Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) is getting ready to engage Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) in their first conversation. They’d just met for a doubles match at this tennis club in Manhattan, and now they’re back in street clothes, which means for Annie a white men’s shirt and baggy, wrinkled tan slacks, black vest and white polka-dot black tie which falls out over her belt buckle. Her hair is mostly swept up under a black fedora, and she enters laughing and waving … “Hi, hi.”
Alvy Singer returns the greeting. Hall stands there, swaying a little, cups her hands together and smiles big. “Well,” she says with another wave, “bye!”
As she turns to go, Singer speaks up: “You play very well.” She pounces, “Oh, yeah? So do you!” and is immediately stricken. “Oh, god, ooh, what a dumb thing to say, right?” Nervous giggle. “You say, ‘You play well,’ then right away I have to say, ‘You play well.'” Her hands go to her hips, in reprimanding position. She shakes her head, looks down, all contrite, lets her left hand drop. “Oh, god, Annie… well, oh, well —” Her scolding is over and she is bright again — “La-de-dah,” she sing songs. “La-de-dah.”
It is only 30 seconds into the scene, but the movie audience is already in love. They applaud Keaton’s “La-de-dah.”
Now, a scatterbrained confusion sets in: Annie Hall is sort of accepting an offer for a ride, but then, wait, she’s got her own car. Singer is genuinely bewildered, and asks for an explanation. Hall’s left hand touches her chin, as if to help her reflect, but it’s hopeless. “Ah, I don’t — I, jeez, I don’t know, I wasn’t” — her right hand jerks up, hitchhiker style, as if to indicate where she last saw her mind, and she inhales, then lets out a sigh, her lips fluttering. “I got this VW out there.” Then, looking at the floor, she dictates a quick memo to herself: “What a jerk.” And, finally, with one last laugh, she asks: “Would you like a lift?”
A romance begins.
And I become, like Alvy Singer, a man for whom love is too weak a word. I lurve her, I luff her, I loave her.
Jeez, what a way to be talking. I mean, I’m supposed to go and interview Diane Keaton.
Her doorbell makes a loud, jarring sound. Seconds later, she opens the door, fast, and backs up, welcoming me in. “Hi, hi,” she says, extending her hand. She is dressed in men’s clothing: white shirt, old vest, oversized suit pants with subdued striping and rolled-her-own cuffs. I hand her a small bouquet of apricot roses — an old New Journalism ploy — and she goes into a spasm: “Oh, wow,” she says in her singing, soprano voice. “Wow… . . . . jeez, you didn’t have to do this.”
Well. So this is Diane Keaton. The blond in the track suit in the Hour After Hour deodorant commercial on TV, the beautiful bundle of nerves on The Tonight Show. And, of course, Woody Allen’s leading lady in Play It Again, Sam, Sleeper, Love and Death and, last and most of all, Annie Hall.
At age 31 Keaton is the closest she’s been to emerging from behind Woody Allen’s diminutive shadow. Through her title role in Annie Hall she has become the comer among actresses. A dramatic lead role in the film version of Judith Rossner’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar, due out this fall, is expected to nudge her even higher.
Today, though, she is straight out of Annie Hall. There are her clear, excitable blue eyes, her high, round cheekbones, her long, straw brown hair and those large, fluttery, wayward hands. I think back to her riffs on Johnny Carson and expect a flustered Keaton, speaking sentences the way my father drives, as if she knows she’s headed for an accident and must make all these sudden stops, backup moves and surprising little turns.
She does not disappoint. The subject is music — Diane has been singing since she was a kid, takes lessons twice a week and has even taken a few stuttering steps toward going pro. In Annie Hall, Keaton is pretty much herself — an insecure, fledgling singer. In a small club, she performs a fragile number, “Seems Like Old Times.” She is as still as a microphone stand, and lets her eyes do all the moving. Her voice is more candlelight than torch, and she moves the song along at a country-hammock pace. It is a winning performance, but at song’s end she steps over the applause with a laughing “thank you,” as if dismissing herself.
“I think the primary motivating force was that I like to sing for myself,” says Keaton. “Then, once I had a response from somebody, that helped me want to sing to people. But to be a professional is such hard work. I can’t just step in and say, ‘Here I am.’ But I do want to do more work on it, when I get my . . .” she makes a clucking sound inside her mouth . . .… “courage up again, in a real small way, like singing someplace on off nights.”
Keaton has sung in public only a few times, short sets at a club downstairs at the American Place Theater and at Reno Sweeney’s in town, at the Ice House in Pasadena and on The Tonight Show. “Singing in clubs is tough,” she says. “There’s a big tension when you’re singing for someone. Some of that can be very thrilling — and also very disheartening.”
The Tonight Show was convenient, in that she could do one song and sit down. But she sounds defensive about her routine on that show, how she would scrunch up on the couch, or sit spread-legged, like some spaced-out love child, and Johnny, concerned and paternal, would ask about her love life, and she would invariably say she didn’t have one, to his invariable disbelief. And he would tell her how talented she was, and she would shake her head and giddy-yap: “Oh, no-o-o. No. I mean, no.” And she made it work. Especially when she’d get up and manage a song, usually a piece of vulnerable pop like “Am I Blue” or “You Made Me Love You.”
“You know,” she says, “I went on those shows and I didn’t really have anything to say. All I was doing was going on there, just knowing I could be sorta sil — in fact, I didn’t even know that. I just knew after a couple of times Carson could get laughs off of me, and I could say something crazy off the top of my head, and then he would do his takes, and then I would play off him. I know how to play off people, in acting school you learn — well, it’s instinctive, not intellectual. All I knew was, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll go on television and maybe they’ll like me.’ And later when I would see it, I would say, ‘Oh, no!'” — Keaton covers her fallen face with her hands and mumbles, re-creating her despair — “‘Please!‘ My friends would say, ‘Diane, that’s not really you.’ ” And she agrees: “I don’t think I am giddy at all. I think I take myself, in fact, too seriously. I think I lack a sense of humor about my personal life, that I sit with knit brows, you know.” Nervous laughter. “It’s the way I feel about myself.”
At her kitchen table, we talk about being Capricorns and being pigeonholed in all the astrology books as humorless. I note that Keaton doesn’t seem to mind a laugh now and then. “Just occasionally, you know,” she says, “not very often. I have a severe life.”
Her kitchen is very white — walls, doors, floors, white appliances, Braun coffee grinder and Osterizer, white salt and pepper shakers, spice rack and watering can, Keri Lotion in a white container on the white kitchen shelf. And a white wall telephone.
“White,” she says, “is very cleansing for me. Also, I like a lot of room. It opens things up to me. I don’t like it closing in.”
And yet, her outfits are mostly dark and layered, so that most of her body is constantly covered up. “I feel most comfortable that way, relaxed,” she says. “I’m very self-conscious about my body.” Her clothes, she says, date back to her childhood in Santa Ana, a suburb of Los Angeles, and going through thrift shops with her mom for fun — and for actual clothes, which Diane would design and Mom would sew. “Stores were a way of expressing ourselves,” she says, “since there were not a lot of museums in Santa Ana.” She studies her pants, which look like they belong in a museum. “It’s beautiful fabric, isn’t it?” she asks gently. “I love patterns and stripes.” She says she thinks she found today’s outfit in a men’s store. And, yes, that ensemble she had on in the tennis club scene in Annie Hall was out of her own closet. “Mainly, I like that kind of clothing,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of gowns.” A laugh begins to build. “And I don’t have any tiaras!”
The rest of the apartment is sparse and contemporary. Her bed, which is a yard off the ground on a wooden platform, also serves as a dresser. It is tightly made, a white cotton spread shrink-wrapped around her mattress.
Next to the bed is a good-sized drafting table where Keaton does graphics, intricate geometric line drawings, sometimes turned into collages with clips from papers and magazines and with captions she either picks up or makes up. But “that’s just a hobby, just something I do for myself,” she says quickly. Her work is hidden away in a scrapbook somewhere. But there is one on a wall in the spare bedroom, which she uses as a darkroom. (Keaton is an accomplished photographer and between films likes to go to the southern California desert and shoot landscapes.) On the wall is a photo of her mother as a young woman, along with her grandmother. And next to that is one of the classified Keaton collages: a simple field of inky fuzz, captioned “hurt, hhhh h… . . . .”
ALVY: You’re not gonna give up your own apartment, are you?
ANNIE: Of course, because I’m moving in with you.
ALVY: But you’ve got a nice apartment.
ANNIE: I have a tiny apartment . . . and it’s got bad plumbing and bugs.
ALVY: All right, granted it has bad plumbing and bugs, but you say that like it’s a negative thing. You know bugs …. . . entymology is a rapidly growing field.
ANNIE: You don’t want me to live with you.
ALVY: I mean we live together, we sleep together, we eat together — Jesus — you don’t want it to be like we’re married do you?
ANNIE: How is it any different?
ALVY: It’s different ’cause you keep your own apartment.
ANNIE: That little apartment is $400 a month, Alvy!
ALVY: That place is $400 a month?
ANNIE: Yes, it is.
ALVY: But it’s got bad plumbing and bugs!
—from ‘Annie Hall’
Diane’s apartment is in the Upper Sixties; Woody Allen’s penthouse is a few blocks north. Like Keaton’s place, it is clean and open, but it is filled with color, the tasteful, dark colors of rugs and wing chairs and chests and cannisters and shelves full of chinaware and books. Allen has lived here some eight years, including the year he and Keaton lived together, 1971. And guess who helped him decorate?
Allen, himself decorated in tan slacks and blue work shirt over a T-shirt just beginning to tatter, says Keaton accounted for “tons of stuff all through the house. In recent years, she’s gotten more and more interested in a kind of gallery, spare, white look. But she’s crazy about it here. Our tastes have coincided an enormous amount, which I found very surprising, considering that I came from an urban New York Jewish background and hers was totally different.”
WELL, now, you’re what Grammy Hall would call a “real Jew.” She hates Jews. She thinks they just make money, but let me tell you, she’s the one, is she ever.
— ANNIE HALL to ALVY SINGER
Keaton and Allen are best friends. Allen wrote Annie Hall (with Marshall Brickman, also his cowriter on Love and Death) for Keaton (whose last name is actually Hall; Keaton is her mother’s maiden name). Although it is not exactly their story, there is an understandable tendency to take what is on the screen to be what happened in real life. For example, that quality of Keaton’s, that comic nervousness and self-deprecation that makes her so lovable, so easy to want to reassure. Allen knows it well.
“I think it’s something that she grew up with, and she probably learned at an infant’s age that that kind of thing is very endearing to people. But it’s not at all calculated. Tony Roberts [costar in first the stage, then the film version of Play It Again, Sam] used to feel that she was the type that would wake up in the morning and immediately start apologizing. She’s one of those people who is forever putting herself down — and always coming through.”
ANNIE: I was awful! I’m so ashamed, I can’t sing….
ALVY: You have a wonderful voice!
ANNIE: Oh, I’m gonna quit!
ALVY: I’m not gonna let you. You have a great voice!
ANNIE: Really? Do you think so? Really?
ALVY: Gimme a kiss.
When something counts, says Woody Allen, Diane Keaton gets all jittery. And she does not eat. So at the Caffe Tartufo, while I lunch, she orders a Perrier water and tosses a carefully rolled stick of Doublemint into her mouth. “I love gum,” she says. “It’s very pleasing for me to crack it.”
She talks about how she met Woody. She had been in Hair on Broadway in 1968 and heard about auditions for this new Woody Allen play called Play It Again, Sam. Allen had written a vehicle for his own acting debut; he would portray a recently separated film critic with a Bogart fixation and an apparent problem finding dames. (Allen himself was going through a divorce from Louise Lasser at the time.) The female role was a small one: Woody’s best friend’s wife, with whom Woody falls in love.
Keaton had impressed Allen and the play’s director, Joe Hardy, right away, but they had to go through some 50 other actresses. Finally, she was called back as a finalist. “And he had to come up and audition with me,” says Keaton, “and he was as scared as I was. And I thought he was great — I’d seen him on television before and I thought he was real cute — you know? He looked good to me. I liked him. Mainly, he was as scared as me, which I found real appealing.”
Woody, indeed, remembers being nervous. “I was scared because — first of all, I had never acted in my life. I was strictly a nightclub comic. And then, when we called her back we were worried that she’d be too tall, you know, and we didn’t want the joke of the play to be that I was in love with a, you know, superlooking woman. And so we got onstage together, and both of us were nervous — I felt, ‘Oh, this is a real actress, she was in Hair, and I’m just going to waste her time’…. . . and we measured back to back, and it was like being in the third grade.” Allen, who usually maintains a sober, jokeless air during interviews, laughs at the memory. “And we were just about the same height, and so that was it.”
Keaton had an immediate crush on Allen, and Woody was also openly smitten. Something in the way she dressed:
“She’d come in every day with an absolutely spectacularly imaginative combination of clothes. They were just great.” Asked for an example, Allen himself gets imaginative: “Oh, she would — she was the type that would come in with, you know, a football jersey and a skirt… . . . and combat boots and, you know” — he is cracking up again — “you know, oven mittens… . . . .”
And I thought she was very charming to be around, and of course you always get the impulse with Diane to protect her. And she was so bright and so quick. She’s also a real easy laugher, which is very seductive, and we kind of drifted together is what happened.”
Hey, don’t tell me we’re gonna have to walk from the car to the house. My feet haven’t touched pavement since we hit Los Angeles.
— ALVY to his friend ROB
The first time I called for Diane in California, I picked her up in Santa Ana, and she …. . .” Allen looks out one of his floor-to-ceiling windows, as if measuring distance. “From here to across the street was a supermarket — and we wanted to get some gum, ’cause she always had, like, a chaw of gum in her mouth, like a baseball player, and she said, ‘Well, let’s get in the car and go.’ And I says, ‘You’re going to get in the car and go?’ And she said, ‘Yeah!’ Her whole life, she had been getting in the car and driving 400 feet to the supermarket. She said, ‘You’re not going to walk, are you?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, of course, I mean, I walk 30 times that length without thinking to get the newspapers,’ and she couldn’t believe it. And I walked with her, and she said, ‘You know, hey, I guess you can walk.’ I mean, it was so shattering.“
Woody and Diane acted together in Play It Again, Sam for a year — “A long haul,” says Keaton — and every night, Woody would lose — or give — Diane back to her husband, the way Bogie gave Bergman back to Henreid. But in real life, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Keaton got a small part, “about six minutes” in 1970, in a comedy called Lovers and Other Strangers. Then it was Woody Allen almost all the way, beginning in 1972 with the film version of Play It Again, Sam, for which Allen expanded her role, and followed by Sleeper and Love and Death. With Allen, Keaton matured into a comic actress able to help shape her own character and able to move into drama, in The Godfather. While Keaton is most often referred to as “Oh, yes, Woody Allen’s girlfriend,” she has done more than hang onto his coattails with her oven mittens.
Faced with the suggestion that Allen has been her crutch, Keaton’s voice becomes cold steel. Even her gum is quiet. “I don’t believe that at all,” she says. “I feel that everybody has a career based on somebody and we’re influenced by somebody and I have to feel that I have the talent to back it up. And I feel I’ve worked hard. I don’t agree with that. Otherwise I’d kill myself.”
Woody: “I have not been a crutch for her at all. It’s been absolutely aboveboard. You could reverse that and think that she’s been a crutch to me in many ways, I mean, she’s been an enormously supportive person to me on projects.”
Keaton, he says, is “the best person in the world to let read a script, because she’s totally ingenuous. She’s not trying to be impressive, she doesn’t care if it was written by Chekhov. She’s perfectly willing to pick it up, read it and say, ‘I think it’s boring’ or ‘I think it’s wonderful.’ I feel secure working with her. If she tells me something is creepy, I reexamine it.”
In her vocabulary, Keaton alternates “wonderful” and “neat” to indicate her highest approval.
ALVY (picking up a book): Sylvia Plath. An interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college-girl mentality.
ANNIE: Oh, yeah, right. I don’t know, some of her poems seemed neat to me.
ALVY: “Neat?” I hate to tell you this, but it’s 1975. “Neat” went out about the turn of the century.
–ALVY and ANNIE in their first talk
You’d never know it from just a quick meeting with her — or the quality she projects — but Keaton is a genuine intellectual,” says Woody. “When you meet her she is a gangly, sometimes awkward, sweet kind of actress, and you tend to think of the other actresses you meet who are obsessed with the part and agents and parties and she’s not that way at all. She is very responsive to books and ideas. If she reads Camus or Dostoevsky, it doesn’t just wash over her. She gets very, very involved with ideas and knows what they’re saying and how it affects her life, and life in general. Her personality belies that completely, and that’s the most curious thing about her.”
Woody was not exactly Keaton’s Henry Higgins. “When I first met her,” he says, “all the equipment was there, but she had come from Santa Ana, California, and had not been exposed to any kind of cerebration at all. And she gradually got more and more exposed to theater, literature, poetry, art and photography. She just took to it naturally.”
That’s precisely what Keaton is to Allen: a natural, in her humor, which he agrees is more attitudinal than verbal (or even visual); in her intellectual growth, and, most of all, in her acting. “She wishes she could work on parts the way other actors and actresses do it” — in fact, Keaton points to Robert De Niro and Katharine Hepburn as two of her favorites, for their enthusiasm and “gung-ho attitude” toward the craft of acting — “but she’s a natural.”
Woody Allen, of course, is a little biased. But he absolutely swears that being madly in love with Keaton had nothing to do with his instincts. “It was inevitable,” he says, “it was just apparent the minute I was acting with her in Play It Again, Sam that she was a major comic talent. And it was confirmed for me by people who would come to the show. I remember Jack Benny came one night and said, ‘That girl is going to be gigantic.'”
Allen enthusiastically joins the critics who have taken to calling Keaton “the consummate actress of our generation” (Hollywood Reporter) and “one of the most dazzlingly and beguilingly funny girls in movies in years” (New Yorker). Scripts are coming to her from Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) and Warren Beatty. Jack Nicholson is talking with her. And people close to her — her mother, for one — are saying she’ll be the next Hepburn. “That is exactly what’s happening to her,” says Woody. “I’ve always thought she was born to be a movie star. She’s got a real American quality.”
ALVY: I love what you’re wearing.
ANNIE: Oh, you do, well this tie was a present from Grammy Hall.
ALVY: Who? Grammy, Grammy Hall? What’d you do, grow up in a Norman Rockwell painting?
Diane and I sit, side by side, in her two canvas-back living-room chairs, like fellow passengers on an airplane. She is a touchy talker; her hands are constantly busy, going through her hair, or to my elbow or hand. She does not talk a cappella; there is always accompaniment, whether by her eyes, hands, a crack of a stick of gum or, most often, by an easy, open laugh.
I ask about her mother. “My mom, Dorothy?” she wants to know. “Um, let’s see. We were a very tight family and I really liked my mother an awful lot. She’s a crafty person. She did rock collages, and she became a photographer, too. She’s a very emotional, sensitive woman, a journal keeper, a letter writer.” But, no, she never wrote professionally. “She doesn’t think she’s good enough.”
Her father, Jack Hall, 55, is a civil engineer who worked for the city of Santa Ana, then built a business of his own. “He was the one who in my career was really, really, he really, you know, was supportive, in a real emotional sense.”
Diane was the first of four children (she has a brother, Randy, who is a draftsman and a poet; Dorrie, who graduated college with a degree in art; and Robin, a nurse who sings well, but “doesn’t have the confidence to get out there,” according to Mom).
From the beginning, Diane was a two-sided person — shy and private, with a flip side that longed to be special, to attract attention and approval. For example, her parents (who still live in southern California) remember how, at age five or so, Diane put on productions in the living room, in front of the fireplace, “singing and dancing, just ad-libbing. She’d copy off television, things like Chuckles the Clown routines. She was always entertainment-oriented, but she was shy about it. She entertained us.”
At age six, she faced her first real audience, for a recital in Sunday school. She forgot her lines. “I just burst into tears and broke down sobbing, and they had to take me off the stage.” But she soon became a regular in the church choir.
As a teenager, Diane had no boyfriends. To gain attention in junior high, she tried out for the talent shows — unsuccessfully. When she was rejected, she would organize and star in her own neighborhood productions. But she also kept trying at school. “It took a couple of years,” she says, good sport in her voice, “before they saw the wonderfulness of my talent, that it should be seen and shared by all.”
At Santa Ana High, a large school (some 2500 students), she was “a little strange.” She had friends, won a “Miss Personality” contest, and was generally considered “a nice girl. But I wanted to be more than a nice girl. I felt I wasn’t really interesting enough. I was a California girl — I mean, beach. I think that’s one of the reasons I went into acting.” She joined the Little Theater Guild and began to get, as she says, strange. Her mother remembers how “she had an absolute panic to be different.” After one unsuccessful attempt, she got into the Debutantes, a girls’ choir. “And the goal in the Debutantes,” Dorothy Hall remembers, “was that all the girls look alike, and she wouldn’t do that. Her stockings would be black instead of beige. Her hair would be high, and all ratted out, instead of moderate. And her eye makeup was black and extreme.
“I think she looked neat,” she says.
Diane, despite her quirks, still wanted to belong, to have friends. She even tried out unsuccessfully for cheerleader.
“High school,” she says, “was a big popularity contest, at least it was for me. Being popu-lar, and that’s too bad. I just wish I had a little more sophistication and a better education.”
The telephone in the kitchen rings, and she tells “Max” that she is having an interview, and gets off the phone. “Max,” it turns out, is Woody Allen. During the Broadway run of Play It Again, Sam, Keaton and Tony Roberts got to calling Allen “Max” because “he didn’t like to be recognized on the street.” In Annie Hall, Roberts and Allen call each other “Max.” (Allen, by the way, calls Keaton “Keaton.”)
In junior college Keaton studied drama, and at age 19 she took off for New York and acting school. While attending acting school she joined a friend, Guy Gilette, and his brother Pip in a rock & roll band, the Roadrunners.
“There were four plus me. I was a featured sort of thing they’d bring out once in a while. I played tambourine and danced. I sang a couple of Aretha Franklin songs and ‘In the Midnight Hour’ — let me tell you, that was real bad. I was not, needless to say, a very good rock & roll singer. But I loved it. We’d play around, but not in the city. We’d get $10 a gig.”
From there, with only a couple of stops in summer stock, Keaton went on to Broadway, and to Hair, “the American tribal love-rock musical.”
She started out in the chorus (on the Broadway cast album, you can hear her singing her part of Black Boys — “Black boys are so delicious …. . .”) and then took over the part of Sheila. Sheila? Keaton sings, lightly: “How can people be so heartless?” then switches over, still singing, into “Good morning starshine . . .” That was a featured role, I remark. “Yeah,” she says. “La-de-dah.”
Keaton became known, over the years, as the one cast member in Hair who wouldn’t remove her clothes at the finale. This, she says, is untrue. In the early stages of Hair, only a few cast members got naked in the name of freedom. “It became more of a thing later on. When I took over the part, somebody said to me, it would be really groovy —” she stops to explain, “at that point ‘groovy’ was used — and I said I don’t want to. I didn’t think it meant anything.” (Also, she was, is, self-conscious about her body.)
Diane had breezed through adult life with hardly a political thought in her head, and then, at age 23, in Hair, she became only more removed. “I was strongly suspect of things. Hair had a lot of ‘peace and love’ as what it was saying, and then being a member of it, and knowing all the political things that went on inside, and how important it was for people to get more attention for themselves and who got more publicity. There was a lot of inner rivalry. So I have a tendency not to be political in an outgoing way. I would like to deal with my own — get myself straightened out before I go around sounding off ideas.”
Being in Hair, Keaton could not help but be influenced in some way by what went on around her. “Drugs were around,” she says. “Personally . . .… I smoked dope, but I didn’t like it. I wasn’t naive. I knew about homosexuals, drugs, masochism… . . .” In Hair?
In your life?
“No!” She makes a gun-popping sound. “That wouldn’t be good. I don’t need that. That would really make me crazy!”
References to her “getting better” pop up regularly in our talks. I ask if, over the last couple of years, she doesn’t feel more, as they say, “together”?
She is uncertain. “I don’t know if I want to say I’ve gotten better.” I venture that she has.
Her eyes widen. She is all hope. “You think so?” she asks.
Annie and I broke up and I still can’t get my mind around that, you know, I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind and examining my life and trying to figure out where the screwup came . . . . …
— WOODY ALLEN as ALVY SINGER
It would seem that these kids had everything going for them: a shared sense of humor, a mutual trust, even dependence, in their film careers, a common interest in the arts and letters. They are both, as Keaton says, “sort of isolated.” And finally, there is that remarkable similarity in their heights.
Woody Allen has gotten to where he can laugh about it. “People tell me all the time that Annie Hall is autobiographical, and I keep telling them that it’s not really very autobiographical, but nobody wants to hear that. And one review — one out-of-town review that I had gotten said that in order to really enjoy the picture you had to know a lot about Diane’s and my private life together — and of course, this is completely untrue because I would say 80% of the film is totally fabricated.” (Which reminds me of Keaton’s mother discussing Allen’s relationship with her daughter. “Woody’s had a very positive influence on her,” she said, “very much like Annie Hall.” To which Jack Hall added: “It’s 85% true — even to Dorothy and my mother!”)
The debate gives me a way to ask about the breakup. In Annie Hall, it was sudden, and straightforward, Annie turning to Alvy and saying, “Let’s face it. I don’t think our relationship is working.” I ask Allen how it was off the screen.
“It was nothing like that,” he replies. “She was not involved with anybody else and she wasn’t running away to California. She lived here and at one point we talked about the idea that we had been living so closely for years and it might be nice, we thought, to try it with her not living here. This was a mutual decision. And if we didn’t like that, we’d move back in together again. And she took an apartment, and I helped her move in and all that, and we were very friendly and still seeing each other. I mean, we were still lovers intermittently after that for a while. Gradually, we sort of cooled down and drifted apart more. But it was nothing like in the movie.”
Keaton says she is still uncertain just why she and Allen broke up. “I don’t know,” she says. “It’s very hard to say.” But she points out another difference between Annie and Diane: “The point of the movie was that [Alvy Singer] was too isolated and not able to like life, which is what my character says: ‘You’re like an island, all to yourself. I want to go out a little more.'” Which, she says, is not exactly her. She laughs: “I mean, lookit my life!”
Diane Keaton does not care to see her own films, but she saw Annie Hall at a theater in her neighborhood. “I thought it worked emotionally,” she says. “I was surprised that in the end, I felt something when we said goodbye.”
How did Keaton allow herself to do Annie Hall, to lay herself (albeit fictionally) on the line?
“I think,” she says, “that being an actor in any case, you lay yourself on the line. Now, this seems more personal, but everything is personal. I’m for it, and I also have my conflicts about it.
“I’m very involved in expressing myself; hopefully I’m not a fool for doing it; hopefully there’s some merit in it, even if it’s just amusing, that’s okay. It’s a balance, you see, you have to watch it. I don’t think you ever work out that conflict. So I visit my analyst and we talk about it.” She laughs. “I save it for her; she can hear all the horrors. She’s a brave soul.”
Keaton started seeing her analyst four years ago — shortly after her split with Woody Allen. He encouraged her. “It’s an interesting experience,” says Allen, who’s had 21 years of it. “And certainly one that can’t hurt.”
Keaton began with three sessions a week, then increased to five. “Time is very important. It takes a long time. I don’t believe in any of these quick, weekend things. It’s complete idiocy. It’s too much of a jerk-off idea, to me, it’s too easy, it’s easily taking care of things for the moment. It’s like — ‘Oh, yes!’ — like acting, in a certain sense, getting it all out: ‘I feel much better, now my life is’… . . . and of course it isn’t, because you really have to examine it.”
Keaton finds herself too concerned and wasting too much time worrying over “the negative aspects of life. Life is nothing but a series of conflicts, in a way, surmounting one and coming to the next.” But she is getting better. She knows all about her self-deprecatory act. “Sure, and that’s manipulative on my part, to get that response, that you’re okay, ‘It’s all right, nice Di.’ Absolutely. Lots of times people apologize for something just to make sure they’ve hit the bottom line and they can do nothing but go up. That’s real obvious and it gets real boring. However, in my past I’ve done an awful lot of apologizing. I always liked to say I’m sorry before anything happened, but I don’t do that as much anymore.”
And, no matter how she stammers about singing in public or showing off her collages or lacking a full education, she sees herself as an assertive person. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been acting. I mean, I’ve gone through auditions, I’ve shown up, I’ve put in time.”
Still, Keaton is by no means ready to dump analysis. In fact, she says, if she couldn’t afford her shrink, she’d go to a pay-what-you-can clinic, the way Woody Allen did in his leaner years. Keaton — can you believe this? — has had problems with men.
Back in junior high Diane was constantly fantasizing about sex. “But I must’ve had a lot of guilt feelings about it because I was very frightened of the whole idea — but I was also very, very caught up with it, too.” When she finally got around to making out, she didn’t make out so well. “I was scared.” And her sex life, early on, was a series of fits, starts and stops. “I was always getting in relationships where it was, ‘If he likes me, I’m not interested, and if I like him, he’s not interested.'” She both feared men (because she feared sex) and distrusted them (because she feared being dumped). “So in the past, I would say goodbye first.”
Aside from her time with Woody Allen, Keaton was in a rut. “I was disgusted with the idea of male and female relationships because I had not had anything that I considered really wonderful, so I thought that one way to deal with it would be to not be involved at all, as if that was the way to live, which is of course pathetic.”
By “wonderful,” Keaton meant a wide-open, slam-bang Romance. She blamed herself: “I was never open, in any of my relationships, to carrying it on, and making it full, and accepting it as a life responsibility, thinking about the future, and it scared me. So my major relationships, even though I really liked those people, it was a problem of my own about how to really accept it and go with it.
“I see now more that you do have a choice, that you can see if you like a person before you just get involved with them, in a sexual sense.” She is even thinking about marriage as a possibility in her life. “I don’t have any prospects, but I like to think about the idea of one. Of spending time with one person.”
And she says she owes her brightened attitude to one of her few major relationships: “I’ve improved simply by hitting the analyst’s office, day after day, year after year… . . . .”
Keaton is laughing again.
In Play It Again, Sam, Diane Keaton turns to Woody Allen the morning after their first night together and asks: “What were you thinking about while we were doing it?”
“Willie Mays,” says Woody.
“Do you always think about baseball players when you’re making love?”
“Keeps me going.”
“Yeah,” says Diane, “I couldn’t figure out why you kept yelling, ‘Slide!'”
In Annie Hall, Woody Allen looks gratefully at Diane Keaton moments after the first time they do it and says: “That was the most fun I’ve had without laughing.”
I ask Diane Keaton: “In real life, was Woody actually funny in bed?”
“Oh,” she says, “I’d rather not talk about it.” But, she adds, she generally approves of “amusing things” happening in one’s sexual relations. “I don’t want to have anything to do with someone who can’t make fun of it once in a while.”
ALVY: I don’t know why you have to get high every time we make love.
ANNIE: It relaxes me.
ALVY: You have to be artificially relaxed before we can go to bed?
ANNIE: What’s the difference?
ALVY: I’ll give you a shot of sodium pentothal… . . . you can sleep through it.
Richard Brooks is a fierce-looking old bird. His eyes were meant for staring people down. On his forehead is this sideswept thatch of white hair. He looks like a leaner, meaner Casey Stengel.
Brooks is the screenwriter and director who dates back to the Forties and whose credits include Key Largo, Blackboard Jungle, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Elmer Gantry, Lord Jim, In Cold Blood, Bite the Bullet and, now, Looking for Mr. Goodbar.
In his office at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, he is talking to his lead actress, Diane Keaton. Brooks wants to know if she can handle the sex in Goodbar, Judith Rossner’s story of a teacher who picks up men and winds up dead at the hands of one of them.
He leans forward from behind his desk, directs those eyes of his at her and begins an interrogation.
“When you’re having a relationship with a man …. . . at the most crucial moment, the apex, or the climax of your relationship …. . . are your eyes opened or closed?
“Are you thinking about the man you’re with? Are you? Are you?
“How much do you see? All of him? A portion of him?
“Is it tactile? Is it a sense of touch? Is it something you feel? Hear? Smell? Are you really thinking only of yourself? Most of us are.”
And while Brooks is re-creating that moment, I am wondering how the “I-Don’t-Want-to-Talk-about-It” Keaton could possibly have handled this.
“Panic,” she says. “A bit panicked. I kept a lot of it to myself. I didn’t think it was necessary to say those things, but I understand it was necessary to know about it. So I was as honest as I could be, without telling him what I didn’t want to.”
Two years ago, when Freddie Fields, veteran agent with ICM, made his production deal with Paramount, Goodbar‘s lead character — Theresa Dunn — became one of the most coveted roles available for actresses. Keaton had read the novel. “It struck me as a nightmare, but I wanted to do it.” First, there was the challenge of the role. And: “I think there’s something to say about this idea that we’re free, whereas in fact we can misuse the idea of freedom. She was as trapped as anybody, but she played this idea of freedom, that ‘I can pick up men and I can just have my life and not get involved,’ and of course, she was completely unable to have a real relationship, and I think that’s something people should know about.”
Keaton was actually rejected, out of hand, when her name first came up at Paramount. She was considered too old — by some ten years — and too much a comedy actress. Over the next six months, some 300 actresses were considered, including all the big, obvious names: Streisand, Dunaway, McGraw and, for some time, Sally (The Flying Nun) Field. But Freddie Fields himself pushed for Keaton — “I had seen her in everything, and I was dedicated to get her, to sell her to everybody that needed to be sold.”
Paramount also did not have Richard Brooks in mind as either director or screenwriter. His movies have dealt by and large with men and manly deeds — prison breaks, merchant marines, gang wars and Mau Mau warfare. In his defense, he’ll bring up Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Freddie Fields will mention Elmer Gantry — “There’s that crossover between masculinity and femininity.” “I’m interested in the passions of people, man or woman,” says Brooks. Sure, but he’s not a woman. “Any writer has in him — or her, whatever that person may be — any good writer, to write a woman, must be able to have some woman in him. That doesn’t mean I’m a bisexual. But we all have that to a certain degree.”
Brooks, a former reporter, dug into the incident on which Judith Rossner based her story and came up with his own vision of Goodbar: “It’s a story about a girl today who is influenced by many things — her background, her father, her family, her church, advertisements, the sexual revolution. These places, these singles bars, are her living room. She wants to feel the sensations, the passions of life. And who doesn’t?” Yet, by day, Terry Dunn, as Brooks has written her story, is a devoted teacher — not a public-school teacher, but a teacher for deaf children. In short, he was looking for a Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde.
From several of her films, Brooks saw Keaton’s sensitive side. “The next question was, what about the sensuality of the story. Well, Diane is a sensuous woman. She doesn’t dress like it, but that doesn’t mean the woman is not sensual.”
After a meeting with her she became the first character cast. Keaton began preparing for the part by studying the script with her acting coach, Marilyn Fried from the Actors Studio, and doing, by herself, “sensory exercises.” She is hesitant with specifics, but the daily routine included “exercises in my fantasy life and trying to be free sexually.” The exercises were a “freeing agent.” She would close her eyes and imagine that she was Terry Dunn, who “acts out a lot of her things much more than I would. And your imagination works a lot.” Keaton was even able to recall teenage fantasies. “Sure,” she says. “I mean, I had all those fantasies … and that’s where it can work for you, fessing up to having fantasies that involve being aggressive or that involve hostility, because all those elements are there in your mind.”
Brooks wrote Keaton into every scene, so that Diane was required on the set for 76 days straight, at least eight hours a day. Brooks clamped the set tight and, for the sex scenes, kicked most of his crew off the sound stage. “And he devised all types of methods for me to feel comfortable,” says Keaton, “so if I could feel more comfortable wearing a pair of stockings, then that was great… . . . . Also, the thing is, when you’re performing it, it’s okay, as long as you’re doing something. It’s before and after, when you have to wait before they say ‘action.'”
Keaton called her parents for reassurance (her dad came through by telling her, “They’re just a couple of globs of fat on your chest”).
One of Keaton’s friends worried about her ability to handle Goodbar‘s numerous scenes involving violence. But Keaton chose to look on the bright side: “If I had done a scene prior to a violent scene where I would be just this real shit, you know, being cruel to people, then some violence got inflicted on me, then I felt good because it made me feel a little bit better. Punishment, you know, the old Catholic punishment routine.”
Brooks says that after certain scenes of violence, Keaton became physically ill. “She would say, ‘I don’t know what’s inside of us!'”
But Keaton lasted out the 76 days, even with a fractured rib for the last two weeks, following a scuffle in one scene. “She’s a gutsy broad,” says Brooks.
In her most difficult assignment yet, and one away from the security of her friendship with Woody Allen, Diane Keaton has done well by her new director. She even made him laugh, and helped inspire him to add laughter to the film character of Terry Dunn, as differentiated from the character in the book. “I tried to utilize Diane’s natural sense of comedy,” he says. “In the movie, the girl has tremendous joy in living. She is not sorry for herself — I can’t stand that in anybody!”
Goodbar is being edited and won’t be out until October. Already, word is being spread that Keaton is … . . . well, neat.
Keaton herself is hopeful. “I’m real scared. I hope it’s good.” Since she is in the entire film, she reasons: “If this movie bombs I’ll have to take a lot of the responsibility. If people look at me and say, ‘I don’t like this person,’ then it’s not going to work.”
And she’d be right back to the couch, right?
“Forget the couch. Right out the window!”
Forget the window. Keaton is no quitter. Remember how she put her own talent show together when those creeps in junior high took a pass? (and hers was probably a better show, too). What’s to stop her now from going out and making her own movie? As a matter of fact, she’s thinking about doing just that, or at least picking her own property and getting involved with the ideas behind them. She can’t quite articulate those ideas yet, but they come down to “real-life stuff.”
And when I say that she can do it if she wants to, she responds: “I want to, but I don’t know if I can do it.” Then, after a second: “Well, I guess I want to more than I don’t.” And she adds, with a crack of her gum: “I really believe in the work effort. I like people who work on things.”
Which is not to say she’s going to come through, just like that. But for Keaton, it’s sure an improvement over sitting on a talk show couch and going, “Oh, no-o-o! No! No, no . . . .”