“The things you regret most in life are the things you don’t attempt, right?” Diane Lane says with a warm, husky laugh. “So I couldn’t hide from this opportunity.”
Lane, the luminous star of films like Secretariat and Unfaithful, will grace the Goodman Theatre’s stage in Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth, playing Alexandra Del Lago, a self-deluding and self-medicating fading film star who attaches herself to a gigolo named Chance Wayne. Lane will play opposite rising Broadway star Finn Wittrock, with hometown director and MacArthur “genius” David Cromer at the helm.
“We walked the beach together in California and had a nice talk, and I really enjoyed him tremendously,” Lane says by phone of her initial meeting with Cromer. “I got a sense of wonderful communication and care and that wonderful audacity that’s required to approach material like this.”
The daughter of a New York acting coach, Lane grew up onstage, performing with the famed La MaMa experimental theater starting at age six. But Sweet Bird marks her first time onstage since 1989. Is she intimidated by returning to theater after such a long absence? “I would say quite the opposite—it’s much more emboldening. It requires a certain amount of confidence.”
And what of the confidence required, as a glamorous female movie star, to portray a glamorous female movie star who’s chewed up and spit out by Hollywood as punishment for aging? “It’s a wonderful opportunity to sort of take a fine-toothed comb all through that icky terrain of fear and doubt,” the 47-year-old actress says.
But Lane thinks Williams puts his male characters through the same wringer. “In that regard, I feel a lack of gender bias in this particular presentation of the fear of loss of youth. There’s a lot of judgments to be hurled at these characters, but they’re beloved by the actors who play them because there’s so much to harvest there if you’re a good little gardener.”
Sweet Bird of Youth runs September 14–October 25 at the Goodman Theatre. $23–$70.