Diane Lane made the cover of Time magazine at age 13 for her first movie, A Little Romance, but it has actually taken a couple of decades of dues paying for her to make it to the top. "I was the underdog for so long in this business. I'm still expecting it to all go away," says the 40-year-old star, who now easily alternates between headlining romantic comedies like Must Love Dogs and starring in sexy dramas like the upcoming Truth, Justice and the American Way, with Adrien Brody and Ben Affleck.
It was a cinematic perfect storm of good movies '- including The Perfect Storm '- that finally got Lane leading-lady status in Hollywood after 33 years in the business. Following critical acclaim for playing a Jewish woman who cheats on her husband with Viggo Mortensen in the low-budget 1999 indie A Walk on the Moon, she landed the ultimate suffering romantic role as the girl left behind on shore in The Perfect Storm.
"As an actor you're always worried about the next job, but being in a movie that everybody has seen really changed it for me," she says. And she's glad it didn't come earlier, when she was suffering through '80s TV movies and features like Lady Beware and Knight Moves. By the time she got good roles in her mid-30s, she says, she had "a diversity of experience under my belt. I'm glad I didn't get that when I was 20."
Having It All, and Showing It Too
Even though that Perfect Storm role was chaste (since her man was lost at sea), it led to Adrian Lyne's steamy Unfaithful, in which she cheats on Richard Gere. All of a sudden, the bar was raised. "After Perfect Storm, there was that to live up to, there was more expected of me," she admits. She more than met the challenge by earning her first Oscar nomination, an honor she calls "a dream that you don't expect to dream."
Her next role was as different as could be, as she played a divorcee who runs off to Italy in Audrey Wells's Under the Tuscan Sun, based on the Frances Mayes best-seller. Lane went from steamy to sweetheart in less than a year, but was just as big a box office superstar.
"I don't know why things come to me," she confesses. "I'm affected by what I've done last, so I want it to be something different than I've done recently."
Now, at 40, she's even trying out what she calls "sexy mom roles." She has the drama Fierce People due in April, in which she plays a drug-addicted mother who takes her son off to a rich man's estate and gets him mixed up with their nefarious goings-on. And then she's back to a sexy lover part in Truth, Justice and the American Way, playing the girlfriend of TV Superman George Reeves (Ben Affleck) in a story exploring the actor's mysterious death. Soon she's off to shoot Killshot, based on Elmore Leonard's novel.
The Chickens Come Home to Roost
At this stage of her life, however, family is coming first. "It's not the popularity. Obviously, I need for my movies to make money so that I stay hired, but that's not what defines me," she stresses. "It's not going to hold my hand on my deathbed."
Wed for a year to actor Josh Brolin, three years her junior '- and son of James and stepson of Barbra Streisand '- Lane finds it "nice to be married to a younger man. I feel like we've been married 10 minutes or 10 years. We can't tell, which I think is a good sign."
When she decides on roles these days, she has to consider her new husband first of all, and then her daughter (with ex-husband Christopher Lambert) and two stepkids, and then the chickens they're about to raise. "It's a whole big life," she says. "If I get a script that's good, the first question I ask is 'Where?' If it's Bulgaria, I can't go. I don't want to lose too much of it or leave it for too long," she adds. "So I'm choosy. And if it's going to be in Bulgaria, it better be a damn good movie!"