By: Izumi Hasegawa
Izumi Hasegawa: It’s always great to see you two on screen. Did you know that the other was already signed to this when you got on board? How does it feel to be reunited once again?
Diane Lane: I remember this phone call that we had. I was in Toronto, and it was January of 2007.
Richard Gere: This is going to be a Rashomon, by the way. Her story is going to be totally different than mine.
DL: You said, “So, you’re really going to do this, huh?” We were both like, “Yeah. We are really going to go for it.” All these conversations had been had in sections. By the time we finally got on the phone with each other, we were a little pregnant. It was like that — we knew we were on the track, yet still with a question mark at the end, just a little bit. Then I’ll have to say that I finally got the chance to see Lackawanna Blues and that sealed the deal for me. Richard was so enamored with George C. Wolfe as a person.
RG: It was vaguely like that, but — is the producer here? So I can say anything I want? The script was not perfect. They had brought this to me a couple of years before we actually ended up making it. I kept going, “This needs a lot of work. I get where it could go. I think I understand how it probably functions the best for the story it’s telling, but the script is not happening.”
DL: It read like a play for a little while, like two people without being fleshed out.
RG: In a way, it didn’t give us space to let anything organic happen. It was trying to work it too much in an obvious kind of way. Anyhow, through the process of that, it still wasn’t coming together. Diane, of course, was perfect for the part. There wasn’t a director involved. It was all kind of fluffy, out in the air somewhere. Then, I think, for me, it was probably meeting George [Wolfe] that I said, “Okay, here is a smart guy.” We just talked about movies and storytelling when he came over to my office. Diane was in Toronto and we were in New York. She didn’t have a chance to meet him, but you obviously spoke on the phone. We spent quite a bit of time just talking about things in general, to see where we were coming from. I had a comfort level with him. As Diane said, we spoke about it and I said, “Look, I feel good with this guy. We’ll develop it, we’ll work on it — it won’t be easy, but we’ll find what there is in this material that resonates with us. We’ll try to bring something to it.” It wasn’t easy, believe me. It wasn’t like, “Here’s the script. Do you want to do it or not?” “Yes, let’s go.” It really was a slow burn over quite a bit of time.
IH: Because George had done a lot of stage work, did he direct differently than film directors?
RG: I don’t think so. He has a sense of the theatrical. There are a couple of scenes in the movie that maybe a movie director wouldn’t have thought of. He thinks about music a lot. He designed a couple of scenes around music. He specifically had something in his mind that would be the music of those scenes. We improvised a lot within that, but I think he’s more of an idea guy, coming from the world of theatre. What’s the idea of the scene? Then we would construct something that would make that work. I think that a lot of movie directors tend to go by the feeling of it and find a way to film the feeling, rather than something that is more manifest in the behavior.
DL: He would talk a lot also about the energy of the scene. He talked about the house being a character in the story that goes through the storm, as we are part of the story going through our storm. There are these parallel lines — it’s very theatrically described.
RG: George is incredibly articulate also. A lot of film directors, especially that don’t come out of the theatre, find it very hard to articulate what they are trying to do.
DL: That’s true — communicating.
RG: George absolutely can communicate. That is his life in the theatre. You learn how to do that there. If you can’t say it, then you probably are not going to get it on stage. You need to have that level of communication. Theatre is a verbal medium, and George is incredibly verbal. In a way, that made it easier for us because we weren’t thinking, “What is he talking about?”
DL: We just nodded a lot.
RG: “What does he want here?” Sometimes you do that in a movie. You try 15 different things and the director is still not giving you anything. You kind of go, “Okay, look — I’ve done everything I could do. What do you want?” But George isn’t really like that. No, he has a very clear sense that he can verbalize.
IH: This is the third time you are working together. You have great chemistry. What did you discover, this time, working together?
RG: I discovered that she’s still 18 and I grew older. That’s what I discovered.
DL: I am just enjoying the fact that this was the first time we’ve heard that question, and I know we’re going to be hearing it a few more times. I’m trying to come up with really funny answers for every single time. First thought that came to mind was that you could teach an old dog new tricks. Then, see? There was no laugh. It’s true that Richard and I have this thing. It feels like five minutes ago we were in Germany doing this table, and it was eight years ago.
RG: I don’t remember that at all.
DL: It’s another worm hole where I keep popping up in your past. It’s wonderful to have the comfort level of all our past conversations and experiences to not have to wear kid gloves. We can get right in there and trust each other’s boundaries, or not be worried about them, walking on egg shells like you would with somebody you just met, in terms of communication.
RG: Or someone who is crazy.
DL: At least we know that we don’t have to wonder.
RG: We don’t have to worry. We absolutely know for sure. I think what Diane said is true. If you have a built-in level of respect and trust, and an openness to be yourself, and especially in film acting, then you are way ahead. It allows for a deeper and uncensored communication.
DL: You can get there by take two instead of take seven, hopefully. George liked that idea.
IH: What do you think this film teaches us about life?
DL: Teaches us? Interesting — I have to go in another room and think about that one.
RG: She is stuck on the teaching. I don’t know that the movie is teaching anything. Aren’t movies that work probably a mirror in some way, so we can see ourselves? I don’t think this is a story for teenagers. There is not a lot in this for teenagers.
DL: Except they will see themselves with their parents.
RG: When they become parents, then they will see it like we all do. I think this is about people who have been through a lot. They know themselves enough that they know what’s emotionally and psychologically real and what isn’t. It’s very hard to be a kid and know that you are just floating on hormones. I think these people have a certain sense of dignity and responsibility about them that they listen to each other. They can be affected by each other, but they trust their basic instincts that they are going towards the good.
DL: Right, and they have a sense of what that is as well. That’s the joke about the old dog and new tricks. When you meet someone who challenges you on a level of what you’ve become comfortable with about yourself — you really thought you had it figured out — then somebody challenges you, that is very affecting. To open that door of being willing to reassess one’s self, one’s ambitions in life, and say “I can do better” and “What would that look like?” because somebody else has forced you to open your eyes where you didn’t want to look, that is very endearing. That is what intimacy is — into me you see. So when somebody sees something about you that you would rather not look at yourself, it can definitely get the adrenaline going.
IH: I could really see that your character was torn about this decision she had to make about her ex-husband. That is really a testament to your performance — that we are going through that with you. But in real life, would you consider giving a guy like that a second chance?
RG: The camera should be on this guy — that was brilliant.
IH: It works for the movie.
DL: You mean to string it along? I don’t know, I guess I would have to parlay that into the best answer I can. That’s to say that it’s not unheard of to manipulate the children into taking sides in a relationship with the parents. I like the fact that the movie touched on that because all is fair in war and love. When you get the kids to take sides, that’s cheating — that’s below the belt. They are not supposed to be used as balancing the scales of power within the emotional dynamics of the adults. It’s very unfair. That, to me, was worth visiting. You say, “Well, when that happens, then we are justified in saying it’s an unfair fight.” I don’t want to play with somebody who is going to fight not fair.
IH: Of course, everyone is talking about the great chemistry in the films you do together. To me, the most effective part of this film is that we really felt you guys falling for each other. It really, really took off when you guys were writing each other letters. Maybe you recorded the voice over at the same time or maybe you didn’t. How was that process different?
RG: It’s interesting because that wasn’t part of the original script. That was an addendum and it was in trying to figure out where the movie was in the editing process. The movie was strange. In a way, it ended earlier than that, not in terms of the time but in terms of our story. It actually ended earlier. The letters, I think, are from the book. A lot of it was from the book.
DL: Yes, letting people into the later part of our relationship…
RG: It kept us alive as a couple until almost the end of the movie. That actually wasn’t part of the original structure.
DL: It was conveniently available — hindsight: 20/20.
RG: The novelist knew that, though. I guess, when we were fashioning the script, we didn’t think that was necessary. In terms of storytelling, the kind of mysterious ways that stories are conveyed, then it was required.
IH: You had never read the novel prior to this?
RG: Not prior to making the movie.
IH: Have you read or are you aware of his other novels?
DL: Oh yeah, very aware.
RG: I wasn’t very aware. I’ve seen a couple of the movies. I thought The Notebook was a terrific film, but I had never read any of the books.
DL: So many books, so little time. I want to say one thing about the letter-writing. I love the rebelliousness of snail mail. I’m very sentimental about anything that can arrive with a postage stamp on it, how quickly things become relics. There is something about paper, the other person’s hands and breath, and pennants were upon that paper. It’s tactile.
RG: It’s time.
DL: You can touch the same object that the other person touched just for you.
RG: Time and effort had to be committed to this thing. Care was taken.
DL: And you couldn’t just edit and leave no trace of your change of thought like you can now.
IH: Do you do much corresponding with anyone by snail mail?
DL: There are always birthdays. I’m exaggerating slightly. Even my daughter, who just turned 15, got some letters in the mail. She was ecstatic. She had forgotten that existed as an option.
RG: My son is the same way. I have an eight-year-old son. When he gets a letter from an old teacher who writes from vacation somewhere around the world, he knows the difference when a card comes and someone just signs it. But if someone actually wrote sentences, it’s huge. It touches your heart in a totally different way.
IH: Can you recall your first impressions of each other?
RG: This is new territory. I thought we had done everything. Okay, go ahead.
DL: Ladies first, suddenly? Okay, here we go. I don’t know what to do now. I was very insecure and I think it manifested itself by coming off age-appropriate for 18. Just a little defensive and a little bitchy maybe?
DL: And I got the part! It was interesting because I was filming Streets of Fire and I had to come out and do the chemistry meeting. Can you imagine flying out with that in mind? No pressure or anything. You walk in the room and you are already pissed off. So I was just: “Hi, I’m here. Do you like me?” That’s how I felt.
RG: I just went down the worm hole. It’s Francis Ford Coppola and me. She’s worked with him two or three films, so you had a comfort level with him for sure.
DL: Earlier that year, basically. I was like, “Now you want me to audition? This is unfair.” I thought I was in like Flynn. I was making all Cathy Moriarty’s price down, that’s why they had me in there. I was such a bitch.
RG: She really remembers everything. I have no memory of this whatsoever. I remember she was an absolute doll, no question about it. What had been out at that point — that was the adult you and not kid you?
DL: Six Pack?
RG: It was one of the ones you had done with Francis and it was out already.
DL: Sure, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish were probably out.
RG: Yeah, and absolutely adorable, watch-able, and something mysterious going on. But she was very self-possessed at the same time. She came in with all those qualities — precociousness, in terms of being able to deal with a situation. At 18, I couldn’t deal with anything. I couldn’t even speak. I could see immediately how she could play this part and bring a quirky “I don’t care” attitude. Underneath, you knew that she desperately did. That’s one of the tricks of film acting. Underneath is the opposite of what you are showing, almost always. The subtlety with which you can communicate, that is probably the degree that you succeed, or not nonverbally. It has to be done quick and without relying on words. She has always had that quality. And very defensive yes, I do remember that much. You were leaving the room and like, “Wow, okay.” I woke up the next day and I called Francis and said, “She’s the one. She is absolutely the one.” But he had made up his mind already.
DL: Well, I’m glad to hear that after all this time. No, seriously.
RG: And Cathy Moriarty was more expensive.
DL: So it’s true.
IH: Can you talk about the love scenes? Is it harder to do it when you are friends, or does that make it easier? Do you laugh more?
DL: Oh yeah, we laugh a lot.
RG: Should we tell them? It was body doubles. We weren’t even there.
DL: They burned it all in later. You know how when they do movies where they save the stunt for the end?That’s in case something bad happens. That’s what they did with the love scene for us — in case one of us got hurt. “Oh, my back!” Sorry.
RG: I guess it seems to me that they went pretty quickly. We didn’t have to labor them.
DL: George was so funny that day.
RG: George was nervous.
DL: He couldn’t be in the room. He had to be in another room with the monitors and saying, “Go for it, honey. You know how to do it.”
RG: And she does.
DL: That was the royal “we” he was speaking to, because it takes two.
IH: You shot on location in North Carolina, right?
DL: Yes, and the house was being reclaimed by the sea, as you can see in the trailer.
IH: How was that shooting? Was the storm real? Were any of the sea caps and stuff real?
RG: There is footage in this that was shot during tests before I got there. Did we both get there about the same time? Anyhow, the storm hit. There was a hurricane. It took much of the set. That house was gone.
DL: The stairs were gone, all kinds of things.
RG: And the beach was gone. The storm took the beach away so we had to rebuild the beach. They were doing camera tests, so a lot of the footage of that storm is in the movie now. That thing was totally out of control. We had to find other things to shoot while they rebuilt the beach, the house, and before we even started shooting. It was serious.
DL: We were standing on the stairs of the house and there was a moment where Richard is upstairs, I’m downstairs, but we don’t know that both of us are having a similar moment within the house. We can’t see each other at all. The ocean waves just blew up my dress. I screamed and ran away, “Cut, cut, cut! That was not part of the scene.” I said, “Well neither was the ocean coming up my dress. What do you want me to do? Pretend it’s not happening and nobody will see?” I don’t think we could use that take.
RG: There were wild tides too, as I recall. We started shooting something on the beach and if we didn’t get it done quickly, the tides would be all the way up past the shore where we were shooting.
DL: The horses would have been swimming.
IH: Do you look for properties to do together? Do you read something and think, “Oh God, Diane would be good for that,” or “Richard would be good for that”?
RG: I keep trying to find things that I can’t do with her, because it’s so obvious that we should be doing everything together. Every time I read something, it’s always Diane, isn’t it? I read and go, “It’s Diane, isn’t it?”
DL: That’s very sweet. He’s buttering me up for kill here, I love it. There were a couple of times that have been close calls that didn’t happen.
RG: We are both very picky also. We are very picky and don’t necessarily work a lot.
DL: When you have kids, you factor in where, when, how long. I remember you saying, “Bring Eleanor, she’ll like the Antarctic.” I said, “Wait, let me get this right. We’ll be in an ice breaker on a big metal ship for how many weeks?”
RG: I had forgotten about that one.
DL: Lots and lots of penguins.
RG: There was a movie we were going to shoot in Antarctica. Again, “It’s Diane, isn’t it?” She was perfect for it.
DL: She’s too skinny. She can’t handle the cold.
RG: I said, we’re going to go down to Iraq. Well, after we came back from Iraq, I didn’t want to do it anymore. It was so hard, everything about it. It was hard to get down there, hard to function when you are down there, we were trying to do camera tests…it was impossible.
DL: You can’t form consonants; it’s too cold.
RG: And if a storm comes in, you can be stuck there for three months.
DL: That’s the fine print in the contract.
RG: And not being able to work?
DL: Well, the sun is always out — you can just run out and shoot.
RG: Yeah, we didn’t make that one.
IH: What are each of you looking for these days in scripts?
RG: I look less than an hour from my house. That’s one very powerful criteria. Every time I have thought, “Well, I am desperate to make a movie where I’m an out-of-work musician who has one leg…” whatever it is, but very specific.
DL: I’m seeing a top hat.
RG: Those never happen. It’s always something that you were working on this and then something comes in, you look at it…
DL: It’s adopting you.
RG: Oh, yeah. It’s always a surprise. I have never had anything that was part of the development process that worked — ever.
DL: I really want to play a bitch in a comedy. There it is, so I’m open to any submissions. No, I’m half kidding.
RG: She’s not kidding at all.
DL: Whenever she says she is kidding, then you know. That’s kind of territory for me — being sympathetic is a burden I would like to shirk, at this point. Something like Anjelica Huston in The Grifters or something.
IH: You both share pretty important pivotal scenes in this film with James Franco. Each of you obviously had your separate time with him. What was that experience like for both of you?
RG: It was also very quick. It is a small part. In movies you care about, the small parts are incredibly meaningful. You’ve seen that in movies where they will hire any actor to play a small part and it destroys the movie. You get nothing out of the scene. You start questioning basic reality. To have really terrific actors in small parts is maybe the most important thing in a film. It’s just the fact that he was willing to do it and also brought so much of himself. I wasn’t there when he shot his scenes with Diane, but to see how much he brought to those was wonderful. During the storm sequence in Ecuador, we actually were creating the storm. There was a faulty rain line and the whole set started to collapse and we were underneath it. I ran one direction and he ran the other. The powers that be came in and said, “We are stopping production. Someone will get hurt.” This was the last day we had with him. He had to go off and shoot something else. I said, “Okay, let’s take a deep breath here. We’re not going to do that, but let’s shoot. We need a couple of close-ups and we can cut in what we have. We can finish the big stuff later.” We did that, we took a deep breath, went in and did some tight close-ups. It was something we could control with not a lot of craziness around. In the end, we didn’t need the rest of the big stuff. We had enough to make it work. It was enormous pressure to get everything done with him in the time we had allotted. Everything he did is in the film. It adds a lot to the film.
IH: Diane, Richard has a sexy, timeless quality that has made him such an icon. Why do you think that is?
DL: Oh, my word.
RG: You don’t have to answer that question.
DL: I don’t know. I feel like he might know what I would say.
RG: While she is thinking, I’ll tell you a story. I was shooting a film in Sarajevo and we ended up calling it The Hunting Party. We did a press conference there because we were shooting in the community. It was about this size, and there was a very young and shy girl in the back. She raised her hand and said, “On behalf of three generations in my family, I would like to thank you for continuing to make movies. We love you. On behalf of myself, my mother and my grandmother.” I thought how sweet that was, but it also gave me a sense that I’m really old. I’ve been doing this a long time.
DL: I was just remembering that wonderful movie you made with Mr. Altman.
RG: Dr. T and the Women.
DL: Yes, and I love that movie. One thing I always felt about Richard, whether it’s on screen or in person, is that he has this ability to make you feel as though he can see right through you. He can see the core of you. I don’t know if its true, but it might as well be true because I have nothing opposing that. Women just feel basically disrobed, and that’s a plus.
RG: A plus for me too.
DL: At the same time, I do recall when we were filming The Cotton Club and you would come in the mornings and tell me what color my aura was.
DL: That was a good thing! I didn’t know that was the thing you were embarrassed about of all the stories we have. I think it’s adorable. So, he was right every time. I would look up the color and he was right. I was defensive that day, or whatever. It’s true — you can’t really pull the wool over Richard’s eyes. It’s very disarming and it’s charming.
RG: And annoying.
DL: A little annoying. It works to his advantage.
IH: I’m looking ahead to Halloween and wondering which of your characters might make good costumes…
DL: I’m going to write that one down and tell my daughter. I will say, “See what I do for a living, dear? This gentleman said this to me today and I had no comeback. What should I have said?” I like that. I have a visual from it, but I don’t know what to say.
IH: Maybe the rock star from Streets of Fire? That would be cool.
DL: I know you are serious.
RG: And that is what’s deeply frightening about it — you are serious.
IH: Both of you are parents in real life. For each of you, did any of the circumstances you found yourself in resonate with you as a parent? Did you go through any of this yourself as a child?
DL: I’ve certainly yelled at people on the phone over parenting issues. I’ve certainly had comeuppance moments with teenagers. You can’t be popular and be productive very often. They don’t go together sometimes, but that is a very adult lesson. It requires a lot of finesse that sometimes escapes us and, in hindsight, we wish we could have done better. That is a very humbling, parental reality. You learn it as you go. You don’t get any rehearsal, and every kid is different.
RG: You do get a rehearsal.
DL: You do?
RG: Yeah, you’ve been married a couple of times. I’ve been married a couple of times.
DL: That didn’t help me as a parent. You mean my first son, the sons. The husbands?
RG: What are you talking about?
DL: The joke is: “Have you met my first born?”
RG: “No, that’s my husband.” Yeah. The clinical psychologists in the back row, could they come up now please?