I loved talking to Diane Keaton at the Crosby Hotel last Thursday. Since her film, 5 Flights Up, a portrait of a successful marriage, we spent a lot of time discussing the institution that my own father described as “flawed.” It turns out, my canny editors weren’t interested in that topic because Keaton had discussed it elsewhere. Her thoughts on the subject were new to me — and maybe they will be new to you. I found them fascinating. I also enjoyed her essays on beauty, Let’s Just Say it Wasn’t Pretty, which are as associative and deceptively light in prose as the actress is in person. So, here are my outtakes from our interview, which appears with a greater focus on her famous affairs at the New York Observer:
The subject was marriage because in her charming latest film opposite Morgan Freeman, 5 Flights Up, she plays a retired New York school teacher married to a painter. The pair contemplates the sale of the Brooklyn apartment where he carried her over the threshold as newlyweds decades before, a potential move both physical and emotional. While the Annie Hall star, 69, has crossed many thresholds in her life, she has never married – not Allen, not Pacino, not Beatty, although she had long-term relationships with all three.
Reflecting on viewing 5 Flights Up for a second time since its Toronto premiere, Keaton says: “I saw a great marriage. That’s what I saw. I saw a movie with a great marriage and a wonderful lesson for me, Diane, which is that about chasing a dream, chasing a dream.” In the movie’s case, it’s a New Yorker’s monopoly dream, selling a beautiful but flawed apartment – they are not getting younger and those five flights of stairs aren’t getting any shorter – for a place in a Manhattan elevator building. And, Ms. Keaton, a serial renovator who has moved her two adopted children, Dexter and Duke, from house project to house project with the regularity of army brats, can relate to the love of the leap.
And then, like a cliff diver, the native Southern Californian who knows a thing or two about that sport, goes deeper into the subject of marriage: “I felt like that was so applicable to my own life and what was not applicable to my own life was the reality of a great marriage. And that it’s something that now when I think about it [she pauses to consider] I wish that I had been able to understand and be interested in a long-term, reasonably happy, connected relationship with a man. I didn’t get it; because I couldn’t do it.”