Her Keaton heart
by Glenn Whipp
There's a great sequence in the new romantic comedy "Something's Gotta Give" where Diane Keaton weeps in one short scene after another. Keaton is playing a woman who, against her better judgment, has fallen in love with the cad (Jack Nicholson) who, only a few weeks earlier, had been dating her daughter. Things take a rough turn, which leads to the aforementioned sobbing, which, thanks to Keaton's deft touch, manages to be at once hilarious and poignant.
Although the trailers make it look like Nicholson's movie, "Something's Gotta Give" is really a showcase for the 57-year-old Keaton, one of the finest comic actors of our time. She was named best actress of the year Wednesday by the National Board of Review. What makes us want to start weeping is that Keaton so rarely gets to use those talents. Director Nancy Meyers even had to convince the folks over at Sony that Keaton was right for the role, giving them a crash course in a comic career that includes "Manhattan," "The First Wives Club" and an Oscar-winning turn in "Annie Hall."
"They just needed to be reminded of her brilliance," says Meyers, whose last film was the hit comedy "What Women Want." "Hopefully, after our film, everyone will be up to speed for a while."
We spoke to Keaton recently and found ourselves agreeing with co-star Nicholson's assessment that she is indeed "fascinating." Here she holds forth on hopping into bed with Jack, swapping spit with Keanu Reeves and the joys of being in a movie that shows you can be middle-age and still love life.
Q: You and Jack spend an awful lot of time in bed in this movie.
A: And it was spec-tac-u-lar.
Q: How long did you spend filming all those scenes?
A: Oh, a week, maybe two. Someone asked: What's it like being in bed with Jack Nicholson? I mean, are you kidding? Don't you want to be in bed with Jack? C'mon!
Q: I always thought more along the lines of sitting courtside at a Lakers game with him.
A: Yeah, well, that would be fun, too. But, I tell you, the best way to get to know someone is to spend a week or two with them in bed. We talked about everything - people we knew, former love affairs, you name it. Because the whole thing is so humiliating. It's embarrassing to sit there half-naked, kissing and, in the case of my character, confessing your love.
Q: And the whole time, you've got that - what did you call it? - "apparatus" covering your breasts ...
A: (Laughs) I love the apparatus idea because when you said that I immediately thought of something metal. (More laughter) No, thank God for the apparatus. I was glad to have it. But my breasts ... those things? Big deal, right?
Q: For a woman who wears turtlenecks all the time, you seem pretty cool with the movie's love scenes, not to mention that full-frontal nude shot.
A: I wanted to do that. There wasn't a question. I felt like I had to do it to be honorable to the movie. Look, the film is about middle-age love and this is a woman's body naked and this is a man's bottom just flailing about. Jack's making fun of himself. Why shouldn't I make fun of myself?
And it's just a joke. I mean the day of shooting, it was embarrassing, but it was very brief. Big deal, right? I feel very differently about my body these days. I'm just happy it functions. This whole cult of the perfect body stuff is insane.
Q: What about the idea of a movie about a 50-something woman falling in love? I heard you had some doubts about doing that.
A: No, no, no. I was suuuuure about doing it. I knew that it was a fantastic, incredible opportunity to have fun and to do something in this genre - the romantic comedy - that I've been out of for a while. BUT there's always a conflict you have: Can I do it? I've been given this responsibility. Can I pull it off?
Q: Nancy Meyers said your first question after reading the script was: Who wants to see a movie about me falling in love? Do you have that much self-doubt?
A: I !ital!do!off! have that much self-doubt about myself, but you have to look beyond yourself and see that it's also a great opportunity to be vital and exciting and have a great time and fall in love in your mid-50s in a way that is wonderful and not a freak show.
This whole fear of age is just terrible. To have actually been chosen to play a part where you stress the fact that just because you're older, you're not dour and morbid and hideously lost in the repetition and the cycle of living your life without change ... it's fantastic. And it's rare, too. Best of all is the fact that the movie is funny. That makes it all the more fantastic for people to know (Keaton sighs) that you're still funny when you're old. You live and you continue on and you have the same feelings and life is just as exciting, if not more exciting.
Q: Did playing this woman who was so transformed by love inspire you to give the whole idea another spin?
A: Well, the great part about being in this movie is that the whole experience is so out of keeping with my life. And that made it all the more perfect. I got to play at being in love.
Q: You don't see any parallels then between yourself and the character you play?
A: She's different. In her life, she has never opened up at all. Her expectations were very different.
Q: And you've opened up?
A: Babe ... oh, babe! I've been there.
Q: Now I know where you found the inspiration for all those crying scenes.
A: Boy, I remember doing that. My god. That was a long haul and much more. There was a lot of it. More more more. There was never enough.
Q: A lot, huh?
A: (Laughs) Nancy likes to do a lot of takes. It was exhausting because I really had to cry. It's not just something where you could do the fake thing. Well ... you could. But I couldn't.
Q: So how did you cry that river?
A: I was just jamming music as loud as I could. I was really in love with Macy Gray and the "8 Mile" soundtrack. The music was just so pounding, but sad. It would get me crying every time. I played it over and over again, and it drove everybody insane. But I was the one who had to cry so they just had to put up with it.
Q: Jack isn't the only one you make out with in the movie. You also have some pretty passionate scenes with Keanu Reeves ...
A: Stop. (Laughs) Just stop. That was embarrassing. I mean, it was fun in the moment, but when you're done you just think, "This is absurd."
Q: He was very convincing in conveying his character's love for you.
A: He's a good actor, see? People underestimate Keanu.
Q: But maybe it wasn't all that hard for him to act that way ...
A: Oh shut up, man! (Laughing) You're making fun of me now and I know it!
Q: Not at all. Not at all. So, the lesson we've learned today is that love makes the world go around, and if it involves hopping into bed with Jack Nicholson or swapping spit with Keanu Reeves, so much the better.
A: Absolutely. I think love can be like that. Why not? Why can't it be? It's really all about a point of view, you know.