Diane Keaton's Slant on Life

Regrets? She has a few. But at 61, Diane Keaton counts the joys: two young kids, three book projects, four new films (including the February release of "Because I Said So"), a slew of awards, and one great sunset after another.

by Margy Rochlin
Diane Keaton
Photograph: Photo by: Suzanne Tenner/Universal Pictures

"We have an odd life anyway," she says. "I’m a single parent. I’m sure there are awkward things for them about the experience of having a mother who is an actress. I think they are aware that people treat me differently, but they’re not wildly curious." Keaton’s thoughts suddenly turn to the mystery of what captures a child’s attention. "Somebody once said to me, ‘You’d be surprised by how many kids who are adopted have no real interest in discovering who their birth parents are. Life is about living and not about "Oh, gee. Let me go back."’ That’s fascinating, because you think, ‘Wouldn’t you be curious?’ I was told that by age 6 my kids were going to say to me, ‘Well, you’re not my real mother.’ Maybe that’ll come at some point, but it hasn’t happened."

At some level it’s all creative grist, especially judging by the titles of her four upcoming films (Because I Said So, Mama’s Boy, Smother, and Da Vinci’s Mother). The aftermath of her Golden Globe Award-winning star turn in 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give has been a long run of mom parts; still, it’s impressive — considering youth-obsessed Hollywood — that the two-and-a-half-minute trailer for Because I Said So is cut to highlight Keaton rather than the ebullient 22-year-old Moore. "Being an actress is an interesting adventure because it has been up and down," Keaton says. "Sometimes I’m marginalized; sometimes you can’t avoid me." When Keaton is truly charged up about a part, she is like an extra power source, says writer-director Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), who will direct Keaton as one of a trio of women thieves in the heist film Mad Money, which, Khouri has just learned, is scheduled to start shooting in March.

"Diane was enthusiastic about this movie from the start, asking, ‘What do I have to do? Who can I call?’" Khouri says. In Mad Money, Keaton will star as a federal treasury janitor who comes up with a scheme to liberate disused cash from her employer. When I tell Keaton that Khouri just found out Mad Money now has a start date, it seems as if a fifth Keaton gear shifts into place. "This is news to me. Oh, I’m excited! I like that project," she says.

Admiring the View

The sun is setting now, and Keaton can’t stop commenting on the view of the gray Pacific Ocean framed by the restaurant windows. "Look at it!" she exclaims, repeatedly pointing a finger at a horizon line so flat, it looks etched in the sky by a pencil. "Look at it! I don’t understand anything that could be so beautiful. It’s just too much." However, if an innocent snapshot of this panoramic seascape were to appear in one of the wonderfully eccentric coffee-table books Keaton edits, she would, no doubt, juxtapose it with other images in such a way as to render it laughably weird, ominously desolate, or inexplicably unsettling.

What Keaton loves to do as a maker of books is root through flea markets and eBay, organize her oddball treasures by category (clown paintings, newspaper crime-scene photos) and turn them into bound works of art. The thrill she gets from these endeavors is so rewarding that if she could figure out how to make them a source of steady income, she’d publish books full time. "For me, it’s about finding something that interests me visually and bringing it into the light of day," she says.

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