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#BornThisDay: Diane Keaton


Photograph via YouTube


January 5, 1946Diane Keaton:

“If beauty is in the eye of the beholder are mirrors a waste of time?”

In the 1970s, I identified with her so much that I had a fantasy that I was noted by the press as: “The Male Diane Keaton”.

She began her career on Broadway. In 1968, Keaton was cast a member of the “Tribe” and understudy to Sheila in the original Broadway production of Hair. She famously refused to disrobe at the end of Act I when the cast performs nude, even though nudity in the production was optional for actors (Those who performed nude received a $50 bonus). After working in Hair for a year, she auditioned for Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. After initially being passed over for being too tall (she is two inches taller than Allen), she won the role and was nominated for a Tony Award.

Since her first films, Lover And Other Strangers in 1970, she has appeared in more than 60 other films, including some of my favorites of all time. I have been a fervent fan for nearly 50 years.

Keaton is also a noted photographer, documentary filmmaker, real estate developer, architectural historian (a foremost authority on California Mission style), author, and singer.

She is a prodigious house flipper, buying, renovating, living in, then selling numerous properties around Los Angeles for the past two decades. She shares her current home, an 8,000-square-foot converted industrial building in L.A.’s Sullivan Canyon, with her daughter, Dexter, 22, son Duke, 16, and golden retriever, Emma. The rustic residence is the subject of her new book, The House That Pinterest Built, and not surprisingly, it’s full of Pinterest-worthy designs and features.

Keaton’s homes, featured in various shelter and design magazines, are straight out of a Nancy Meyers flick, of which she’s starred in a few. She has resold a dozen historical homes in Southern California after renovating and redesigning them, including the Ennis House in the Hollywood Hills designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Spanish Colonial Revival in Beverly Hills designed in the 1920s by California architect Ralph Flewelling, a reimaginedt traditional-style home in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, and Mediterranean Revival in Laguna Beach.

One of her clients was Madonna, who purchased a Hollywood Hills home from Keaton in 2003.

Like me, Keaton is a collector. She has amassed a huge library of images including kissing scenes from films and paintings of California scenes. She has published collections of her own photographs, and has also served as an editor for collections of vintage photography, including a book of photographs by paparazzo Ron Galella; an anthology of clown paintings; and a collection of her photos of California’s Spanish Colonial-style houses.

She has published two engaging, candid memoirs Then Again (2011) and Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty (2014).

Keaton has never been married, but she’s had plenty of high-profile romances: Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Woody Allen, Jack Nicholson, Sam Shepard, and Keanu Reeves.

As Kay in “The Godfather, Paramount, 1971, via YouTube


She met Pacino when they worked together on The Godfather (1971). Keaton:

“I was mad for him. Charming, hilarious, a nonstop talker. There was an aspect of him that was like a lost orphan, like this kind of crazy idiot savant. And oh, gorgeous “

“The celebrity couple is something that was short-lived, in my case. I didn’t know how to do it. I have things about me that really do keep me in my place. I don’t know how to manage anything. As a mother, I’m not a very good manager. I don’t have a managed life. I was never meant for the big celebrity scene. And I belong where I am, in a place where I’m comfortable. I don’t feel comfortable with people who are very gifted and have a big life. I have a lot of dreams, obviously, and I try to fulfill as many as possible. But socially, I’m not in that swing. I can’t. I don’t fit.”

Of Beatty, her costar and director in Reds (1981):

“He is just a brilliant character. So complex and charming. He should have made more movies.”

Photo from “Reds”, Paramount Pictures, Beatty and Keaton, via YouTube


Keaton writes about her relationship with Beatty breaking down not because of her inadequacy, but because of her ambition:

“That became our central problem. I wanted to be Warren Beatty, not love him.”

Keaton has maintained a close friendship with Allen since the early 1970s, when they had a romance, the inspiration for Annie Hall (1977):

“He is so hilarious, and I just adored him, I really did. But, he didn’t know if the movie would work. He would say: ‘It’s just another sitcom’. I knew it was a great script.”

Keaton has long defended Allen over allegations that he sexually abused Mia Farrow’s daughter Dylan Farrow. Keaton: ”I love Woody. And I believe my friend.” In 2014, Dylan Farrow published a stark and disturbing set of allegations about Allen in the NY Times. In it, she called out Keaton, along with Cate Blanchett and Scarlett Johansson, for effectively defending Allen through their silence. “You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?” Allen issued a detailed rebuttal of the allegations, and claimed Dylan had been indoctrinated by her mother. Moses Farrow, the adopted son of Allen and Mia Farrow, now a family therapist, says that his estranged mother was emotionally and physically abusive towards her children, and coached Dylan to accuse Allen of sexual abuse. Keaton:

“What are they going to do? Who else are they going to drag in? They have to drag someone in. I don’t resent it, not for a second.”

There are not that many actors whose off-screen personality is as close to the public’s idea of them as Keaton. She really does wear those dark layers of clothing, bowler hat and fingerless gloves, and speaks in the Annie Hall style.  But, it’s a bit of misleading image. You cannot stay successful for decades in Hollywood by being ditzy. Although Keaton has probably made more money from selling properties in L.A. than from acting.

It’s also unusual for a film star to be so very self-depreciating. She is willing to be the butt of her own jokes. The irony in her memoirs is that her insecurities requires her to be profoundly secure. Keaton:

“I really do think it’s to do with 20 years of being in analysis and therapy of one sort or another. You talk and you talk and you talk. So when I’m by myself, I’m just talking.”

She grew up in the 1950s in a Southern California family. Her father was a civil engineer, her mother a housewife, living in a suburban house with a yard.  But Keaton writes: ” We were a bunch of eccentrics. Very extreme.”  Her father, whose interest in buying property she inherited, found her worryingly unconventional. Keaton grew up a mix of being painfully unsure of herself and ferociously ambitious:

“Nobody’s normal. Normal is an absurd idea. Why even have these rules and regulations about how we’re supposed to go through life, because it’s all just ridiculous. Ridiculous.”

Of all her film roles, including the two big Woody Allen films that made her famous, Annie Hall, for which she won an Academy Award, is the one where she is basically herself: edgy, clumsy, flighty and funny. Keaton’s mumbled self-admonishments in the film: “I don’t, I don’t, jeez, I don’t know. I wasn’t… What a jerk, yeah”, shows her to be a new kind of leading lady: touching and silly, the opposite of polished heroines of a previous generation. She is the perfect foil to Allen’s neurotic nut, charming and believable.

“Something’s Gotta Give” with Nicholson, Columbia Pictures, via YouTube


It is a style she was still playing in Nancy Meyers’ Something’s Gotta Give, where Keaton and Nicholson goofed around in a series of stunning homes in NYC and the Hamptons, playing off their well-established personas. Yet, Keaton can play serious roles also, such as The Godfather films, Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) the heartbreaking Mrs. Soffel (1984) and Marvin’s Room (1996), with Meryl Streep, in which she plays a woman dying of leukemia. She can be quiet and subtle, and deeply touching, in ways she seems incapable of in life. I mean, she can hold her own onscreen alongside Pacino.

Keaton continues to work. She is the voice of Dory’s mother in Disney and Pixar’s Finding Dory (2016), which grossed $1 billion worldwide, emerging as the biggest animated film of all time in the USA. She was in the HBO eight-part series The Young Pope (2016) opposite Jude Law, in which she plays a nun. Last year she was in Hampstead, a British romance starring opposite Brendan Gleeson. In 2018, Keaton will be seen in the Netflix comedy Divanation, reuniting with her First Wives Club co-stars Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn playing a singing group that reconnects after a volatile split 30-years earlier; and, Book Club with Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen.

Screenshot via YouTube


“This living stuff is a lot. Too much, and not enough. Half empty, and half full.”

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