Making a movie in which you eat tons of food isn’t as fun as it sounds. Diane Lane spends most romanic comedy “Paris Can Wait,” traveling through France, digging into scrumptious-looking French dishes. It was all predictably delicious. But acting and eating at the same time isn’t always easy.
“I had some low notes in the reality of eating food,” Lane tells us. “My eyes started to strobe from eating too much chocolate — like I was going to have a seizure or something. They say chocolate is a drug, and I proved it. I thought they were joking.”
She wouldn’t describe herself as a foodie, though. “I make sure I have foodie friends, and I allow them to show off their foodi-ness to me. And I reap the benefits,” she says.
In the film, the Oscar-nominated actress, 52, plays Anne, the wife of a big-shot film producer played by Alec Baldwin. They’re due to travel from the Cannes Film Festival to Paris when he’s suddenly called away on business. So he deposits her in the car of one of his assistants, Jacques (Arnaud Viard), a middle-aged Frenchman, who keeps making pit-stops to grab food.
We soon start wondering if this neglected woman and this sometimes quite forward European will fall in love. But “Paris Can Wait” isn’t a simple “Will they or won’t they?” movie. And Lane likes that the two characters spend most of the movie in a gray zone.
“We’re so used to that ‘thumb up or down’ thing — live or die, does she or doesn’t she, black or white,” Lane says. “There’s very little patience for mystery. That’s where I think reality abides — in the amorphous question mark about how we feel.”
Jacques even confronts her about how she feels, in a way that few Americans would.
“He’s frank. That’s why they say, ‘Pardon my French.’ Because if you actually do a literal translation of a lot of French, it’s actually pretty frank,” she says, with a laugh.
For roles like “Paris Can Wait” — a romantic film about a middle aged woman — Lane has to go outside Hollywood. In Hollywood she mostly plays mothers. Right now, she’s Martha Kent, aka Superman’s mom in the DC Cinematic Universe. (She’ll be reprising the role in this fall’s “Justice League.”) But even that, she thinks, can be empowering.
“Being Superman’s mom is quite heroic, as far as the impact she has in creating a good man,” Lanes explains. After all, moms are big deals. “We all make our therapists rich talking about our mothers, right? If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother — that’s the joke.”
“Paris Can Wait” also reunites Lane with someone who’s been part of her life for decades, even if that person has often stood in the sidelines. It was written and directed by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford. Lane has worked with the legendary filmmaker four times — on “The Outsiders,” “Rumble Fish,” “Cotton Club” and “Jack.” Eleanor is usually on set, often filming the making of the film in production. (She won an Emmy for co-directing “Hearts of Darkness,” about the beyond hellish shoot of Francis’ “Apocalypse Now.”) Not that made making her first fiction feature any easier.
"You're never prepared, because things happen on a film that you can't be prepared for," Coppola tells us. In fact, they lost one of their lead actors (Nicolas Cage, replaced by Baldwin) shortly before the shoot. And they lost their Cannes hotel rooms, because the Prince of Saudia Arabia decided to take his first vacation in 15 years there, and bring 1,000 guests with him. And then there was the French crew, who were working during August — the month that every Frenchperson has had off for decades. At least they agreed to work on week into the month. "I wanted to go one more day, and they put their foot down."
Eleanor also reveals that her husband is currently working on a re-edit of “Cotton Club,” his 1984 period piece, which was beset by untold production problems, complete with a theatrical version that left many viewers disappointed. This newer version, Eleanor says, will include a lot of things that weren’t in it before. Lane is especially stoked to see it.
“That’s one of the most beautiful films ever. It’s like a moving oil painting,” Lane says of one of her first huge films. “And you’ll get to see me at 18!”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge