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The Hollywood Reporter: How did you get involved in HBO’s Cinema Verite [a docudrama about Santa Barbara’s Loud family, which invited a filmmaker to invade their home in 1971 and reveal their deepest secrets — including son Lance Loud, TV’s first openly gay character — to the nation], and why?
Diane Lane: Honestly, I knew it was going to be really fun to talk about it. Because the Loud family was the first domino falling — I call them the first family of reality television, the first pinata. They offered themselves up not knowing what to expect from the piranhas in the fishbowl with you.
THR: What was your character, Pat Loud, like?
Lane: She was very much like [the australopithecine fossil] Lucy, the missing link in the history of feminism. Intelligent, a woman who is the head of a family, not a tiger mom. She said, “I was one of the last party moms,” because there were no aspersions to be cast at that time.
THR: What’s the difference between Cinema Verite and the original, An American Family?
Lane: Well, what do you mean, the original? The original showed only the footage edited down to 12 hours in its most exploitive way.
THR: The filmmaker [James Gandolfini] manipulates the situation to move the action forward on camera. He tells Pat about her husband’s [Tim Robbins] affair, sparking divorce.
Lane: The methods and means were absolutely corrupted. They didn’t understand how they would look after editing. If you start to bleed in that fishbowl, they’re gonna eat you clean down to the bone. They had no way of understanding the marketing of scandal. You get to see behind the curtain in Cinema Verite with the network saying: “People putting toothpaste on a toothbrush and arguing about a carpool is not interesting television. We need controversy.” It’s like the gladiators. It’s really super-primitive.
THR: Do you watch reality TV?
Lane: No, I don’t. I’ll change the channel. I want to put the fire out.
THR: Did you feel bad doing this?
Lane: I did. I did feel awkwardness and remorse and guilt over it because I felt like I was raising the Titanic of these people’s [trauma].
THR: Even though Mr. Loud was a jerk, I felt sympathy for him. The family disrespected him.
Lane: He went on Dick Cavett and said, “They show me as a lush because they would only show film of me when I had a drink in my hand.” Everything was skewed. You can’t have 300, almost 400 hours of film edited down to 12 and not have a slant put on it.
THR: I don’t know that I’ve seen a role like yours.
Lane: It was a multilayered onion to peel. It was sort of like ice skating — no, like roller skating under stilts, on ice.
THR: What do you mean?
Lane: It’s a movie within a movie about a movie, and there’s so many perspectives. I could never have been so fulfilled as I was to work with such a brilliant cast. I mean we fought hard to get Tim Robbins. And James [Gandolfini] actually had the cojones to hunt this guy [An American Family creator Craig Gilbert] down and interview him. I love that about James: He won’t take no for an answer. When he rings your doorbell, you open the door.
THR: The Louds were pilloried in 1973, but they wouldn’t be now.
Lane: These people were so harshly criticized, and we can now compare them to generations of people that have jumped into the volcano because they wanted attention. You can only be a virgin once. There can only be one first time. These people were it, and I think that they can legitimately cry wolf in saying that they did not have any way of preparing for the nature of the beast of this machine, where people get eaten alive on television.
THR: What are you in preproduction on now?
Lane: Superman. I don’t know what they’re calling it; I’m calling it Superman. But I’m playing Martha Kent, so that’s fun.
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