“YOU know, it’s a good time to be a woman of a certain age,” Diane Lane says. “Women are allowed opportunities to have narratives that are beyond the ingenue. It’s great. I think that on the large screen we’re back.”

Lane is, certainly. At the age of 55 she’s having something of a moment. She’s had a few of those in her time. When she was 13 Laurence Olivier, no less, declared that she was the “new Grace Kelly” after he played opposite her in the film A Little Romance. At 14 she turned up on the cover of Time magazine in 1979 under the headline “Hollywood’s Whiz Kids”. In the early 1980s she worked with Francis Ford Coppola on The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club. Some 20 years later, in 2002, she was even nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the film Unfaithful.

There have been non-moments too, right enough. Times when her career sputtered out and fell away. She even retired from acting for a while when she was just 19 after the failure of The Cotton Club.

But right now, she’s once again on the rise.

Indeed, since 2013, when she turned up as Martha Kent, Superman’s adopted mum, in the film Man of Steel, she’s been on a bit of an onscreen tear, most notably in the last series of political TV drama House of Cards (the post-Kevin Spacey series).

The latest iteration of this revival is a new film, Let Him Go, which sees her as a modern-day western heroine, “married” (as she was in Man of Steel) to Kevin Costner and grieving her lost son. There have already been Oscar whispers surrounding her performance.

Based on a novel by Larry Watson, Let Him Go is a slow-burn revenge thriller that is also an essay on motherhood, grief and the harsh beauty of the American landscape. It is home to a fiery performance from Lesley Manville and a steely one from Lane.

As such, it’s a reminder that good actors don’t forget how to do the job after they’ve passed the age of 30 just because they’re women. Hollywood might finally be catching on.

“What did Jane Fonda say? ‘Women get one season, spring.’” Lane recalls. “Of course, she knows what she’s talking about because she’s had them all. She’s living them fiercely and setting wonderful footprints in the sand for the rest of us all to follow in hopefully.

“It seemed like it was the black and white film era when we had heroines that were strong women characters who were not always in ‘the spring’.

“But I’m grateful for work. It’s humbling. Every day you’re grateful, especially now with a global pandemic. It used to seem like science fiction now. It’s science, but people are treating it like fiction. So, you can’t win.”

That’s a typical Laneian answer, a pell-mell of skittering ideas tumbling over and sometimes crashing into each other. We are speaking in October. Trump is still in the White House, and the United States has not even begun to tackle the pandemic.

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It is a Saturday afternoon. Morning in Toronto where Lane is today. On Monday morning she will start filming a new TV series, Y: The Last Man, based on a graphic novel which posits a post-androcide world in which (nearly) all the men are wiped out by a mysterious plague. And, of course, it’s been filmed during another one, which will bring its own challenges. As Lane says, it will be “fascinating to try to gear up in a pandemic with all these protocols.”


Even on speakerphone Lane is good company. Laidback, mordantly funny, amused by the world around her. In our short time together she raves about Scotland – “I’ve seen some castles. I did the Isle of Skye trip and I love the cities. I’ve got a good Scottish friend who’s a wonderful actress, Gayle Rankin. So, I love me some Scots.” – and what it was like living through this year’s forest fires in California. “On a primitive level you’re frightened. Horses know to run away. I don’t take fresh air for granted.”

And when I mention the Oscar talk that has attached itself to Let Him Go, she self-deprecatingly notes, “Any year that Meryl Streep is not running …”

That does help, I say.

“It’s completely out of my hands how it’s received,” she continues. “I’ve learnt a long time ago not to take it personally. There are many great quotes about it, especially from the theatre. ‘Of course, I never read my reviews, but damn the Times.’

“I’m not going to kid you completely. If this film got the recognition that it could attain ... It always depends on the marketplace it falls into as well.”

That hesitation might speak of the battle between hope and experience. Which could be shorthand for her own career arc, you might say.

Let Him Go is a dark, brooding film, but the making of it was fun, she says. “We had a wonderful time making this movie. There was a sense of joy. We felt good. We wished there were more films like it. When you feel that way about something, it shows. And the crew gives their energy, and we all feel quite good.”

What was her favourite day on set? “I don’t know. Any day I can ride a horse is fun for me.”

It’s not the first time she’s worked with Costner, obviously. Does it get easier to work with someone more than once, or is there a challenge to inhabit new characters when you know your fellow actor so well?

“That would be true if you got overly familiar. That hasn’t happened between me and Kevin. There are other people who I do know so well that to act with them you’d have to scrape away a lot. You’d have to work hard to forget.”

Still, close or not, she enjoys working with Costner. “We knew we wanted to work together again. We had a natural flow, an artistic chemistry, and we knew we wanted to find the right material. I mean, to be newly-minted grandparents is a joyful place to start a story. That’s where we meet our couple. They’ve been married for a long time. He’s a retired sheriff. The way information is parsed out is interesting in this film, too. You don’t find everything out right away and, like long-term relationships, which I really enjoy seeing portrayed if they are done well, you don’t need a lot of words.

She laughs at this point. “I mean there’s a novel in the silence, you know. In a look. Kevin possesses that innately. He’s born for this. The medium would have to be invented for him if it hadn’t been already because he has a largesse d’esprit that all his characters are imbued with and it’s in him and I’m glad he has a place to put it for all of us.”

Playing opposite Lesley Manville was also a treat, Lane adds. “Anything with Lesley Manville, I want to see. To have a scene with her was enough to make the movie. She didn’t come onto it until later and I’m so glad she did. I’m so delighted and thrilled. I know she had fun doing it because I was there, and we had great fun together. It was a battle royal.”

Which brings us back to where we came in. The question, Diane, I say, is why have film-makers only just realised that telling stories that involve women who have actually lived a bit might be the sensible thing to do?

“Sensible …” She laughs again. “I don’t know. I should have an answer for that. I’ll think of an answer in the cab ride home. I think maybe your readers will have a theory or two. Wisdom is something that is earned, and innocence is something that is valued. … What’s that great song? ‘I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.’

“I think that happens to all of us. I was much more brittle, for lack of a better world, in my younger years and I feel much more flexible and resilient and at peace about certain things that you come to accept with time.”

The younger you struggled with the setbacks? “Well, you worry that you’re not going to get another time at the bat. That’s the thing about my industry. It’s a crap shoot and you get addicted. It’s a gambler’s addiction. You just want one more, just one more. ‘Let me take another whack at it. I can do this.’”

Time for the flashback. Diane Lane was born in New York in 1965, the daughter of acting coach Burton Eugene "Burt" Lane and nightclub singer/centrefold Colleen Farrington. She’s been married twice herself, to Christopher Lambert and Josh Brolin (the latter ended with reports of domestic abuse. She’s never publicly commented).

When she was 20, Lane had a fling with Jon Bon Jovi, but, contrary to the rumours, she has always insisted she wasn’t the inspiration for the song You Give Love a Bad Name. (Good to know we don’t have to hold that against her.)

Her early years and the influence of her parents are fascinating. Lane made her stage debut at the age of six, was a Hollywood star in her teens and then, as noted, “retired” before she was 20. That’s the basis of a good memoir right there, I tell her. “I have thought about it. I don’t know if I possess the discipline. If being in lockdown for six months in a pandemic didn’t force my hand to the pen to the paper …

“I’m teasing. I’ve thought about it. I’ve threatened it and then I backed away because it’s not really my wheelhouse. It’s not my skill set. I don’t know what the entry point is. I loved Jane Fonda’s books and she started with her mother and that’s what they say to do because it’s everybody’s entry point literally and figuratively. That would be a good one.”

It would indeed. Colleen Farrington was a model, a Playboy Playmate and sang in clubs. When Lane was 13 days old her mother went to Mexico to get a divorce. After spending the first few years of her life with her mother, Lane then stayed with her dad when Farrington decided to move back home to her native Georgia. At 15, Lane ran away to California with a boyfriend before returning to New York where she lived apart from her dad. Then, when Lane was 16, when her mum turned up again, put her in a car and drove her to Georgia. Lane and her father took her mum to court as a result.

By then Lane was well-established as an actor. Living out her father’s dream, really. At what point, I ask, did it become hers?

Lane thinks about this. “Can I pinpoint a moment? The wonderful thing about what I get to do is that it’s sort of evergreen, in the sense of people coming together. We’re telling a story. We’re bringing it to life, literally, through our breath and bodies, acting these things out. What do they say? There are three or five stories reorganised, like Mexican food. You have these ingredients and what do you do with them? As a performer you change because you have more experience with yourself. Life is like a spiral. You revisit territory, but now you’re different.

“But you asked me a specific question. Was there a moment when was I more in the saddle? When was I in possession of it?

“Well, how about this? I came to terms with it because I didn’t have a better one. My father’s dream was just fine, thank you. It was good enough for my lifetime. How could I top it? I get such variety of experience. That is what I’m mostly grateful for, in hindsight.

“I do see the good fortune that my dad saw. That it’s a wonderful way to learn about the world. And, yeah, I guess I’m a lifer at this point. I’m grateful. It’s nice to still be invited to work. It’s by invitation only.”

Hers has been a long, strange trip. Does that 13-year-old girl Olivier once raved about feel far away? “Umm yeah. It’s almost like you get reincarnated without having to actually die. It’s fantastic because you change so much, and I get to reassure my younger self. ‘Look, you made it to here. You didn’t screw up too badly. If you did, you were forgiven. You are allowed to keep growing and learning, and now it’s time to give back.’

“I think about all the kindnesses I was given as a young person. Kids today need all of the care and protection that we can give them.

“There’s something to be said about that because, as a young person, I was spared a lot of what I hear exploitative things happened, and not just in my business. Innocence is worth protecting. I had a great experience. I don’t know if it’s because my grandmother prayed over me or not.

“I do want to express my gratitude by paying that forward. It’s nice to work with young people now. They look at me like I’m … I don’t know.” Lane laughs again. “They know that I started when I was younger than them even.”

She pauses a moment. “I don’t know. I’m supposed to know a lot now, aren’t I?”

I suspect Diane Lane knows plenty.

Let Him Go is in cinemas from Friday