Diane Keaton is a true original. You don’t find many actresses aged 70-plus who delight in wearing workman’s boots, masculine power suits, high-collar shirts, oversize dresses and fedora hats –and do so with such style.
Actresses are often interchangeable but there is only one Diane Keaton – and always has been. She broke the mould in the Seventies with her award-winning performance in the film Annie Hall. It is the role, she says, which will always be her favourite because it was the start of everything for her.
To briefly recap, Diane played the title role – Annie Hall – a giggly, smart, slightly ditzy, flirtatious character with a certain quirkiness and kooky sense of style. For Annie read Diane and vice versa. But then that unique Keaton charm has come through in most of her roles
“How could I not be me?” she says. “I wouldn’t know how to do that. I want to be who I want to be and wear what I like. I love clothes. I think I’ve gone a more extreme route with my fashion interests. I go kind of far, constantly covering myself. I love fashion, you know. I’m curious about
all of it.”
Diane is very much herself in her new movie Hampstead, which also stars Irish actor Brendan Gleeson. She plays Emily, an American widow living in London’s Hampstead Heath who has been betrayed by her late husband and left in debt. She befriends Donald, a man living wild in a self-made shack on the Heath. He inspires her to rethink her whole life as the two take on the developers who want to destroy his home.
“It is a dear picture,” Diane explains. ”It’s about two people who are at a point in their lives when they’re completely stuck and they don’t know what life will bring for them – that certain point in your life when you feel that nothing will ever change for you, that you’re older and you don’t really have any use in this world.
But then you address those issues you didn’t want to address and stop being afraid. Emily is a modified version of me. I am really proud of it and very happy to be part of it. It’s a really good story. I loved working in London, too. It’s so fabulous and beautiful, and just the greatest city in the world to walk around.”
Although she’s had real-life relationships with stars such as Al Pacino, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, Diane has never married. But that didn’t stop her from adopting two babies when she was in her 50s.
“Adopting my son and daughter late in life – and single – had a transformative effect on me,” she explains. “I’m not doing what seems to be the normal route of being 71. I have a 16-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter. They’re still forming in some way, so you have to stay really interested and energetic and open to new thoughts and ideas all the time because of them.
The fact I never married makes me unusual and then to go and have a family on my own... I don’t think that a lot of people do that.”
At one stage Diane didn’t think she would either. Speaking recently she said: “I remember when I was about 40, somebody told me about someone who adopted a baby at 50 and I remember saying, ‘Well that’s just ridiculous!’ I feel like that was a lesson in itself. Don’t judge... just don’t judge, because here I am, having done something that I said was horrible, or wrong, or a mistake. You do these things and they change your life and attitudes.”
- Hampstead is in cinemas from Friday, June 23
- Words and interview by Alison James