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Interview: Diane Keaton on 'And So It Goes' and torturing Michael Douglas

"And So It Goes" star Diane Keaton talks about how she's not a good singer, playing with Michael Douglas and the way she's improved as an actress.

Diane Keaton plays a widowed lounge singer in "And So It Goes." Credit: Getty Images Diane Keaton plays a widowed lounge singer in "And So It Goes."
Credit: Getty Images

Diane Keaton is exactly what you’d expect. Talking to her is like talking to Annie Hall. Woody Allen based that character — her Oscar-winning performance — on Keaton herself, and in real life she’s as giggly and nervous, spouting off words with only the slightest anxiety about what they are. She does the same thing in “And So It Goes,” in which she and Michael Douglas play a widow and widower who find autumnal love.

As she’s done before, she sings, but not, she thinks, well: “I had insane fantasies about me singing. But they quickly fell apart when I started. You know what I mean? I have a little tiny voice and not much there. I wish I had a big voice. Can you imagine singing if you could sing like Beyonce? That sound coming out of your head? What does it feel like?”

Inventing her own background: “I built the backstory. She was one of those rep players with her husband, and they’d do theater around the country. They’d do a little place in the Catskills — something like that. But she wasn’t a real singer. So when he passed away her life was crushed. She thought maybe she could be a big of a lounge singer. I think she was nervous. I don’t think she had a lot of experience.”


On not really knowing Michael Douglas or director Rob Reiner till now: “You have this sense there’s a community out there, but there really isn’t. Maybe in New York there is — maybe the theatrical world is more unified. But in California it’s very isolated. There are tiny pockets, but basically no. I met [Douglas] once, I think. Once you meet him, hello. Then I met him when he was going to win that big award that he won. What was it? The AFI. And he was telling me he was going to win the AFI award. That’s all I know about him. I don’t know anybody.”

Diane Keaton finally shares a movie with Michael Douglas in "And So It Goes." Clay Enos/Clarius Entertainment Diane Keaton finally shares a movie with Michael Douglas in "And So It Goes."
Clay Enos/Clarius Entertainment

On playing with Douglas: “He loves to be teased. He loves to be tortured. I just told him he was a big jerk all the time. He loved it. He ate it up. I knew I could get the scenes going by me torturing him. And he’s better than me. You want to know who you’re working with on a movie, because I like to play things with spontaneity. If I want to grab somebody, I want to be able to do it. Some people don’t like that.”

Changing times: “When I started doing movies it was, ‘Here’s your mark, go to your mark, if you miss your mark that’s really awful.’ Now the cameras are lighter, the approach to movies is less formal. I was looking at an old ’40s movie the other day and thought, ‘Oh my god, we’ve come a long way.’ The lighting is perfect, people are walking into place, it’s like they’re zombies. I think movies have come a long way, for the better.”

How she’s gotten better over the years: “In the beginning it was harder for me to be in a serious drama because of the language. When you hear Judi Dench or Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep, they have great verbal facility. I come from a place of less language. It was harder for me to do straight, serious roles because I wasn’t comfortable with the words. I think I’ve gotten better at that. I don’t think I have a better grasp of any other skill. I really don’t. I’m still learning. Not really, but…”

Bonus: Michael Douglas on Keaton: “What you see with her is what you get. She says, ‘I’m not an actress. I’m a person.’ Every scene would start with her arriving on set with earplugs in. She’s listening to music, not hearing anything. When they say action, she pulls out the earphones and here you go. That was great, I’m not used to it. It was unpredictable, makes you learn in, to see what she’s going to do, what she’s going to say.”

Rob Reiner on Keaton: “She’s the same as she is on camera. There’s no difference. She’s very instinctive at improvisation. She takes the lines and makes them her own.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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