Keaton’s not keen to play it againComment on this story
London - Diane Keaton has just about given up on marriage. At 68, the only men in her life are the 48 photographs hammered on to a wall in her house.
There’s a much-loved image of Elvis Presley kissing an unidentified woman, Marion Robert Morrison before he became John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Fess Parker in his Davy Crockett coonskin cap, James Garner and James Dean.
Actor and playwright Sam Shepard, who took her breath away when they acted together in Days of Heaven, is among the 48. But he holds a special place in her fantasy world. Sadly there was no love spark for him, but there’s not a day that she doesn’t look into his face, she writes in her new autobiography, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty.
“They still give me hope for a house that can never be – a home that exists only in my dreams,” Keaton writes. A marriage and life with a husband. Missing from the male photo montage is her one-time true love Warren Beatty, “a person I loved in real time, not reel, and not in a photograph”, she writes.
“Real life Warren was a collector’s item, a rare bird. He had aspirations I couldn’t begin to contemplate.”
The break-up was bittersweet and oddly enough, “revolved around a photograph I saved but couldn’t find to put on my wall”. A mystery, now she wonders how Beatty, 76, is dealing with losing his looks and being “over the hump”.
Jack Nicholson was another one who got away. She first met him thirty-some years ago and friendship wasn’t possible. “I didn’t want to be his friend. I wanted him to kiss me. It didn’t happen.”
They reconnected 10 years ago as friends and now meet monthly for lunch.
She had an all-too-fleeting fleeting love affair with Al Pacino when they starred together in The Godfather but when the movie was finished, so was the affair – in Pacino’s mind but not in Keaton’s.
She became obsessed over how she could get him to marry her.
She first met Pacino in a bar in New York before filming began and was completely swept up into his face, his nose, his eyes. “I kept trying to figure out what I could do to make them mine. They never were.
“After Al, I began building a wall around my vulnerability. More hats. Long sleeved everything. Boots with knee socks and wool suits with scarves at the beach,” she confesses in the book.
Her still close friend, Woody Allen, told her in a phone message: “I’m standing in front of your house. I’d like to get in, but I don’t have a hammer.”
Thinking about friends who have made long-term relationships work, Keaton declares: “I will never marry.” She has abandoned hope of ever marrying and living with a man and now seems happy with the life she has made with her two adopted children, her daughter Dexter and her son Duke.
“I fell for the beauty of a broken bird. The ecstasy of failure. It was the only marriage I could make with a man. Black with a little white. Pain mixed with pleasure.” But that love affair blossoming into a marriage has eluded her all her life.
Keaton is still “full of love” for Allen, “the man who gave me this future”, after casting her in Play It Again, Sam (1969), Sleeper (1973) and her penultimate role with him, Annie Hall, in 1977.
Before his annual holiday in France last year she called Woody to see if they could do something together in New York. They strolled down Madison Avenue but they didn’t hold hands like they used to.
“He was 77. I was 67. Where did all the time go?” she wonders.
Keaton used to call Woody “the White Thing” and howl in laughter when he stepped out of the shower on to a dozen clean white towels to protect his pampered, tender feet.
“The day he wore shoes as we held hands on an idyllic sandy beach in Puerto Rico did me in. Who wants feet that only know the feel of a satin sheet, or a soft slipper, or a sock? Poor Wood, he’ll never know what he’s missing.”
But when she feared her hair was thinning (and it is), she called up “the White Thing” who had the shampoo he had used for years to stave off baldness sent to her.
It was shampoo from Dr Norman Orentreich in New York who performed the first hair transplant surgery in 1952. It worked for Woody who still has hair.
In her early twenties, Keaton confesses, she tortured Woody with her lack of confidence: would she be cast in a great movie, would her crooked nose stop her getting work?
“Looking back, I don’t know how Woody put up with me.” But he told her she didn’t have to worry. He told her she was funny and funny is money.
She sees herself as “a 67-year-old woman on the downhill slide”. The insecurities began when she was growing up in the Los Angeles and couldn’t do anything right in her father’s eyes. He constantly corrected her for mangling her sentences, stammering, “the ums, the you-knows, the oh-wells”. There were endless tears. Her mother gave her love and comfort.
“But I’d be lying if I told you my mornings didn’t start with self-doubt… I’m talking about the flaws that eventually take on a life of their own – to this day.”
It all started at 11 when she looked in the mirror and was filled with disappointment.
“I wasn’t Doris Day. Doris Day was my idol. Pressing my face against the mirror, I tried to imagine what I would look like with yellow hair.”
Every month she looked forward to the arrival of McCall’s magazine for her mother and she learned Maybelline Cake Mascara was “the first modern eye cosmetic for everyday use”.
And there were testimonials from women about Tangee cosmetics “Bright ’n Clear” lipstick “for lips men long to kiss again and again and again”. All these images seduced the young girl.
She was shocked when her neighbour told her she didn’t look like Doris Day but did resemble Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928.
Keaton discovered that the aviator dressed in leather jackets and did indeed look like a man. She was horrified.
“The more I looked at my face, the more determined I was to buy a Doris Day mask.”
At 14, she was sleeping with a bobby pin on top of her nose tilting it to the side where she thought the bulb was fat, hoping it would disappear.
She wrote in her diary that she needed to practise a series of smiles and exercise her eyes for 30 minutes a day.
Now at 68 there’s Keaton’s skin cancer regimen with monthly medical visits to the dermatologist and a huge array of creams and lotions and sunscreens.
There’s the mouth guard she wears every night to straighten her teeth and the gel to bleach them.
“The truth is, this is only the beginning of a long list that isn’t about beauty; it’s about survival.”
She looks back at the early years in junior college when she smoked weed.
At 22, she took peyote on a cast field trip to Fire Island, New York with the Broadway cast of Hair and swallowed MDA.
Now she never goes jogging without downing a chaser of red wine.
There remains regret that she may never love again but to still be dreaming of love is enough for her.