know, that a certain amount of acquisition is fundamentally acceptable once you have a certain amount of money." I gaze around the dance-room floor of a living room, with its wraparound view of Los Angeles and remote-controlled black-out curtains, "I haven't gone crazy or anything," she laughs, "But this is nice."

As Lane takes me on a tour of her home, I realize that while these rooms are almost devoid of the expected trappings from a 16-year movie career, they are an unwitting museum of her failed marriage to Christopher Lambert, with whom she bought the place. We start out in the office, a converted bedroom with matching wooden desks, a PowerBook that Lane doesn't know how to use (her assistant docs), and stunning Hurrell portraits of Joan Crawford, Veronica Lake and James Cagney. The thing Lane takes pains to show me is a pair of boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali. "You can never write off talent as long as you stay swinging," she says somberly, perhaps speaking as much about the ups and downs of her own career as anyone else's. "I remember when Muhammad Ali got the championship bell for not going down. He didn't win that fight, but, God, everybody loved him. That's what probably inspired Raging Bull to get made."

In the adjacent living room is a seven-foot high cabinet made from tiny slices of inlaid wood in star patterns, "I bought this at an antique store in Buenos Aires where Christopher was making Highlander XII or something." Lane says, hinting that it was incredibly expensive and acquired during a period of marital pique, "It was made by a Japanese craftsman for a wealthy Argentines family--or at least that's what the dealer told me. If I was a guy and into cars, this would he my Testosteroni or whatever." On a shell of the cabinet are tchotchkes, one of which is a little metal frog. "That was always my metaphor for Christopher," says Lane. "It was charming at the time; now it just seems ugly."

At the far end of the living room is a wooden chair that is probably the gaudiest sitting apparatus I have ever laid eyes on. It's basically a small throne that's been festooned with shards of glass and many pieces of what seems to be costume jewelry. "This chair is bizarre, totally frivolous," Lane says, suggesting I try it out, letting me discover for myself that it is supremely uncomfortable. "It looks like a warlock throne or something, the kind of thing that Dorian Gray would sit in. This was from a jewelry shop, and they said that the chair used to protect the place. But then they got robbed and wanted to sell it. Christopher bought that line. And he bought the chair." She gives me a last-straw expression. "But they didn't sell chairs there. They sold jewelry. He should have bought me earrings, and instead we got this."

As long as we are on the subject of Lambert, what, I ask Lane, went wrong in her marriage? It seemed, after all, like a pretty classic show-biz union--the European hunk hooking up with the American starlet, resulting in the making of dubious movies (_Knight Moves_, Priceless Beauty) and adorable progeny. Lane pilots her way over to a '30s style couch, sits down and says, "I think I need to talk to my shrink about this first, but, sure, let's give it a shot." She hesitates, then shoots. "I'm still trying to figure out what didn't happen. Christopher keeps himself very, very busy. He's one of those people who can't stand to be alone; the meeting, for him, is everything. At first that was all quirky and romantic and a little bit of a challenge. Then it became my life. We were always living for the future or making up for the past. I mean, Christopher would be very romantic about flying to Japan where I was working. We would have a couple of wines in the hotel bar and he would leave 36 hours later." She adopts the expression of one who has mistakenly gulped a glass of vodka that she thought was water. "I was like, Please don't."

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