Meeting Diane Keaton

“You made her laugh!” a cute young woman told me as I headed for the chocolates at the reception table after meeting Diane Keaton. As someone who blogged several of the SmartTalkWomen talks, I was invited to a reception afterward. It turned out this friendly woman is a personal assistant to Ms. Keaton. What had I said? “I’d recognize that skirt anywhere!” It had been very distinctive from the stage so when she walked into the reception, I noticed her right away because of it.

The skirt Diane Keaton was wearing was black with pink and white flowers and it was some sort of hoop skirt. It stood out! But then that’s not surprising: fashion is very important to her. In her talk at the Aronoff last night, she confessed that she never wanted to be ordinary. She discovered her trademark hats, beginning with one at a Salvation Army thrift store. Recall the trend she began with her Oscar winning role of Annie in “Annie Hall.” It was the 70s and women could suddenly wear anything — even men’s ties, that crossover androgynous look.

Actress in over fifty films, a director and producer as well, Diane Keaton was the final speaker in the Smart Talk/Connected Conversations series. Of the three I heard, she was my favorite (and they were all excellent). There is something about Diane Keaton that is so genuine, so lovable (tip from the personal assistant: this perception is accurate).

Besides how genuine she is, I liked how much she acknowledged other women. As a child she’d wanted to be an actress “so bad.” And her mother wanted her to have what she wanted. “Mothers are perhaps the most powerful relationship we experience in our lives.” Hers had recently died from Alzheimer’s. Interspersed throughout her talk were several film clips of an overview of her movies, her mother, and her children. We saw Dorothy as a young mother and as a woman in her 80s. As Diane describes, she “watched her slowly become unrecognizable.” But her mother’s strength became a gift: “For the first time in her life she didn’t give a damn what people thought!”

Age is a big issue for Diane Keaton. This 63 year old spokeswoman for L’Oreal makeup told us that, as she aged, she realized men were looking through her, not at her. She noticed in her most recent films, she tended to be acting across other women and was no longer the young love interest with a famous male actor. These actresses were “rooted in reality. Women know that depth of feeling is an intelligence.” Age discrimination “annoys” her. But this spirited actress is not about to let age be “an act of submission.” At age 50, then 55, she adopted two children, Duke and Dexter, who have given her “waves of joy.” The short video she shared of them gave us a wonderful sense of how much delight they add to her life.

During the question and answer session after her talk, she was asked about other actresses and actors. She spoke of being discovered for a Broadway play in 1969 by Woody Allen. As a director, he was laid back, giving the actors a lot of freedom. Warren Beatty, however, would do 45 takes of the same scene. Still, Diane credited “Reds” as being “a great movie.” The one most people resonate with recently is “Something’s Gotta Give” with her co-star Jack Nicholson. The audience loved hearing her inside scoops on some of the stars.

A word she used in her talk — “vibrancy” — captures Diane Keaton’s essence. Not anyone in her 60s would dare to wear a brightly colored hoop skirt! That personal assistant and I can vouch for this much loved film star being as genuine and free spirited as she comes across on the big screen.

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