ask me anything
Diane Keaton Takes Questions from 25 Famous Friends and Fans
It’s hard to put into words what being a natural on camera looks like, and much easier simply to watch any of the 50-odd films in which Diane Keaton has starred throughout her extraordinary, idiosyncratic, five-decade career. Has there ever been an actor in the history of cinema who telegraphs as much charm, personality, wit, and complex interiority as the incomparable 75-year-old Oscar winner? Keaton slips so effortlessly into her roles that it feels like she’s been living inside of these characters for most of her life. She can do drama (The Godfather and its sequels, Reds, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Interiors, Crimes of the Heart, Marvin’s Room), and, man oh man, can she do comedy (Play It Again, Sam; Manhattan; Manhattan Murder Mystery; Baby Boom; Father of the Bride; The First Wives Club; Something’s Gotta Give). Keaton’s acting style is somewhat akin to the magic of great jazz artists—maestros of technique and form, they can also improvise and riff within the score to give the music more emotional texture. That’s what Keaton does over and over: She works with geniuses, chooses terrific projects, and runs away with every scene. Who could forget that iconic scene in Annie Hall when she sings “Seems Like Old Times” at a music club? Keaton’s talents, not surprisingly, extend beyond acting—she is a film producer, an accomplished photographer, a bestselling memoirist twice over, and a wicked fashion icon. This past season, for Gucci’s The Beloved Show campaign, she picked up the microphone once again to sing the jazz standard “Am I Blue?” More recently, from her home in Los Angeles, she picked up the phone to answer a few questions from her coterie of costars, friends, and admirers. —CHRISTOPHER BOLLEN
GOLDIE HAWN: You have done drama absolutely brilliantly, but I would love to know at what point in your life you realized that you could make people laugh.
DIANE KEATON: Well, first of all, I’d always thought people were laughing at me, not with me. It started when I was a little girl, and I’d try to make my mom and dad laugh. I was good with my mom and, on occasion, I was really good with my dad. That was so important to me. They were everything—in particular, my mother Dorothy. She was Mrs. Highland Park, and that’s when I saw her onstage for the first time. When they crowned her, that’s when I decided I was going to do that, too. “Someday,” I thought, “someone’s going to crown me.”
ELLEN DEGENERES: Soup or salad?
KEATON: I really like salad, particularly arugula with parmesan. I also love tomatoes, too. Tomato soup is unbelievable. Ellen, give me a break—I love them both. But I’m going to say salad.
MARTIN SHORT: Your acting style is so authentic. It often gives the audience the impression that you’re improvising. How faithful are you to the writer’s actual words?
KEATON: I do kind of mess them up a bit. I’m surprised that I’m still working. I always feel much better when I can play around more. You nailed it, Marty. I do love to loosen up the script.
SHORT: Who’s sexier, me or Steve Martin?
KEATON: I mean, you’re both idiots.
STEVE MARTIN: Who is the most unpleasant actor you’ve ever worked with—besides Marty and me?
KEATON: Well, obviously, there will never be anybody who will trouble and bother me as much as you and Marty. But I’m not going to answer that question, because that would hurt somebody’s feelings. Who is the worst? It’s not either of you.
CANDICE BERGEN: When are you going to release your documentary, Heaven? It would be great on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
KEATON: I just want to say that when it was released in 1987, it tanked. I’ve never seen worse reviews. It was just awful. Nobody was interested in it at all. My ideas were left of center. They were left of everything. I’m afraid to look at it myself, to be reminded that what I did was so bizarre.
BERGEN: How stressful was doing the nude scene in Something’s Gotta Give? You looked great, by the way.
KEATON: It wasn’t my idea of a good time, but it was such a wonderful movie. And of course, I did the thing that I thought I would never do. So what does that say about me? It says I stand for nothing and represent nothing, except that I did it. Not fun, when I think back on it.
NANCY MEYERS: If you were put into a time machine, who would you most like to star alongside in a film: Gary Cooper, Charlie Chaplin, Irene Dunne, or Cary Grant? And why?
KEATON: All of them. Gary Cooper was my idea of masculinity at its best. And Charlie Chaplin, because he was a genius. Irene Dunne, because she was so funny. And Cary Grant because, well, I love a man’s suit.
MEG RYAN: Di, what is it you adore about your muse, your inspiration, your obsession: the color black?
KEATON: I think you almost always have to have a little bit of the color black to frame things. I think it really sucks you in. Right now, I have on a black t-shirt with a scarf that has black and white polka dots. I’m always going to love black because it highlights. It accentuates. It’s beautiful. Whatever.
BETTE MIDLER: What part of the body do you like the most?
KEATON: I’ve always hated my eyes because they just go sliding down on the corners. They’re exactly like my dad’s. But now that I’m older and he isn’t alive anymore, I’m so happy that I have any remnant of my father left in me.
MIDLER: What size are your feet?
KEATON: I think I’m a 10 or 11. I like my big feet.
MIDLER: How long does it take you to get dressed?
KEATON: It depends on the event. I could get dressed really fast, but if I’m going to something where I’m intimidated by people, then I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how I can somehow manage to be a part of the team.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA: Why are you so shy?
KEATON: The first time we met was at the audition for The Godfather. I got the part but didn’t understand why. I knew nothing about the book. And I remember that the studio didn’t want Al Pacino. So you put us up on the stage together, and we auditioned together for Al’s sake, because I’d already gotten the part. You came up to me at a certain point while we were onstage together and said,“What do you think of Al?” And I said, “I think he’s great.” And that’s what you thought, too, but you wanted to know what I thought. Wait, what was the question?
ARIANA GRANDE: What is your favorite line or scene from The First Wives Club?
KEATON: It’s not a line, but performing the song “You Don’t Own Me” was so fun.
GRANDE: How does it feel to be so fucking iconic?
KEATON: I don’t exactly understand what that means but it’s very kind of you to say. Can you explain to me how I’m iconic? What is that? I understand certain aspects of it, but it’s hard for me to deal with that. I don’t really see it that way. I live with myself and I’m hardly iconic. I get up in the morning and it’s me again. I’m just another person saying, “Gee, I’d better feed the dog.”
AL PACINO: Have you ever read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?
KEATON: Okay. You’re insane, number one. And insanely brilliant. Of course, I was in love with you. You couldn’t be more magical and entertaining and unique and all those things wrapped into one. But, no, I’ve never read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I don’t really know anything about it.
EMMA ROBERTS: I’m a new mom and I can’t wait to get back to work, but I’m nervous about finding a balance. Do you have any advice?
KEATON: No, I’m not a person to give advice. I don’t think that I’m worthy of that. It’s hard, I’ll say that. I just don’t think I’m qualified to give ideas on how you should raise a child.
CAROL KANE: At this time in your life, what do you value most?
KEATON: I value a very strong friendship, like ours, which I’ve depended on for such a long time. I love to walk with my dog. These are the things I love. And I really do love nature. I love exploring California. I like driving to Arizona. I really enjoy seeing. I guess my favorite thing in life is the fact that I can see. It’s just so unbelievable.
KRIS JENNER: You always have a smile on your face. What is it that makes you the happiest? Where does this amazing attitude come from? You are simply infectious.
KEATON: Well, you’ve got it wrong, but it is so sweet of you to say. I’m looking forward to seeing you some time, because it’s all about seeing. That’s what makes me happy. I can see my mother. I can picture her when she used to sew clothes over the sewing machine. That’s the gift of all gifts. Some would say speaking is, but I’m not as good at expressing myself through words.
LIAM NEESON: Am I the best on-screen lover you’ve ever had in your long list of leading men?
KEATON: Yes, of course. That goes without saying. And you’re easy on the eyes. I don’t think I’ve seen you in 30 years, but yes, you’re the best on-screen lover ever. No hesitation on that.
TAYLOUR PAIGE: Diane, why do you think we are here on planet Earth at this time?
KEATON: Or any time. It makes no sense! Literally, there’s no reason. It’s impossible to wrap your mind around it, because we don’t seem to have found life on other planets, despite all of our searching. It’s impossible to even begin to understand why. There’s no rhyme or reason. Have you come to any conclusion yourself? I don’t think there’s any conclusion to come to.
LISA KUDROW: Our society has always had an expectation for women to get married, and you’ve said it just hasn’t felt right for you. What informed that feeling?
KEATON: It goes back to my mother, because, for me, most everything does. I love my dad, of course—that goes without saying—but she was always there, and he was always working. He was working hard, and he was really interesting. And he loved her, too. She had four kids, and I was the firstborn. I saw how much she gave up. I mentioned watching her get that crowning glory and being Mrs. Highland Park. After that, we moved down to Santa Ana, and it was over. There was no more trying things out. I feel like she chose family over her dreams. And she was just the best mother, but I think that she is the reason why I didn’t get married. I didn’t want to give up my independence. By the way, no one has ever asked me to marry them, either, so that might be a good answer. I should’ve started with that and called it a day.
MORGAN FREEMAN: Do you have a favorite on-screen kiss?
KEATON: You, Morgan. You and those lips. You’re my favorite on-screen kiss ever. That was dreamy. I loved every bit of it, and I hope that we can do it one more time. I’m open to the possibility.
JULIETTE LEWIS: You did Hair, which I think is the coolest thing. Any memory of the play that you could share? Also, I love all of your singing in that. Over the years, did you ever think of making a record?
KEATON: Nobody was ever interested in me making a record. There was a time when I tried to get somebody to help me make one, but it didn’t happen. But I do remember that I was in the Broadway production of Hair, and I remember being cast and not understanding why, as usual. And then I remember always being under the scrim. At a certain point, the actors started to get up from the scrim, and they’d all be naked. I never did that, believe me, because it wasn’t worth the extra $50 you got if you took your clothes off. It was not worth it for me. I remember just seeing them all stand up naked and going, “Wow. I mean, that’s bold.” But it wasn’t for me.
VIOLA DAVIS: Do you still have the same passion for the work that you did at the beginning of your career?
KEATON: At the beginning of my career, I was so panicked. It was too overwhelming. It was really frightening, but I got through it. When I started doing the films with Woody [Allen], I got much more relaxed. It was fun because it was looser, and comedy played a part. I feel more comfortable with comedy. I love being awkward or falling in love and laughing, or touching someone’s face and enjoying it. I love the fun that you have when you’re in a comic movie.
KATIE HOLMES: I love how specific you are in your performances. Where do you go for inspiration and who inspires you?
KEATON: Magazines. I cut them up and I save them. I have a whole library of saved images from magazines. You’re going to think I’m nuts, but it’s true. Sometimes I look around my office, where I have all these black-bound binders, and I think, “Why did you do that, Diane?” Well, I did it because I really enjoyed it. Visual imagery is my favorite.
DUSTIN MILLIGAN: If, for the rest of your life, you could only wear pantsuits, bowler hats, or thigh-high snakeskin boots, which would you choose?
KEATON: Of course I’m going to wear pantsuits because they cover my body. I have no interest in snakeskin boots. You must’ve seen something where I was an idiot in them. I like anything that covers me up.
MILLIGAN: Who charms you?
KEATON: I hate to go back to Steve and Marty, but they’re funny. People who are funny charm me, and I’m always the idiot. I’m always the one laughing and never the one who’s brilliant like them.
JAMES CORDEN: Knowing what you know about your life today, if you could go back and talk to your 12-year-old self, what would you say?
KEATON: Save your money and invest in real estate. I’m serious.
SARAH PAULSON: If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be?
KEATON: My dog Reggie.
PAULSON: What person, place, or thing makes your heart sing? (You can say me.)
KEATON: Of course, Sarah, you make my heart sing. My friends make my heart sing. My kids make my heart sing. But also, Lillet Blanc makes my heart sing. With lots of ice.
SARAH SILVERMAN: You drink your wine in a glass with ice. How did you discover wine with ice?
KEATON: Ice was always a great treasure. When we were kids and we’d be driving through the desert, we’d stop at a gas station and I remember thinking, “Wow. Ice.” And then, to think that you could buy ice and put it in your drink! I love it in all my drinks, except coffee.
SILVERMAN: What are you watching on TV?
KEATON: I’m watching a lot of documentaries. I watched the Tiger Woods documentary [Tiger], which was really interesting. Also, Frank Sinatra’s [Sinatra: All or Nothing at All]. I just love documentaries.
SILVERMAN: I love you. Oh, shit. It’s supposed to be a question. I love you?
KEATON: I love you, too?
SILVERMAN: The people of Earth need to know: What do you sleep in?
KEATON: I sleep in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. Feels good. What am I going to wear? A nightie or something lacy and pretty? No.
ALESSANDRO MICHELE: Did you ever think of changing the ending or part of the story of one of your films?
KEATON: I wouldn’t consider myself someone who would be put in the position of changing anything, because mainly I’m a person who’s hired to perform. As far as changing something, if I see myself in a scene and I don’t like it, of course, I’d like to change it. But those opportunities are not really there unless you’re paying for the movie or you’re a huge star. But that’s kind of changing. Things are different now. They’re getting better.
Hair: Donna Marie Fischetto
Makeup: Louise McCarthy
Set Design: Robert Doran
Lighting Technician: Byron Nickelberry
Tailor: Jade Yee-Gorn
Photography Assistant: Zach Hughes
Fashion Assistant: Lucy Gaston
Location: Hubble Studio