Diane Keaton Doesn't Believe She's a Legend
The universally adored actress’s individuality can be matched only by her enthusiasm for collaging, so we turned her into a collectible. Cut out and keep!
In May Diane Keaton posted a particularly quirky video on her Instagram account that pretty much served as the impetus for this shoot. In it she is descending a stairwell in her 8,000-square-foot Los Angeles home, wearing a checked blazer cinched by a thick black belt, black pants, loosely tied combat boots, and not one but maybe 10 hats stacked on top of each other. “Which hat do you think I should wear?” she asks no one in particular. “No, I’m serious. Because I kinda like… But, seriously, what do you think? Or should I wear them all? Maybe I should just wear all the hats. I think that might be good.” The five-second clip has since accrued 600,000-plus views and nearly 3,500 comments from supportive fans and friends like Michelle Pfeiffer and Candice Bergen.
Of course, over the past several decades, Keaton, forever our Annie Hall, has worn many chapeaus — as an Oscar-winning actress, a prolific author, a style connoisseur, a winemaker, a constant house flipper, and a mom to two (Dexter, 23, and Duke, 18, both of whom she adopted in her 50s).
Sitting in that same house a month later for this interview, Keaton, 73, is wearing a black turtleneck and wool herringbone pants despite the sweltering 80-degree heat. “I didn’t get dressed up,” she admits while settling into a black leather couch. Her manner is friendly and inviting. She gets animated over things like her black-and-white polka-dot manicure (they’re stickers), her neighbor’s horses, and the Tony Award–winning musical Oklahoma! But ask her anything remotely to do with the word “icon” or “legacy” and she’ll start deflecting. And therein lies the paradox: Keaton is a leading lady who’d rather talk about the bricks she handpicked to build her dream home than about how hard she worked to secure its contents. But what can you do? She’s a Hollywood original, and that’s why she gets to wear all the hats.
You styled yourself for this shoot. Is it empowering to have a certain look that you’ve been able to cultivate?
I don’t think of it as empowering.
Protective then, maybe?
Yes, it’s very protective. It hides a multitude of sins. Flaws, anxiety — things like that. I would not feel comfortable in a short skirt or something cut off with my arms hanging out there. And I’ve always liked hats. They just frame a head. But, of course, nobody really thinks they’re as great as I do. And, you know, hats also protect you from the sun — I’ve had so many skin cancers.
Oh, it’s a serious problem. Today I’m going to the doctor. I think I have one here [points to her nose]. That’s not good. I’ve had a lot of operations. So, the sun, I love it, you know? But I really have to protect my head.
I read that the hat you wore in Annie Hall  was inspired by a French actress you met on set?
The truth is, it was on The Godfather . Dean Tavoularis was the [production] designer, and he was with this beautiful French girl. She had on a hat that was like something you’d see Cary Grant or one of those guys wear. It made me think, “Buy hats.” I thought, “God, that would be good. I could do that.” Which is the story of my life. “I could copy this. I could copy that.”
But then you make it your own. What is your general fashion ethos? You’ve written that your outfits are “an impenetrable fortress.”
I was watching Karl Lagerfeld, and now he’s no longer with us, which is a shame, but, gradually, what happened with time was he looked just like this [points to the turtleneck she is wearing with elongated sleeves covering her hands]. He wore gloves. But I’m the master of the hats.
Where do you shop?
I like Egg in London. Comme des Garçons. Noodle Stories in L.A. Dover Street Market. They carry all these unusual designers doing all kinds of things. I like Thom Browne, and I still love Ralph Lauren suits. They’re so well structured. And [Maison] Margiela.
How do you feel about online shopping?
My daughter, Dexter, is an online shopper. I think she’s crazy. Part of the great joy is just being in the stores. It’s sad what’s happening to them. They’re just closing, and people are doing exactly what you’re telling me [buying online]. It’s like, “Stop! How can you do that? You don’t know what it’s going to look like on you!”
You could try it on at home and then return it.
Oh, you’re insane. That’s crazy.
They make it so easy for you.
But you miss out on seeing it live!
I understand what you’re saying, but time is a real consideration.
Time. Time. There’s never enough time! But there’s always enough time to do something you love. I love it.
So, this is the Badass Issue. Who do you think is a badass?
Bette Midler is balls to the floor. I think Lena Dunham is a badass woman. She’s brilliant. Sarah Silverman. And Gayle King is super badass.
What’s the most badass thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t really want to talk about it too much, but I got naked in a couple of movies, and that was something that just about did my father in. One was Looking for Mr. Goodbar , and then the other was Nancy Meyers’s movie [Something’s Gotta Give, 2003] where I just go [naked] ... and then I run away.
When do you feel the most powerful and confident?
It’s hard to say that I ever feel powerful or confident. Those two words are not really in my purview. I enjoy being engaged by imagery. That’s important for me. I have all these three-ring binders, in categories, full of images that I’ve cut out of magazines. I’m thinking about doing another book where I combine everything that I’m interested in.
Do you consider yourself a badass?
I would call myself somebody who avoids more than anything else. I’ve got that 8-foot wall [points toward the house’s gate]. It makes me feel protected, you know? Safe. I’m fearless about what I like. In other words, I’ll take it wherever I want to go. I’ve had a lot of independence, and nobody’s telling me what to do. I had a mother who encouraged that and helped me achieve the things I wanted to achieve. I’ve followed the paths I’ve wanted to follow. I like redoing houses, I like architecture, I like visuals, I like fashion, I like all of it.
What are you most proud of in your career, acting-wise?
I’ve done a lot of things. I think that I was better in some things and not so great in others. And some of the movies were better. I mean, obviously, I owe it all to Annie Hall. That was the beginning. I did several movies with him [Woody Allen], and then a lot of other movies, like Looking for Mr. Goodbar, which my dad hated. That’s the one we were talking about where I revealed part of my body. Big deal!
Didn’t you also get naked in Hair  on Broadway?
Oh, I did Hair, but I didn’t have to get naked. In the beginning only, like, three people did. To me, it just seemed extremely uncomfortable. Standing there naked? I just remember lying on the floor and looking up, and Ronnie Dyson’s [naked] body was right there. Oh, OK.
How do you process bad movie reviews?
I don’t look. I know when they’re a bomb, and I go, “OK, so that’s not good. And I’m not going to look at it.”
Do you know when you’re making it?
You don’t know. It was a surprise to me that Book Club  was a big hit. I didn’t expect it. I just thought, “Oh, well, I got a job — that’s good.” Blah, blah, on and on. So you don’t know. You may have an opinion about it while you’re making it, but frequently you’re wrong. [laughs] That’s true with a lot of things.
I feel like Poms got an unfair shake.
They didn’t like Poms.
I thought it was very sweet.
It is sweet. But, no, they didn’t like it. It’s OK.
Do you just move on? On to the next?
What else am I going to do? And also, I’ve had so many nexts. How many more nexts am I going to get?
Is there a role you haven’t played that you still want to do?
Oh, no. Oh god, I’m not thinking, “Gee, I need to play a role.” I’m not a real actress. OK, wait, I have to tell you this. So, Jessica Lange. I was in New York, and I saw her in The Glass Menagerie [in 2005]. And it was a matinee, which means she had to do another show after that. She was just totally emotional, totally brilliant. I went backstage because I made that movie Crimes of the Heart  with her. I looked at her, and she had been crying. I said, “How can you do this over and over in front of people?” She looked at me, “I love it so much.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Count me out.
But you’ve done theater.
After Hair I did Play It Again, Sam [by Woody Allen, 1969, for which Keaton received a Tony nomination]. We were on for over a year. I remember that over the course of time, I began to hate it. Woody would make jokes while we were working on set, and, of course, I would crack up. [We were] kind of nonprofessional, kind of jerks. The truth is, I don’t want to do it live night after night. What I like about the movies is that you get on there and you get to do one thing over and over. I like fragments.
How do you live with being called an icon?
Well, this word “icon” is new to me. No one has ever called me an icon. I guess with time you call people an icon because they’ve been around for a long time. That’s an icon for you.
You have this incredible body of work that people admire.
Really? I’m not aware of that.
You’re so good at deflecting and pivoting to the next thing! Do you consider yourself ambitious?
Yeah, I am. I’m totally ambitious. Otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here in my brick house, you know what I mean? Of course. I was so from a very early age. I remember exactly why: I’m 8, and my mother, who was ambitious but didn’t get to realize her dreams …
No time with four kids, right?
Exactly. My mother ran for Mrs. America [a pageant for married homemakers, in 1955]. I’m sitting there watching her on the stage, and I remember I thought, “I want to do that.” And that’s it. Once you have that, it guides your life. I was ambitious about wanting to sing, wanting to be paid attention to. It came straight from that. My mother was really an artist herself, and she could’ve had an amazing career. She just wasn’t born at the right time.
What is a typical day in your life like?
I get up really early. I feed the dog, and I get the food for the horses [her neighbor’s across the street]. I feed them and I come back. Then I hit it over there [points to her office]. I always have work to do, and I love it. So the morning is my favorite time because it sets the tone for what the day’s going to be and what I’m going to do and how I’m going to manage.
What about dating? Do guys ask you out?
Never. All right? [laughs] Let’s just get that straight. That one’s important. I haven’t been on a date in, I would say, 35 years. No dates.
Do you want to be on a date?
I have a lot of male friends. I have a lot of friends, but no dates. No mwah-mwah.
No? You always joke about it when you’re on Ellen.
Oh, it’s all fun on Ellen. What am I doing? I’m just being a jerk. Better still was Jimmy Kimmel. That’s the fun one. He’ll let me do that to him. You can do whatever you want. “This is how I’m going to kiss you. I’m going to teach you a lesson.” So much fun.
You seem to be enjoying Instagram these days.
I do. It’s just fun for me to go into my files. I get to share things in that way — harmless kind of stuff. There was something that was going on with me when I did that hat video, and I just thought, “Oh, what the hell?” Because you’re always trying to think of ideas.
Do you read the comments?
I do, and I do respond, but I don’t really think I’m all that clever. [laughs]
Photographed by Carter Smith. Hair: Richard Marin. Makeup: Collier Strong. Production: Kelsey Stevens Production.
For more stories like this, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 19.