Diane Lane: Lane Changes

Diane Lane has been riding the crest of a career upswing since last years A Walk on the Moon. Her leading role in Wolfgang Petersen's hotly anticipated The Perfect Storm could be one more step on the way to becoming the star she's deserved to be for more than two decades.

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The Santa Monica coffeehouse where Diane Lane and I meet is fresh out of her chosen elixir, the Tension Tamer, but no matter, Lane's plenty mellow without it. With over two decades of Hollywood experience notched on her belt, it would take a lot to get her rattled anyway.

Lane made a luminous film debut at age 14 in A Little Romance and went on to star as a teen in three Francis Ford Coppola movies-- The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club. She was easily the most beautiful girl of the era and the most gifted, too. But in 1984, when she was 19, she fled Hollywood and didn't resurface for several years. It took a while for her to reestablish herself (and it could be argued that she's rarely gotten the roles she's deserved), but in 1987 she was rewarded with an Emmy nomination for her performance in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Since then, her career has suffered more than its share of missed opportunities and missteps--1995's Judge Dredd would be one of the latter--but at 35, with & six-year-old daughter, Eleanor (by ex-husband Christopher Lambert), and a good deal of professional respect, she's a true Hollywood survivor. And right now she's on a roll. It started a year ago with A Walk on the Moon, in which she turned in some career-peak work as a '60s housewife whose soul is revitalized when she has an affair with sexy clothing salesman Viggo Mortensen. The family drama she starred in earlier this year, My Dog Skip, was a tear-jerking gem, and she was heartbreakingly beautiful and persuasive in TNT's The Virginian. This summer, Lane stars in The Perfect Storm, director Wolfgang Petersen's much-anticipated adaptation of the best-selling true story of a group of fishermen caught in one of the century's worst storms.

DENNIS HENSLEY: First off, I hope you're happy. I just saw My Dog Skip and I sobbed like a baby.

DIANE LANE: I know, if you have anything loose that needs to come out, it's gonna come out at that movie.

Q: Yet the kids in the theater seemed OK.

A: They haven't been broken in yet by life.

Q: What appealed to you about that film?

A: The simplicity of the genre. It hearkened back to a purer era; not just the story, but how it was handled. No merchandising, no sequels.

Q: In one of the big summer films coming up, The Perfect Storm, you play the girlfriend of one of the men on a doomed fishing boat. Ever been in a scary storm yourself?

A: Yes. I was 15 and I was with the neighbor boys, who were 17 and 18. I thought they knew so much, right? So I said, "Sure, I'll get on a catamaran with you guys." So we go sailing and out of absolutely nowhere, this black cloud comes and the water completely changes, like a schizophrenic. It went from being a beautiful dream to a horrific nightmare. And we were idiots--we didn't have any survival gear, we didn't even have a compass. I mean, stupid! We made it back, but the lightning bolts were coming out of the sky and we were like a lightning rod out there. I jumped off the boat the minute I saw land and swam. And I never set foot on a catamaran again.

Q: Mark Wahlberg plays your boyfriend in the movie. How was the chemistry between you two?

A: I adore him. He's like a warm puppy and I get an endorphin rush just thinking about working with him. What you see is what you get with him. He doesn't struggle with the issues of having a persona in this Industry, and it's such a relief. Basically, I think if he were here right now, we'd just start making out, because that's really all we did. We just made out all the time. [Laughs]

Q: You mean you didn't wait for the director to yell "Action!"?

A: By the time he said "Quiet on the set!" we were already in a French lip lock.

Q: The Perfect Storm is a true story--did you meet the woman you play in the film, Christina Cotter?

A: Yeah, but unfortunately, we shot in L.A. first. I think if I were as professional a person as those I admire, I'd have gotten my ass on a plane independent of the production and met Chris, but I was secretly terrified that it would throw me off of my own conception of the character in the film. When I did meet her, I felt like, "I could've had a V-8."

Q: How far into filming were you?

A: Too far to make any adjustments. But she was completely cool. Some of the family members are in one of the scenes in the movie. Chris is in the background and there I am, playing her. It was very touching.

Q: What was she like?

A: I feel like she's a bit of an underdog. There was a current of hostility toward her. There were so many people in Gloucester, Massachusetts, who knew these men, but when the author of The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger, came and started asking people what had gone on, nobody would talk. Chris talked to him because she was relieved to have somebody know her part in what occurred. Now a lot of people resent her version of the story and wish that they'd spoken up too.

Q: Some serious drinking goes on in the book. Did you consider approaching the drunk scenes by getting hammered first?

A: No, I've been around people who've made that choice and it was lethal. I remember having a lot of fun playing smashed in The Cotton Club--people were like, "Gee, you were really gone in that scene." I guess between the people I've known and the family I have and my own experiences, it's sort of a piecing together of the Greatest Hits of drunks I've known and drunks I've been.

Q: What's the most trouble you've gotten into while drinking?

A: I'd have to say throwing up. Isn't that enough? 

Q: Notorious prankster George Clooney is also in the film. Did he ever pull any fast ones on you?

A: No, because I didn't really get enough time with George for him to realize I'm OK to pull a fast one on.

Q: You're single now, right?

A: Yeah.

Q: What's your take on dating?

A: I'm utterly mystified, that's my take. [Laughs] I enjoy not being beholden to anybody. I enjoy the flow of my own energy without being in a union with somebody where you have to compromise what you want to do with your time. I'm very happy to be sort of feeding myself right now. That way, I can eat what I want, you know? I'm reading books, going to movies... right now I'm sort of dating myself. [Laughs]

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