Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist


Diane Keaton
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Seductive, charming, complex, emotional, funny

The Mail on Sunday 14th April 1985

She is an enigma who would give even master of human foibles and perception like George Smiley more than a little trouble. Diane Keaton was certainly foxing Klaus Kinski and causing him to pace up and down his suite at the Chậteau Marmont above Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.

Kinski, the controversial Polish-born actor, plays the Israeli version of Smiley in the film version of John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl in which Keaton has the title role. Kinski found Keaton as complex, as exasperating as he happily admits he can be. He liked her work. He liked her… ‘but we did not socialise. She is one of those people who prefers to be by herself. Mostly she sat in her corner wearing earphones and listenng to her portable radio. She’s is a highly emotional actress, which I like.

‘Sometimes she would get so frustrated over a scene she would cry. Then I’d tell her: “You have no idea how good you are”.’

Woody Allen thought Diane Keaton was just dandy from the moment they met 16 years ago. She auditioned for his Broadway Casablanca spoof, Play It Again, Sam. She had worked in Hair but refused to take her knickers off during the ‘nude finale’, which was then abandoned.

She was one of 50 actresses the bespectacled, 5ft 6in-tall Allen had to consider: 'I thought she was very charming  - though too tall - and, of course, you get the impulse with Diane to protect her. She's bright and funny and she's also a real easy laugher, which is very seductive, and we kind of drifted together.'

Within a year they were romantically, but not professionally, estranged. They made five films together including the movie version of Play It Again, Sam and 1977's Annie Hall. She won a Best Actress Oscar for this fictional version of their own lost affair. One of four children born to Jack and Dorothy Keaton Hall (Allen used her real surname for the film), she sat back and watched a whole Annie Hall fashion industry - even a language - develop.

She was intimidated by it. 'To be roughed up and pushed around by fans would be a nightmare. What has that got to do with real life? It's crazy. I don't think that will ever happen to me. I'm not Farrah Fawcett.

'I'm an actress, not a fad. I don't have a prominent face or all that hair or all those teeth. I don't think I stand out in a crowd.'

But she stood out among the stars and thousands of extras Warren Beatty employed in Reds to win another Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1982.   (She narrowly lost the actual statuette to Katharine Hepburn for On Golden Pond.)

Diane Keaton, at 38, can look back to appearing in two of the most talked about Hollywood films. The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. She was Kay, Godfather-to-be Al Pacino's reluctant Mafia wife. She says: ‘Pacino was great. I was background music.'

Goofy Annie Hail, meek Mafia spouse and determined anti-stripper, she cleverly switched it around as the self-destructive sex-seeking schoolteacher cruising singles bars in Looking for Mr Goodbar. A movie poll said her only rival at the box office was Streisand.

When Warren Beatty saw Diane Keaton in  Goodbar she turned him on – personally and professionally. Keaton says, ‘When it comes to men I like to take my time.’ At last report she had finally turned him down to marry Jim Foley, a director ten years her junior.

Diane Keaton has a magnetic attraction film-makers. And the men she picks are, like Allen and Beatty, as reclusive as she is. They seem to share a paranoia about privacy. Even in her professional life her co-stars, like Richard Gere in Goodbar and more recently Mel Gibson, are the silent type.

Mia Farrow, another of the eccentric breed of actresses, has now replaced Keaton in Woody Allen's life and films. The three of them regularly go out to dinner together. What do they talk about?

Not a man to waste time, Beatty approached Goodbar director Richard Brooks who had talked Keaton, concerned and insecure, into the film's explicit sex and violence scenes. Brooks remembers: 'You can sleep next to a person for 40 years and not know what they are like inside. As a character, Diane invites you into her -and exposes all of herself.'

Beatty - until recently he still had a key and his own separate room in Keaton's big, bright, white-painted apartment on New York's Upper East Side - is a lifetime fan. Whatever it is Keaton brings to relationships, it clearly lasts - even with such opposites in style, appearance and talent as Woody Allen and Warren Beatty. Beatty, who has made more women than films, says of Keaton: 'She's constantly in search of something that's true. She has no interest in the delivery of a punchline. She cares only about the true situation. Which then gives a wonderful dignity to a joke writer like Woody.

'And in a film with political implications she searches for what's true in a person and absolves the situation of being preachy or propagandistic.'

Whatever Beatty says, it's not enough to keep her out of analysis. A couple of years ago the actress said: 'Just like acting school, analysis gives me some kind of form to handle all the signals that were coming into my head. You have to have some way of directing your thinking into some sort of channel and this is one of the ways.'

It was just as confusing in her earlier years at Santa Ana high school on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She won a 'Miss Personality Contest', sang in the Debutantes' Girl Choir and thought she was 'dull'. Of those days she says: 'Acting always seemed to be the one thing I could do well - the thing I could get attention for. But even at school I had ambivalent feelings about it. I was a big bumbling idiot in other areas. I felt guilty about it - but I still don't know what I'd do without it.'

Asked about the pressures of celebrity life the reluctant Keaton sounds as kooky as some of her characters: 'Well, yeah, sure, you spend too much time thinking about what people think of you. That can sort of destroy your life even though it's honourable and you arc lucky and all the rest of that. But if you're caught up all the time in what people are thinking of you, how can you have any freedom lo take a look outside yourself? It will drive you nuts.'

Keaton, who has had two coffee-table photograph books published. Reservations, a collection of pictures of the lobbies of holds across America, and Still life, a 1 lolly wood collection, was paid $1-5 million to enter the moving picture version of The Little Drummer Girl. Le Carre (real name David Cornwell) had wanted his half-sister Charlotte (Rock Follies) Cornwell for the part. Anybody who has read the book can tell le Carr6 had 'planted' the red-haired actress as a mole for the role.

But that's not Hollywood's way - or rather Warner Brothers' way. They were pulling, up the money and wanted a box-office star to be the central figure, Charlie (n6e Charlotte). This was acceptable to director George Roy Hill who carries impressive credentials like being respon­sible for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The Little Drummer Girl is different. In two hours the movie-makers try to squeeze in the exquisite plotting and scheming of today's master of the spy thriller. Charlie, who in the book is a struggling English actress, is now an American actress struggling in London. The story all centres on a plot to snare a Palestinian terrorist leader. In the film it looks like a ploy to trap Keaton.

As Charlie, Keaton is a flaky, non-Jewish actress recruited by the Mossad (Israeli intelligence) and infiltrated into a Palestinian group responsible for terrorist attacks. She wore a shapeless outfit and carried a Soviet Kalashnikov rifle during filming at Ein Kelt on the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

She was watched by onlookers running to a shooting range where with other foreign mer­cenaries she would chant and 'learn to kill the Zionist enemy'. Of course, it was an international movie, not an international incident that was being created.

Earlier, le Carre's huge novel did upset many for what was taken as its pro-Palestinian stance, Diane Keaton appeared to have more problems with herself than Middle East politics. She was approached by a writer during filming in Jerusalem. He tried to break the ice. What did she think of the Holy City?

'Holy City? Do you think I came to Jerusalem to look around and have a good time? I came to work.' Fade out.

Fade in. An hour's drive from Toronto at a place called Kleinberg, Ontario, it's hard work having a good time. This is where Diane Keaton filmed the title role of Mrs Soffel, which opens here next month. It tells the true story of condemned killer Ed Biddle and the prison warden's wife (Keaton) who helped him escape in 1902. Keaton was the first choice of producer Edgar Scherick - 'We never talked about anyone else for the part.'

The mysteriously appealing Diane Keaton spent her time off-camera on Mrs Soffel smoking cigarettes, talking with her make-up people and listening to those earphones Klaus Kinski had remembered.

Today we can reveal that Miss Keaton favours Julio Iglesias tapes on her Sony Walkman.

George Smiley can figure the rest out.

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