Keaton's latest "piece" is a charming ensemble comedy, Darling Companion, opposite Kevin Kline, about a woman who cares more for the sad, old dog she rescues than the husband she has lived with forever. "It's like The Big Chill for the AARP set," Kline quips. "Diane displayed no vanity or inhibitions whatsoever about being a sexy 60-something woman on-screen." She just wrapped another grownup comedy called The Wedding, out later this year, costarring Robert De Niro, about a divorced couple pretending to be married again. Meanwhile Keaton, who for the past 15 years has helped preserve several old California homes, has an architecture book in the works for Rizzoli New York. She is also a spokesperson for L'Oréal Paris, and late last year signed on as the "face" for a line of clothing at Chico's.
"I never understood the idea that you're supposed to mellow as you get older," Keaton says, her blue eyes glinting behind tortoiseshell frames. "Slowing down isn't something I relate to at all. The goal is to continue in good and bad, all of it. To continue to express myself, particularly. To feel the world. To explore. To be with people. To take things far. To risk. To love. I just want to know more and see more."
Santa Ana, California, in the 1950s wasn't a place that turned out movie stars. Oranges were the bumper crop. The board-and-batten tract house Keaton grew up in was surrounded by acres of citrus groves until developments with names like Sun Estate Homes cleared them away. When Diane, the oldest of four siblings and the most theatrical, told her father, Jack Hall, a civil engineer, how sad she was to see the world change around her, his characteristically icy response was, "That's life, Diane."
He was right, though. The world never stopped changing around Diane Hall. One minute, it seemed, she was eating tuna-casserole dinners and raiding Dumpsters behind Bullock's department store for cast-off "treasures" with her spirited mom, Dorothy Deanne Keaton Hall. The next, she was 19 and flying solo to New York City to see if she could parlay her success playing Nancy Twinkle in a high school production of Little Mary Sunshine into the big leagues. At the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in Manhattan, she shivered in the presence of legendary drama teacher Sandy Meisner and kicked herself as fellow up-and-comers like Sandy Duncan landed the choice parts. In those days, Diane Keaton, as the name on her Actors' Equity card soon read, stressed over every penny (rent, $98.32; singing lessons, $40 a month; dancing lessons, another $30) and, as she revealed in her memoir, developed a nasty five-year bulimia habit that left her with 26 cavities and an emotional hole much harder to fill.
"With bulimia, I never expected sympathy or for people to understand," she says now. Keaton has both hands wrapped around a cup of coffee as she talks. "What I cared about was the secret I kept. It felt like a burden. I never told my mother. But when I finally told my sisters many years after the fact, they weren't that shocked. My sister Robin said, 'Yeah, you ate a lot of hamburgers back then.' It's amazing how the dark secrets inside us don't matter much to the outside world."