Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blow Out the Candles: Diane Lane

Diane Lane
Born January 22, 1965

I feel like Diane Lane has either suffered some bad luck or made some unfortunate choices in her career. Lane has mostly had lead roles in lousy movies or supporting roles in great films. Her lead roles of the last few years have been in good but not great films, such as Under the Tuscan Sun, Must Love Dogs and Untraceable. To me, a rare highlight on her resume is a film that I feel aptly showcased her great acting ability, commanding onscreen presence and smolder as a beautiful leading lady: Unfaithful. The film wasn’t the best film but it was good, and Lane acted her heart out and sold every bit of lust, uncertainty, regret, passion, fear and anger that her character, Connie Sumner, experienced with such tangibility and honesty. I remember the moment in the film when she was on the train thinking about the affair she had just had, and shook and shuddered at the memory of her lover’s touch. The passion and excitement her character felt from the memory practically leapt off the screen.

Lane got her start in movies at the tender age of 13 when she was cast in A Little Romance opposite Sir Laurence Olivier. The film wasn’t a commercial success, but Lane was praised by Olivier who called her the next Grace Kelly. Her film debut earned Lane serious attention and she graced the cover of Time Magazine with the headline “new young acting sensation.” Lane seemed poised for greatness.

Touched by Love, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains and Six Pack were critical and financial flops that failed to boost her career. After stints in TV movies, things took a turn for the better in 1983 when Francis Ford Coppola took notice of Lane and cast her in two “youth” films that went on to become cult classics – Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. Lane was on the right track again and seemed destined to fulfill the promise expected of her.

However, her next three choices had the adverse effect. She turned down the lead role in Splash, which was a surprise hit for Daryl Hannah, and instead accepted parts in two critical and commercial bombs – Streets of Fire and The Cotton Club. Lane had established a fan base and a loyal following after the success of her youth films in the early 80s, but it seemed this wasn’t enough to urge her forward to vie for better roles. Rather, she “retired” from acting at age 19, unhappy with the direction her career had taken. Her retirement lasted three years after which she returned to the film industry to begin the slow and gradual process of rebuilding her career.

Her rebuilding phase was marked with great variety.
She suffered obscure and dismal showings with a straight-to-video release called Lady Beware, a thriller about a married man who stalks Lane’s character. She achieved critical success with the well-reviewed yet little seen film The Big Town, in which she played an embittered stripper wife who cooks up a revenge scheme. After that, Lane turned to TV and starred in a hugely popular Western series called Lonesome Dove. Her role as a “whore with a heart” earned her an Emmy nomination, and the success of the show generated interest by film producers who began offering Lane supporting parts in films like Chaplin and Indian Summer.

In 2000, Lane starred in the biggest film of her career; the blockbuster hit The Perfect Storm, which grossed $330-million worldwide. Lane was in demand after the success of that film and appeared in a no less than three lead roles following it, the last of which proved to be the greatest critical and commercial success of her career, the aforementioned – Unfaithful. Her role earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress. After the major success of the film, however, she followed the familiar pattern of following success with mediocre films like Hollywoodland, Jumper and Nights in Rodanthe.

Lane’s career, like many actors in Hollywood, has had its share of highs and lows. She’s a wonderfully versatile actress with immense talent who deserves better roles in better films. It’s hard to say whether it’s Lane’s choice of roles that needs more discernment, or if it is the kind of roles she’s been offered that is the cause of her career inconsistencies. Her last film, Secretariat, was no Seabiscuit, but it was an entertaining, feel good, family film that did moderately well at the box office. Next up for Lane is the Superman reboot – Man of Steel – a highly anticipated blockbuster that I hope will set Lane on the right track because she deserves it.

What is your favourite Diane Lane performance? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. Wow... my favorite Diane Lane performance is in Rumble Fish. She was sexy but also very charismatic and had attitude. It's a very underrated film. I also liked her in The Outsiders and Streets of Fire.

    Yet, when I first saw Rumble Fish after having been re-introduced to her following Unfaithful and the film she's done since. I was amazed at her beauty. I had to do a double take where I was like... how did this gorgeous young woman in her late teens/early 20s go from being this lovely ingenue to being this even more gorgeous, sexier woman in her 40s? Wow...

    I would also recommend Ladies & Gentlemen, We are the Fabulous Stains. It's a great cult movie that had Lane in a band with Laura Dern and featured appearances from a young Ray Winstone as a punk singer whose band included the Clash's Paul Simonon and the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones & Paul Cook. You can't get any better than that man!

  2. I have a weak spot for Diane Lane-- Lady Beware is great, as is Streets of Fire. It's a shame her career is such a roller coaster, as she's always such a sensuous and intelligent presence.

  3. I've had a thing for Diane Lane ever since I saw her in A Little Romance (nothing creepy - I am the same age as her and saw the film when it came out.) It's funny how I liked many of the movies listed as "critical failures" in the article. Like thevoid99 I would also recommend giving a second chance to Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. I also like Streets of Fire. It was the first film I ever saw Willem Defoe in.

    Lane's best performance is in Unfaithful and the key scene is exactly the one you mentioned in the article - the one on the train.

  4. @thevoid99 - I need to watch 'Rumble Fish' again. I liked her in 'The Outsiders' as well.

    Diane Lane just smoldered in 'Unfaithful.' I'd like to see her take on a role layered and intense like that again.

    Diane Lane, Laura Dern, members of Clash and the Sex Pistols - I'm sold. Gotta check that out.

    @Mr. Sheldrake - she has made some good films, and she's capable of so many more - hopefully the roller coaster ride is winding down.

    @Chip Lary - I've never see 'Streets of Fire' or 'Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.' I'll have to check them out.

    She was superb in 'Unfaithful' and I always think of that scene immediately when I think about her outstanding performance.


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