Being a film star is the easy part for Diane Lane, who at 18 is already a 12-year veteran of the business. She was on the cover of TIME at 13, when the critics dubbed her “a budding Grace Kelly.” More recently Francis Ford Coppola has cast her in two films—The Outsiders and Rumble Fish (due this fall)—both with teen rage Matt Dillon. The Outsiders has opened to big box office and bad reviews except for Lane, whose role as a pretty, rich girl with a yen for greasers had even the New York Times applauding.
The hard part? Finding a way and the time to enjoy being a teenager. “I work so hard to have a ‘typical’ good time for someone my age,” she says, “that sometimes I feel desperate.” Think of what stardom might do to you, she suggests, “having people run around to dress you, keep your nose powdered every minute of the day, and ask questions like, ‘Do you want some coffee now, Miss Lane?’ It sounds glamorous, but it’s not.” Diane’s manager-father, Burt, 52, says his daughter hankers for the kind of normal teenage life she has never known. “It hits hard at times,” agrees Diane, who’s used to rehearsing while other kids play. “I remember as a kid feeling deprived of Saturday morning cartoons and summer camp—stuff like that.”
To compensate, Diane occasionally goes on clothes-and makeup-buying binges, but her schedule is so overbooked she rarely gets the time to use them (off-camera she wears little or no makeup). As a senior at New York’s Quintano’s School for Young Professionals, she is allowed to schedule her courses around and between film jobs. Romance is also hampered by career demands. Her relationship with Rick Kolster, 19, an aspiring guitarist she met at Quintano’s, now takes place mostly long-distance since she’s filming in L.A. and he’s in N.Y.
An only child, Diane was 13 days old when her parents separated. “They knew they were going to get divorced when I was conceived,” says Diane matter-of-factly. Her mother, interior designer Colleen Farrington, remarried and lives in a small town near Savannah, Ga. Though at 15, Diane rebelled against her dad and spent that year living with her mother, she was raised in Manhattan by Burt, who had showbiz aspirations as a writer-director but became a cab driver to support his child. From her earliest days, Diane remembers how her father would prop her up in the front seat as he cruised the New York streets. Their life-style changed dramatically after a friend tipped Burt that an experimental theater production of Euripides’ Medea was seeking a child actress. At the audition, Diane was asked to clap her little hands to show her sense of rhythm and say words backward to indicate that she could easily learn lines in Greek. At 6, she won the role of Medea’s daughter, and she has been working ever since.
The string of off-Broadway credits that followed Medea won Diane her first movie role, opposite Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance. “People would say to me, ‘Are you aware who you are working with?’ like I was literally born yesterday,” Diane bristles. Since then she has appeared in 11 other films, including Six Pack with Kenny Rogers and Cattle Annie and Little Britches with Burt Lancaster. As for her two films with Coppola, Diane seems unintimidated by the Godfather director because, she giggles, she’s never seen any of his other pictures. She likes his style anyway. “He makes up a lot of the dialogue as he goes along,” she says. “He trusts his intuition.”
Diane still lives in the New York apartment hotel where she was raised, although she now has her own apartment adjacent to her father’s. Burt still owns his taxi, but someone else drives it; he’s too busy working full-time as Diane’s manager. They estimate that she has earned about $1 million so far. After a busy day on the set—she’s now in L.A. filming Streets of Fire, a futuristic thriller directed by Walter (48 Hrs.) Hill—Diane will usually go back to her hotel and dine with her father, who helps her learn the next day’s lines. Burt is a constant presence in Diane’s life, but he insists she makes her own decisions. Diane admits she was considered for the Brooke Shields role in Blue Lagoon. “Daddy was glad I didn’t do it,” she says with a laugh. “He was afraid I’d end up a Playboy nudie.” Burt sees his role as more of a shield from the wilds of Hollywood at this point in Diane’s career. “There are so many people who might take advantage of Diane, either through sex or drugs,” says Dad. But Diane won’t be scared off. “I can’t imagine doing anything else except acting,” she reasons. It’s for certain Burt won’t let up his guard. “I’ve got to protect her,” he insists, “until I’m sure she can protect herself.”