Diane Lane on Playing Pat Loud in 'Cinema Verite' ... and Why She's Off the Pop Culture Grid
by Joel Keller, posted Apr 22nd 2011 10:05AM
Even though she plays one of the first big reality stars in her new HBO movie, 'Cinema Verite.' Diane Lane is not a big fan of reality TV.
"I've seen probably one episode of maybe five different shows, and that's about it," she told me last week. "I don't even watch 'American Idol' or 'Dancing With the Stars.' I just... I'm not American... I don't know what my problem is."
In 'Verite,' Lane plays Pat Loud, whose family was depicted in the landmark 1973 PBS documentary 'An American Family' The movie is told from Pat's perspective, how she deals with her philandering husband Bill (Tim Robbins) while not-so-subtly being influenced by the miniseries' producer Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini). Meanwhile, the seemingly All-American family from Santa Barbara has to deal with their son Lance (Thomas Dekker) coming out of the closet and living the bohemian's life in New York.
Lane and I spoke last week about the movie, which premieres Saturday April 23 at 9PM ET, what Pat Loud's impression of it was (the family was not involved in the production) and if she related some of what the Loud kids went through to her rise to fame as a teenager.
Joel Keller: Do you remember watching 'An American Family' when you were a kid?
Diane Lane: No, I never saw it or heard about it. I'd heard of Lance Loud, I'd heard of The Mumps, but I didn't make the connection to his television... that wonderful quote "Television ate my family." Certainly, I think one of the things that triggered my interest in this was when I saw the amount of response that this broadcast got the first time out. Books have been written, I mean, I have books! And I enjoyed them tremendously, because I guess at heart, I am a bit of a sociologist. I can't help it, being in my craft. But this was a real invention of a new creature. I think it was the revelation of the appetite in the marketplace for this that was the big reveal. It was the indictment factor.
When you saw the film, did you see parallels in what we see in reality TV today?
I don't think I watch enough reality television to say yes or no to that. Because I tend to kind of hide under the sheets when it comes to reality television. I've seen probably one episode of maybe five different shows, and that's about it. I don't even watch 'American Idol' or 'Dancing With the Stars.' I just... I'm not American... I don't know what my problem is. (chuckles)
I don't watch 'American Idol' either. That's my dirty little secret as a TV journalist.
That's alright. Will you be flogged? I hope not.
So I can't say that Diane Lane's a 'Jersey Shore' fan, in other words, right?
I'm guilty. Nope. Not.
What surprised you the most about the reaction to 'An American Family?
Oh, the condemnation, the inability to be circumspect or even politically correct in terms of how far we've come in our "live and let live" mentality as Americans. I've found there to be a tremendous amount of east coast snobbery in the journalism world.
And yet, what I loved about Pat Loud was that this is a Stanford graduate and she was not taking this lying down. This was 300 hours of educational footage that was edited into twelve. And believe me, there was an agenda and a point of view attached. When you add the marketing onto it, I mean, these people shook hands with the devil and drew back, with some digits missing from their handshake. My hat's off to them. You can really only be a virgin once. And the medium was innocence lost from the minute it left the starting gate.
A lot of the condemnation stemmed from what people thought back then was a very permissive "California lifestyle." Where did you think it came from, beyond just "east coast snobbery?"
I think that this family was chosen because -- and it was said by Susan Lester [associate producer of 'An American Family'] very aptly -- they were chosen partially because she felt, that they had all the accoutrements of what was considered desirable in physical evidence of accomplishment. You know, the swimming pool, the pets, the handsome family, more than one car in your garage, the horse; it's idyllic. The kids have a garage band and they want to become the Partridge Family. Every box was checked. The mom was sexy, the dad was hip. There was eye candy all over the place.
When you were pitched the movie and you were told it was going to be from Pat's perspective, did you have any questions about that? Any doubts?
Well originally, there was a voice-over narration. And that changed quickly to, and quite simply, to being on camera, cutting back and forth.
Using that famous scene where she talks to her brother about leaving Bill?
Exactly. And that was the part that became the axis for reference to the rest of the film. So yes, I mean, you talk about some maternal guilt. Catholics have guilt and Jews have guilt, fine. But mothers can trump them all. (laughs) We've got the corner on the market in that one. Because it all winds up being, "Gee mom, couldn't you have done better?" And I think it's to her credit that she may have lost the battle, but I think she won the war, as far as this family being stronger. They were galvanized from this experience. They were tried by fire and came out the other end. And they have a sense of humor about it now, and a sense of perspective.
Is that because it's been 40 years, or was that something that was in them pretty quickly?
I don't know. I'm sure it's a bit of both.
Did you reach out to Pat at all, and talk to her? Or no?
Never before I met her [April 11] at the premiere.
Was that just because you didn't want an influence on your performance?
I think so. I think yes. I think also too, I didn't want to ingratiate myself and ask for her help in raising the Titanic. It's enough for these poor people. I think they've been through enough, you know? So I really felt like it should come from a sense of understanding that we were on their side, as far as wanting their experience to be shown, rather than adding another layer to any suffering on their part for their experience.
And Pat makes herself readily available. I found her on Facebook recently.
That's cool. I don't have Facebook so I don't know. I'm in hiding. (laughs)
Not a 'Jersey Shore' fan, not a Facebook user. Check. OK, we got that. I don't blame you for being in hiding.
No, I'm teasing. But I think officially, if you're not, you're called the other. You don't do this, then therefore you're that. And you know, I'm guilty... by not choosing, you've made a choice, you know?
"Diane Lane is off the grid." That'll be the headline.
There you go. (laughs)
Were you surprised at the degree to which the producer, Craig Gilbert, got involved with Pat?
Well absolutely! I mean, that was the unknown villain aspect to her personal experience. Because how do you know how a documentary's supposed to go? Do you know what I mean? She didn't know the rule book. Pat didn't know. She was educated through the experience So her education taught her that the producer was her friend and her ally, and giving her courage when she lacked it.
When Pat saw the movie, did she think it was an accurate portrayal?
Yes. She felt a sense of gratitude, and I just can't tell you how rewarding it was for me that she was OK with everything coming through all this, and that she felt, considering that it was 90 minutes, that we did right by her finally, as much as possible.
You've been in the spotlight for over 30 years, since you were a teenager. Did you see any parallels in your life with what the Loud kids experienced after the show premiered?
Well, it was a simpler time. I can tell you that, you know, when I went to my first movie premiere, it was my own movie, and I wore the best jeans I had and my favorite top. You know, I made sure my hair had some wave in it because I braided it the night before myself. And I think I bought some Bonne Bell lip gloss and I was very excited, and that was that. You know?
There were no handlers, there was no... Everything was exponentially simpler. (laughs) And more innocent, and less manipulated. But it didn't need to be. There weren't the precautionary tales around for that to be in place yet, just like with the Louds. Nobody had been maligned by this medium before for anyone else to desire to protect themselves.
'Cinema Verite' premieres Saturday, April 23 at 9PM ET on HBO.
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