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    Diane's Year

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    As she celebrates her 71st birthday today, Los Angeles’ own Diane Keaton – actress, author, director, producer, photographer, real estate developer – continues to mix and match projects in similar fashion to her iconic, trailblazing Annie Hall couture. This year marks two anniversaries: 40 years since her Academy Award®-winning Annie Hall performance illuminated a romantic comedy for the ages and 30 years since her single careerist parent of Baby Boom (coming in March on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray) made “having it all” funny and yet bracingly poignant. In 10 days, she’ll be clad in the nun’s attire of Sister Mary, advisor to The Young Pope played by Jude Law, as HBO’s highly awaited new series from director Paolo Sorrentino (Youth, The Great Beauty) premieres stateside. And in five months, she becomes the 2017 recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. The lady has range, and TT fans have already sampled it with our discs of Woody Allen’s Love and Death (as a comedic 19th-century Russian noblewoman) and Radio Days (as a sultry-voiced 1940s New Year’s Eve band singer). Right after Annie Hall, she burrowed deeply into the role of a creatively and spiritually blocked writer, one of three troubled sisters in a dysfunctional family coming apart in Allen’s dramatic departure from comedy, Interiors (1978). The title not only reflects on the spotless and cheerless designs of the homes of its characters (expertly shot by long-time Allen collaborator Gordon Willis) but also on the inward direction their souls have taken under the influence of a controlling, hypersensitive matriarch (Geraldine Page) who focuses on home décor. When the women’s father (E.G. Marshall) announces his plans to divorce their mother and marry a vivacious new woman in his life (Maureen Stapleton), the three siblings (Keaton, and in their feature film debuts, Mary Beth Hurt and Kristin Griffith) and Keaton’s teacher husband Richard Jordan and Hurt’s political activist spouse Sam Waterston brace for a seismic – and inevitable – family fracture. Because it was a break from Allen’s prolific comedy output preceding it, Interiors was a sobering jolt that divided audiences and critics, and in her 2011 memoir Then Again, Keaton recalls feeling out of place. “Miscast as a brilliant writer in the vein of Renata Adler, I smoked cigarettes and knotted my brow in an effort to seem intelligent. The words Woody wrote didn’t fit on the lips of my experience. The only things that distracted me from my discomfort in the role were legendary Geraldine Page and Sandy Meisner’s favorite actress, Maureen Stapleton.” She observed of Page: “When Woody gave her direction, she smiled, nodded her head politely, then completely disregarded everything he said….Geraldine Page was an acting genius. Rules don’t apply to genius.” Regarding Stapleton: “With her big round Irish face, Maureen seemed to be suspended in a permanent state of surprise, or frenzy. How did she do it so effortlessly? No one knew. At the end of shooting one day, I waited for her in the teamster van. She was a big woman. Her body didn’t have much give, but she managed to lift it into the seat next to me and said, ‘Someday you’ll be old too, Diane.’” Nearly 30 years distance may allow for some perspective on Interiors, which historian Danny Peary candidly assessed in his Guide for the Film Fanatic as “truly a beautifully acted, painstakingly written and directed, outstanding if (I still think) too serious film.” Keaton’s appreciation of Page and Stapleton was shared: Page was a Best Actress Academy Award® nominee and a British Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Award winner, while Stapleton earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® nomination and New York and Los Angeles Film Critics Award citations. (Oscar® nods were also bestowed on Allen’s direction and original screenplay as well as for the art direction/set decoration by Mel Bourne and Daniel Robert.) Keaton’s subsequent Oscar® nominations for Reds (1981) and Marvin’s Room (1996) would vindicate her powerful abilities in drama, while she could still comically delight in Something’s Gotta Give (2003). Keaton is now another year older, still capably defying expectations and claiming a place among our lasting faves. Love and Death (located here: and Radio Days (located here: are available now. Interiors arrives on TT hi-def Blu-ray February 14, with Preorders opening February 1. And decorate the interior of your home entertainment nursery for Baby Boom to deliver in March.