Diane Keaton is eating the smallest pieces of cheese you’ve ever seen. Sitting in the Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, she readies each bite the way a scientist might prepare a slide for a microscope: She snaps off a teeny-weeny corner of flatbread, tops it with a dot of cheese, then daubs it with apple compote. She’s not fussy about it—she does it gracefully—and she maintains a kaleidoscopic conversation throughout. It’s hard to see this as actual eating though, since after two hours, more remains on her plate than was consumed. But the ritual keeps her busy, and she likes to be busy. And it quickly becomes obvious that Diane Keaton doesn’t run on food. She’s fueled by her bottomless curiosity and delight.
On this summer afternoon, her outfit is quintessentially quirky—oversize gray bowler hat, small square glasses with green lenses, a pair of leather necklaces, a crisp white shirt, a black leather belt with silver studs, jeans with extra-large cuffs and black suede peep toe wedges, through which dark red nail polish glints—and every diner entering the bar does a double take when they spy her. “Isn’t it great that we’re here in this historic place, which I love?” she asks. (She has good reason to think fondly of the Plaza: Her adopted son, Duke, now eight, was delivered to her in a hotel room here one Valentine’s Day, five years after she adopted her daughter, Dexter, now 13.) In fact, Keaton is loving everything about New York today: the new High Line park (“It’s a magical spot”), the New York Stock Exchange (It’s the most beautiful building!”), even the arms and armor room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a collection she had never been attracted to before.
“My kids became entranced with the armor, so I started looking at it, and it’s fantastic!” Keaton says. “It’s like, what were they doing wearing these things on their bodies, and how did they move?” She lives her life in question marks and exclamation points, and listening to her is like drinking Champagne: Pretty soon you feel giddy too.
“Diane is so enormously fun,” says Martin Short, a friend since he worked with Keaton on 1991’s Father of the Bride. “Her laugh is contagious and generous, her take on life and how it should be lived—you’re envious of it and want to emulate it. There is no one like her, and if anyone is, it’s because they’re trying to be like her.”
Keaton has been in New York for a month shooting the comedy Morning Glory, directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill). In the film, due for release next year, she plays Colleen Peck, a yappy, testy former Miss Arizona who anchors a failing morning news show and gets riled when her producer (Rachel McAdams) brings in a fading news heavyweight (Harrison Ford) to goose the ratings. “I can’t stress enough how much fun it was to work with her,” Ford says. “Diane’s skill as an actress is remarkable. She creates a very realistic structure for all her energy, so it’s not just yakety-yak; it’s storytelling. And we had great conversations about art and architecture, about which she has well-developed expertise. Even if she does put ice in her red wine.” They became friendly enough that Ford flew Keaton back to L.A. in his jet—which he piloted. Because she’s an anxious flier, Keaton jokes that she armed herself with medicine to calm her nerves. Ford says she was fine. “She was also stoned out of her goo-goo,” he deadpans.
Keaton claims not to know the difference between collagen, Restylane and Botox. But she knew that her character in Morning Glory would be well versed in all things antiaging. “She’s a warhorse, and I felt like she should be extraordinarily vain,” Keaton says. “I think these anchors—if there are any my age left, which is why I was sort of amazed they cast me—they all look fantastic.”