Mary Kay Place On 'Diane,' A Character Study Of An Older Woman The feature film stars Mary Kay Place as the titular Diane, a woman trying to save her adult son from a drug addiction — and confronting her deep-seated guilt. She appears in every scene.
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In 'Diane,' An Older Woman Faces Up To Her 'Unlived Life'

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In 'Diane,' An Older Woman Faces Up To Her 'Unlived Life'

In 'Diane,' An Older Woman Faces Up To Her 'Unlived Life'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The title character in the new movie "Diane" is a woman trying to save her adult son from the drug addiction he denies.


MARY KAY PLACE: (As Diane) Look at me. You need to go back to the clinic.

JAKE LACY: (As Brian) I just need you trust me, please.

PLACE: (As Diane) OK. But take a shower and get cleaned up.

LACY: (As Brian) I will.

PLACE: (As Diane) And your clothes are in there on that chair.

LACY: (As Brian) OK.

PLACE: (As Diane) And please take care of yourself. Please.

LACY: (As Brian) I will.

BLOCK: Diane is played by Mary Kay Place, whose long career includes roles in TV series from "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" to "Big Love" and in movies including "The Big Chill," "Being John Malkovich" and many more. In the film "Diane," Mary Kay Place is in every scene. It's a character study of an older woman confronting loss and bearing deep-seated guilt. Mary Kay Place joins me now from NPR West. Welcome.

PLACE: Thank you. It's great to be here.

BLOCK: How would you describe your character, Diane?

PLACE: Oh, my goodness. She sees herself as a member of a large family but sees those members dying away one by one and feels probably that life is moving more quickly than she's living it but I think ultimately sees and maybe even embraces her solitude. So it's sort of - I think she might have, for some people, a spiritual journey of some kind.

BLOCK: Diane is also a character who - there are moments where she can be quite fierce, but she's also apologizing a lot. In the very first scene when we see her, she's apologizing. And later on, there's a scene in a soup kitchen where she volunteers. And one of the men she serves notices this and has some wisdom for her.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) My aunt was like that. She apologized for eating. She apologized for putting one foot in front of the other. She apologized for breathing up too much air in the room. She thought she had terrible sins to make up for.

BLOCK: So I love this scene. And this...

PLACE: I love it, too.

BLOCK: ...Interaction between the two of you.

PLACE: Yes. This character's really an example of the unlived life. I mean, she tries to help her neighbors and her family and her son and everyone to sort of redeem herself from this guilt. And she doesn't really know who she is or what she wants. But she finally begins, in the movie, to ask herself, what do I need? What do I want? And a slight shift happens when she asks herself those questions.

BLOCK: This is an indie film. It's the feature film debut from the director Kent Jones. And he has been very clear that he wanted you for this part. He designed it around you. Did you buy into it right away? Did you immediately jump onboard?

PLACE: Well, yes. He said, this character you play really reminded me of my mother and her matriarchal family. And I've been wanting to write a screenplay about them. And he said, I think you are the one that should play the lead role, Diane. And I was just flabbergasted.

BLOCK: Can you think of an example of something that you changed or adapted in your character?

PLACE: The drunk scene where I'm dancing in the bar with Leon Russell's "Out In The Woods."


LEON RUSSELL: (Singing) Well, I'm going down - going down a hard road - just don't know - don't know where I've been.

PLACE: I'm a person who, when I have a few cocktails, really likes to get down and dance, if you know what I mean.

BLOCK: (Laughter).

PLACE: So...

BLOCK: I do.

PLACE: I said, at one point, in the range of events and emotional moods that she has during the bar scene, I see her dancing and sort of going back to a particular time when there was more freedom in her life, emotionally and psychologically. And I had to play a Diane playlist of songs - of different songs that gave me moods. And I would dance in the living room just to loosen my body up and get energy out, you know, from the day's work to that song a lot. And I always wanted to drunkenly dance to it in the bar. And so we added that, and it was really fun to do.

BLOCK: And we should say this is a scene where you're drinking by yourself. And you put this song on the jukebox...

PLACE: Right.

BLOCK: ...And start swaying in place, dancing in place.

PLACE: Yes, if you want to call it that.

BLOCK: (Laughter).

PLACE: Bless her heart. It's not the greatest dancing, but she enjoys herself.

BLOCK: You know, we hear so much about a lack of roles for older women in Hollywood. Do you feel like you have as much work as you would want?

PLACE: Yes. And I - you know, I don't think that's really true anymore.

BLOCK: Really?

PLACE: I mean, it's shocking that because of Netflix and all the different cable shows and the amount of product that's being generated at this point, there are so many roles for older women. It's just absolutely amazing. I feel, you know, one has to live life as well as work all the time because then you have no source for the work because you - a lot of these parts go deep. Or some of them go deep and require - this required a lot of preparation in advance. So I'm fairly satisfied. I feel I've had enough interesting parts in my life that have given the whole process of being an actor meaning. So I can't complain. I feel very, very fortunate.

BLOCK: That's Mary Kay Place. She stars in the new film titled "Diane." Thank you so much for talking with us.

PLACE: Thank you.

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