Diane Keaton said it herself; there’s nothing wrong with falling for a bad boy and that’s exactly what happens to her character in Rob Reiner’s And So It Goes. Well, perhaps “bad boy” is a bit of a stretch, but Michael Douglas’ Oren Little is a total jerk, very self-centered and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of him. Regardless, Keaton’s character still sees something in him and when the two of them wind up spending loads of time together taking care of Oren’s granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), there’s no stopping it.
With And So It Goes due in theaters on Friday, July 25th, Keaton took the time to sit down for a roundtable interview in New York City to talk about making the movie. Hit the jump to read what she had to say about her tiny singing voice, building a comprehensive backstory for her character, her admiration for Jerins’ ability to cry on cue effortlessly, her personal prep technique that annoys Douglas most and loads more.
DIANE KEATON: Well, I worked on it. It was fun. Of course I loved doing it. Of course I had fantasies that every song was full all the way through. I had insane fantasies about me and my singing, but they quickly fell apart when I started singing. [Laughs] You know what I mean? It’s sort of like a little tiny voice and not much there. I wish it had been a big voice. Could you imagine singing great? Could you imagine if you had the gift of being somebody like, I don’t know, Beyonce singing? That coming out of your head, what does that feel like? I would love it, and so when I was trying to do the Bonnie Raitt song, I really had a hard time. I couldn’t really do the notes. I couldn’t be Bonnie Raitt. [Laughs]
It sounded wonderful! What was it like singing for Frankie Valli?
KEATON: Yeah, that’s scary. But he was playing his part. I think he was thinking about himself. I don’t think he was really thinking about, ‘Oh, that Diane, wow.’ He was way back in a corner, but he was very nice when I met him, but you know, people usually are.
How about singing like that for a room full of people, especially when you’ve got to do it over and over again?
KEATON: You do it over a few times, yeah. But the thing about them is, they have to act like they’re interested, so you’re fine. They have to pretend like they love what you’re doing so then you feel confident. Do you see what I mean?
That’s a very good point.
KEATON: [Laughs] Yeah. It could have been bad for me if they were real people. Not real people; they are real people …
KEATON: You know, I hate auditions. I’m just so grateful that I don’t have to, and I worry that I will have to audition soon. Can you imagine? I just really don’t really think I can take it. But I built a backstory. I had a backstory for myself that I was one of those rep players with my husband and we traveled around the country and we did great classic things, we did Shakespeare and all the rest, and that we had a little place back in – where in New York would it be? Like a small place. Not a hip place. Not the Hamptons.
KEATON: Yeah, that! Something like that and that’s where we would always return to and we had this little life and that was what it was. And I wasn’t really a singer, but when he passed away, my life was crushed and so I thought, ‘Well, maybe I could be a little bit of a lounge singer,’ like in Palms Springs they had this old follies thing and I thought maybe that’s what that would be like for her so I think she really was nervous. In other words, I don’t think she had a lot of experience. I mean, she could sing every now and then, like on Monday nights, you know? You don’t really get paid. So that’s kind of why I thought it was a new idea in her life and something that meant a lot to her.
It seems like we’re seeing older parents and grandparents taking children in a lot. Is this something you’ve seen in your own life and were you able to draw on those experiences?
KEATON: No, I never saw anything like that in my life. Both of my grandmothers, I never had a grandfather, were single women and they worked really hard and I didn’t spend a lot of time with them like that at all so, to me, that was new and I felt like this girl, Sterling Jerins, is kind of remarkable because didn’t you think she was sort of like a Pre-Raphaelite little angle in a way?
KEATON: An old soul is a great way of saying it! And she was beautiful. And then you just look at her and you go, ‘Where are you from and why are you here in this generation?’ She was kind of astonishing and then what would happen was, she’d do a scene and it called for crying and you’d just be doing the scene and the tears would come down, and nothing! No working at it, no sense of being like a little theater kid. She’s just beautiful, and very smart. Really smart. Maybe that’s it, that she’s just really brilliant and curious. I loved her.
Did you do anything to bond with Sterling?
KEATON: Just hang. We just would hang on the set. I mean, you hang on those sets, you get to know everybody. It was really nice.
How was that set? Was it a completely furnished building through and through?
KEATON: Tight! Here’s the deal; so, it was a fourplex. They kind of created a fourplex. I think it was a duplex to begin with and then what they did is, they managed to create the fourplex, right? Which is great, and it was just an old place and they just did a little work on it and gave you that feeling of the tightness of the community. And that’s another aspect; it’s almost a B-plot to the movie, that the greatness of being connected to a community of people like the two young people who are gonna have their baby and then those whacko kids and my friend. It gives you the sense of life, and even if I never had a romance, to be there was something, to be with those people, to be in that community. And then he comes along and that’s the best.
Can you talk about the first time you met Michael Douglas? You must have run into each other over the years.
KEATON: Not really. You know, you have this sense that there is a community out there, but there really isn’t a community out there – or anywhere in terms of show business. Or maybe in New York there is because [of] theater. Maybe the theatrical world is more unified, but in California it’s very isolated. There are pockets, little tiny, pockets like that, but basically, no. No. I met him once I think – well, you know, once you meet him, hello! Then one time I saw him when he was about to get that big award that he won. What did he get?
KEATON: Yeah, the AFI, that’s it. That was it! And it was a big deal, right? And I remember him saying he was gonna get the AFI award. [Laughs] That’s all I know about him! And so, I really got to know him here.
Can you describe anything that surprised you the most about working with him?
KEATON: Oh yeah, that he loves to be teased. He loves to be tortured.
What kind of things did you do?
KEATON: Oh, I just told him he was a big jerk all the time. You know, rich guy? Big deal! Who are you? And he loved it. He ate it up and so I knew how to get him. It was really fun. So I knew that we could get the scene going by me torturing him. And he was great at it because he’s better; he’s funnier than me. We got a little thing going and it made it really work in the movie. You know, you really want to know who you’re acting with. You don’t want to have them come on and you don’t know them and you can’t find a place where you feel comfortable in a scene, because I like to play things with spontaneity. So if I want to go grab somebody, I want to be able to do it! But I’ve had actors where, you do that in a scene and no one said you could, they didn’t like it. They didn’t want to be touched. So I like to kind of set up, how am I gonna make it easier for me to go, ‘That’s cute,’ or do something odd to just kind of keep things alive. Because the main thing you want when you’re acting in a scene, at least for me anyway, is a moment to moment experience. Like, I’m looking at you and I’m seeing you’re going, [mimics reporting nodding] ‘Oh, yeah, uh huh. What does that mean?’ [Laughs] You play off the person and if you’re gonna play with someone, that’s the whole point of being a performer is to have fun at it and to enjoy the moment even when it’s a tragic moment, even when I’m screaming at him or I’m crying because I’m singing about the loss of him, the shadow of your smile, when you are gone, will color all my life. Those kinds of things you want to be there. That’s why you’re doing it! And you wanna have the experience, so whenever you can get next to an actor and kind of get the vibe that’s gonna make the magic happen, or the hope of the magic happen, you find that way in and he was easy.
KEATON: You don’t change the blocking too much, but the blocking was loose. Like, when I first started movies, it was really, ‘There’s your mark. You go to your mark.’ If you miss your mark, it was like, ‘That was really awful!’ Now, it’s not that way anymore because cameras are lighter, everything’s different, the approach to movies is much less formal. I was looking at an old ‘40s movie the other day and I just thought, ‘Oh my god, we’ve come a long way.’ The lighting is perfect and everybody’s just walking into place. [It’s] like I’m seeing a zombie thing. I don’t know! [Laughs] So I think movies have come a long way, for the better.
How about Rob? What’s your history with him?
KEATON: Not much. I mean, again, I remember Rob would occasionally have polemical gatherings at his home because, you know, he’s very active – which is fantastic, but I don’t really know him. [Laughs] I’ll tell ya, I don’t know anybody! But now I know him. [Laughs] I like him.
You mentioned admiring how Sterling was able to cry on cue and one of the big things in this movie for your character is that she’s a big crier, so what are your own techniques?
KEATON: Music. I just pound that music in my ear. Just jam it as loud as I can and I get all moved by the music and then I keep it in for as long as I can until someone presses me because I can’t hear them say action, so someone will come up to me and [poke me], and I rip ‘em out and I throw ‘em down, which I shouldn’t do, and sometimes they’re still playing and I can get into trouble because the music’s still playing when I’m out there acting and crying. But that is my technique. It’s pathetic. And Michael was saying it’s annoying. It’s annoying how [much of] an asshole I am. [Laughs]
KEATON: Oh, I have a whole repertoire of singers and artists and then I pick them according to what the mood is. Do you believe that? It’s like my little library.
How about managing your character’s arc? You’ve got to go from not liking this guy to liking him and I imagine you didn’t shoot it in order.
KEATON: I think she always liked him, honestly. I think she was attracted to him from the beginning and she’s hiding it because, he’s attractive. And, you know, sometimes that’s the kind of guy’s you like.
Women like bad boys, too!
KEATON: Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that! [To the only male journalist in the room.] Do you like bad girls?
I do like bad girls. [Laughter]
What about being in a romantic comedy for grownups?
KEATON: That’s all I’ve ever done. I feel like that’s all I’ve ever really done. I’ve done some dramas, but I’m not exactly known for it, so I think I’ve done a lot of those kinds of movies for adults. Maybe what you’re saying is that this is further than adult. We’ve gone beyond. It’s like the baby boomer generation. But I don’t think it’s just for baby boomers because I think that B-plot is important. The son, who’s very good, who gets out of jail finally and comes to see his father, he’s a great part. The couple, the baby scene, her having that baby and him [laughs] – Michael Douglas pulling [it out]. Oh, forget it. [Laughs] That’s really fun and what a jerk he is to everyone, all of that is all part of the movie so it’s like I said, the B-plot is kind of this community of people in this place and I kind of can see myself living like that even. Maybe not in a fourplex, but where you see them and you have an interaction with your neighborhood. I feel like neighborhoods have disappeared a little bit, especially in Los Angeles where I live. I don’t remember ever living in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors and they come over and you’ll have a social gathering or you’ll see them on the street. If you’re in Beverly Hills that doesn’t happen or in Brentwood or Bel Air or any of those spots. And if you’re in a big apartment, which I’ve done in New York City, there’s no neighborliness there. Have you noticed that? Does anyone come knocking, ‘Welcome to the neighborhood?’ No!
I put my name on a list and kids come to my door.
KEATON: Oh, do you? Oh, good!
Is there anything you feel has gotten easier or harder in terms of your career and acting over the years?
KEATON: In the beginning, it was harder for me to be in a serious drama because the language – when you hear really facile stage actors, like Judi Dench or Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep, they have great verbal facility. Their language skills are fabulous. I mean, they can make a sentence just go on that, ‘I come from a place of less language,’ so it was harder for me to do straight serious roles because I wasn’t as comfortable with the words. I think I’ve gotten better at that. That’s what’s gotten better. What’s gotten worse? I don’t know.
Maybe not worse, but harder. Some people feel that the longer they do something, the better grasp they have on their skills.
KEATON: Well, I feel like I have a better grasp on my verbal skills, like I said. But I don’t think I’ve got a better grasp of any other skill. I really don’t.
So you’re still learning?
KEATON: There you go! I’m still learning! Not really, but … [Laughs]