Oral History: Diane Lane on Being a Child Star

by Jack Tewksbury February 20, 2020
Actress Diane Lane, Golden Globe nominee, in 2003

hfpa archives

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items - is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library. In 2003,  20 years and one nomination after our first press conference with Diane Lane, she shared with us her thoughts on starting an acting career at six-year-old, and how her father - a respected New York acting coach - guided her through the maze. A few months after this interview, Lane would get her second nomination, for her work in Under The Tuscan Sun.

“I would not say I was a star at six.  I had some people who would spank me very hard at six if  "star"  was even associated with what I was doing at the time.  However,  there are a lot of people who are stars today at six and there is always the Shirley Temple example when I was growing up. 

But theatre has the number one rule that everyone can benefit from.  Because it is a  team sport, it does not encourage stardom. Being a  star can be very damaging to a young person. Your parents must compartmentalize this. They must separate church and state.  I was blessed to have a father who would have conversations with me beyond my years but empowered me to not feel like a piece of meat, ever.  And that was great. 

He allowed me to say no to films when I was 14 years old,  because of what I could tell about the scripts and what I thought was going to happen when they promoted the movie,  and what I thought was going to wind up happening that he couldn’t foresee and he respected my brain.  So I think that that’s a very important part of surviving. 

And then there’s the genetic cruelty of what you grow up to look like and what’s marketable in this industry. That’s something too. I’ve been seeing more and more really beautiful young girls who seem to me as though they’re chosen early because they know that as an investment they’re going to be photogenic at an older age. So it’s interesting to watch as a trend. It was very rare when I was a child.”