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Then Again - Diane Keaton

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Author: Diane Keaton / Hardcover / 300 Pages / Book is published 2011-11-15 by Fourth Estate

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      10.08.2012 19:03
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      Then Again is a memoir by the actress Diane Keaton and was published in 2011. This is not a straight forward chronological autobiography but more of a stream of consciousness memoir where Keaton keeps switching back and forth between decades in random fashion and sort of tells her story in parallel with that of her late mother Dorothy through the diaries she left behind. The diaries reveal someone who was far more troubled, unfulfilled and depressed in secret than she ever let and Keaton compares and contrasts her life, personality and choices with her own. Keaton was born Diane Hall in Los Angeles in 1946 and dabbled in nightclub singing before moving to New York to study acting. After a few bit parts in television shows like Mannix and Night Gallery she got her first really important break when she was cast in Woody Allen's comic play Play It Again Sam. Through this association Keaton would take over from Louise Lasser and become Allen's new muse for several feature films in the seventies - most famously of course winning an Oscar for Annie Hall. She was also in all three Godfather films, is a former girlfriend of not only Allen but Al Pacino and Warren Beatty, battled bulimia and low self-esteem, never married but adopted children when she was 50 years old, and suffered the unpredictable vicissitudes of Hollywood. I found the memoir slightly too random and almost irritating at first but you eventually get used to this structure and although Keaton is a bit New Age California she's always very likeable and somehow manages to avoid being pretentious despite the eccentric way she has presented her book and all the navel gazing that it features. Anyone looking for a warts and all expose of Hollywood and her famous boyfriends is likely to leave this book feeling somewhat disappointed though. She has nothing but gushing praise for Allen, Pacino and Beatty and the many co-stars she has shared the screen with.

      Most of the honesty is saved for herself and this does provide some fascinating insights into some of the films she's worked on even if you do always wish there was more of this (she writes much more about her own life and family rather than about her acting career). Keaton, for example, says that she feels she didn't deserve the Oscar for Annie Hall because she was just playing herself. She picked her own clothes and almost everything about the character(surname, nightclub singing, kooky bohemian personality) was just based on her. Interestingly, she says that she felt stupid in Woody Allen's first dramatic film, the chilly and gloomy Bergman-esque Interiors. She had no idea what she was doing and just tried to look moody and hope for the best. One of the most interesting sections I feel concerns The Godfather III. This was released in 1990 many years after the first two films and is not very highly regarded, at least not in comparison with its illustrious predecessors. Keaton says there was a tired "middle-aged" feel to the shoot. Everyone was much older and wondering whether or not it was a good idea to even be making this film after so long lest they should tarnish legacy of the first two. She recalls how Coppola was shooting the film but had no ending and kept changing it, eventually coming up with about five different scenarios before having to pick one. Winona Ryder turns up on the set with her boyfriend Johnny Depp to play Pacino's daughter in the film and promptly collapses in her dressing room from exhaustion. This gives Coppola the chance to cast his daughter Sophia in the role instead and executives are furious. Sophia Coppola's performance is panned and Keaton's misgivings about the whole enterprise prove to be more or less on the money.

      It's interesting but Keaton doesn't seem to have much time for her contribution to The Godfather saga. "I didn't have a clue why I was cast as an elegant WASP," Keaton writes. "I'm convinced I would have been let go if it weren't for the fact that Paramount begged Francis Ford Coppola to fire Al, until they were blown away by the rushes of Michael Corleone's assassination of Captain McCluskey. Somehow I managed to slip under the radar." She feels her character was vague and inconsequential and the real drama for her was eventually offscreen because she began an an/off relationship with Pacino in 1987 after a chance meeting in an editing suite. She says she gave him an ultimatum during the Godfather III shoot and asked him to marry her. Pacino recoiled at the suggestion and broke off their romance for good. What stops the book from ever becoming too pretentious is that Keaton doesn't waffle on about acting or her film career much and if anything doesn't seem to take herself seriously as an actress at all. "Without a great man writing and directing for me, I was a mediocre movie star at best," she comments. She calls herself "washed-up" in the nineties although she did then have a late career renaissance in mainstream comedy films like Something's Gotta Give, which, bizarrely for someone who was in films like Manhattan, Love and Death and The Godfather trilogy, she names as her favourite film out of the ones she did, primarily though for the fact that she enjoyed working with Jack Nicholson so much. She says when the film was an unexpected box-office hit, Nicholson kindly arranged for her to get a retrospective percentage share of the profits similar to the deal he was on. But Keaton is self-deprecating and dismissive of her acting and star presence. She feels it was only her ability to do a bit of comic acting that got her known in the first place and allowed her to pick up some roles at an age in life when most actresses have been forgotten.

      I did get slightly bored of all the family history at times and sometimes felt like I could have done with more of Keaton writing about her own experience of Hollywood rather than her mother but the memoir is undoubtedly poignant. Her mother suffered from Alzheimer's in her last years and her father died from a brain tumour. Keaton had to leave the set of The Godfather III when he got ill and these passages are quite moving. One of the most engrossing parts of the memoir I think is when she talks about being a young actress who has just met Woody Allen and was starting to make a few waves. This was all nearly scuppered though by five years of being a bulimic. Keaton says that while her New York arty friends were out getting stoned and taking drugs she was out gorging on ice-cream. Breakfast was "...a dozen buttered corn muffins dipped in Chock Full o'Nuts coffee, plus three orders of fried eggs over-hard with bacon, and a side of pancakes topped off with four glasses of chocolate milk." Lunch was several steaks and dinner was a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, several orders of chips with blue cheese and ketchup, a couple of TV dinners, chocolate-covered almonds, a large bottle of 7Up, a pound of peanut brittle, M&Ms, mango juice, one Sara Lee pound cake, and three frozen banana-cream pies. She had constant indigestion and threw-up so much her teeth had to be capped. She attributes the bulimia to low-self esteem about her body image. She says it was a miracle that Woody Allen never seemed to suspect anything and it was the reason why she constantly ducked out of film premieres and parties when they were together. Keaton and Allen were no longer together in real life by the time they made Annie Hall although she gives no reason for the split or ever seems too willing to discuss this.

      Then Again is a likeable and often interesting book that only really loses a star for its somewhat rambling nature and episodic structure. Keaton is far too coy, fawning and guarded about all the people she has known to ever really make this a page turner and I suspect many readers might be disappointed by the brevity that she affords her acting and film career. But if you are looking for a personal memoir in the vein of something like At Home in the World you should find this book rewarding enough to make it worth the effort.

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