Known for her idiosyncratic personality and self-deprecating sense of humor, the multi-talented actress and filmmaker Diane Keaton has been called a trend-setting, gender-bending fashion icon with a professional style that is impossible to impersonate. With a colorful creative life that involves dating many of her co-stars and rolling with the punches a fickle film industry swung her way, these facts dive into the gritty details of how Keaton became the beloved eccentric she is today.
1. Her Parents Inspired Her
Diane Keaton was born “Diane Hall” in sunny Los Angeles on January 5, 1946. Her mother was a homemaker and amateur photographer and her father was a civil engineer and real estate broker. Today, Keaton, a jack-of-all-trades, dabbles in both photography and real estate, but it was actually her mother who inspired her to be an actress…but not in the way you might think.
2. Her Mother’s Pageantry Influenced Her Acting
When Diane Keaton was young, she witnessed her mother enter and win the “Mrs. Los Angeles” pageant for homemakers—and it had an unexpected side effect. The spectacle of it all fueled Keaton’s desire to act. Seeing her mother standing beneath the spotlight, she just knew she had to work on stage. If it weren’t for her mother’s humble beginnings, Keaton might not be where she is today.
3. She Wanted To Be Unique
After training in acting and singing throughout her youth, Keaton moved to Manhattan to seek new opportunities, eventually joining the Actor’s Equity Association. Only upon viewing the roster and spotting another “Diane Hall” did she officially change her name to “Diane Keaton,” after her mother’s maiden name. She wanted to make sure there was only one of her—and it soon became clear that she stood out from the pack.
4. Her Beginnings Were Hairy
In the midst of the hippie revolution of 1968, Diane Keaton landed her first role in the Broadway production of the musical Hair, a play that tackled the issues faced by many freedom-seekers in Western society—a fitting role for the independent actor. She stepped into the part naturally…but it also brought her face to face with a scandalous decision.
5. She Refused To Bare It All
Hair was controversial for a number of reasons during the turbulent times of the 60s—but one of those reasons, in particular, got in the way of Keaton’s ambitions. Notably, the play featured a nude scene at the end of Act I. Keaton, not afraid to make bold decisions and refusing to waver under pressure, refused to take it all off. Luckily, nudity was optional, even though they offered a cash bonus of $50 for actors who disrobed.
This request wouldn’t weigh on her, but another one would…
6. She Was Told To “Trim The Fat”
The topic of body image is sensitive for any 19-year-old, and young Keaton was no exception. In order to land the lead role, the director of Hair recommended she lose 10 pounds, spurring a five-year battle with bulimia. Little did she know, a certain someone with big, black frames was watching from the crowd, and he would soon, unknowingly, help her with her illness.
7. She Had A Controversial Beau
After Keaton’s stage debut with Hair, she auditioned for a role in Woody Allen’s production, Play It Again, Sam, easily landing the position as Allen’s love interest. It was her sense of humor that first attracted Allen, and, call it method acting, call it true love—after an after-rehearsal dinner, the two became romantic.
But if Keaton wasn’t a natural comedian, something else might have stopped her from being cast…
8. One Of Her Features Almost Cost Her A Role
Diane Keaton, standing at 5’8” tall, was almost too tall for the role of Linda in Play It Again, Sam, as Woody Allen was a full two inches shorter than her and worried about how they would appear on stage. Casting her would pay off, however, as she would go on to receive a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance. Their chemistry was intense, despite the height difference.
9. Her Lover Got Some Tough Love
Keaton and Allen kept their relationship alive in a bizarre way. They loved being cruel to one another. Though Keaton loved Allen’s glasses, cool suits, and what she called his “great body,” he was just as self-deprecating as she was, and that was her way in. He reportedly treated his limbs like they weren’t attached to him, thus giving birth to the nickname “White Thing” from Keaton. Oh, but he had a long list of rude names for her too.
10. Her Lover Fought Back
Keaton claimed Allen could read her like a book, and Allen had a full-on encyclopedia of silly nicknames for her. Among them were “Lamphead,” “Major Oaf,” “Monster,” “Worm,” and, more gentle of the bunch, “Snookums.” Keaton reveals that they thrived on demeaning each other. Though their banter was electric, one dark, unavoidable thing was still eating away at her.
11. She Bailed On Dates
Keaton’s desire for Woody Allen could not withstand her self-image issues, and she wriggled her way out of dates with him whenever she could. Once in the comfort of her New York flat, she would stuff herself with copious amounts of food, only to throw it up after. This was kept secret, with Allen jokingly reporting, later in life, that he thought she just had a large appetite.
He said that, if he’d known she wasn’t keeping her food, he wouldn’t have taken her to such high-end dinners.
12. She Packed Up And Found Peace
Assuming Keaton’s escapism was simply linked to deep insecurity, Allen sent her off to a psychoanalyst, a place she would visit for an 18-month-long stretch. Suddenly, for a reason not known to him or anyone for that matter, she began eating normally again. Going through changes, their romantic relationship naturally ended, and just in time to really prepare for the role of a lifetime…or not.
13. Her Breakthrough Role Was Godly
Keaton’s first major role was a substantial one, and she didn’t even have to study for it. As she didn’t read The Godfather book and knew nearly nothing about it, Keaton says she “didn’t understand” how she landed the role as the wife of “The Godfather” himself. If only it had been that easy for her co-star, Al Pacino.
14. She Changed The Face Of Film History
Without Diane Keaton, one of the most famous films in history could’ve turned out completely different. After Keaton had already gotten her part in The Godfather, producers placed her on stage with Al Pacino to help his audition along. After they’d acted together, director Francis Ford Coppola asked her thoughts on him, to which she replied, “He’s great”!
“Great” was an understatement—later, she’d have a lot more to say about him.
15. Her Industry Nickname Was Endearing
Early on in Keaton’s career, she earned the reputation as the “kooky actress,” known for her awkward, self-deprecating humor and admirable intelligence beyond the surface. Her nervous tics and the way she would ramble inspired her as a muse once again to Woody Allen, who would produce a film based on her character called Annie Hall. And if you’re wondering why Allen cast his ex in a lead role, well, it was by design.
16. Her Most Famous Film Was Autobiographical
Woody Allen’s Annie Hall is believed to be an idealized autobiography of his relationship with Keaton, her nickname being “Annie” and her original surname being “Hall.” Keaton was cast specifically for the role, and she considered the character a friendlier version of herself. Allen gave her creative freedom—but others protested.
17. Her Legendary Look Almost Didn’t Happen
Not everyone could agree on Keaton’s choice of fashion. After Keaton sauntered on set in questionable attire, costume designer Ruth Morley expressed her concerns. Fortunately, long-time supporter Woody Allen trusted Keaton, calling her a “genius.” “Leave her,” he said, and so she was left to become an unexpected trendsetter.
18. Her Eccentric Wardrobe Set An Unexpected Trend
The late 1970s was aching for something fresh and Diane Keaton had the answer without even knowing the question. Her choice of dress in the film Annie Hall involved pieces from her personal wardrobe that consisted of vintage men’s clothing ranging from ties, fedoras, vests, and baggy pants. It had an unexpected effect. After the film’s release, women everywhere were seen dressed in men’s clothing and pantsuits.
19. Her Famous Quote She Didn’t Even Say
“La-di-da” is a saying associated with Keaton due to her utterings in Annie Hall, however, those were Woody Allen’s words, not hers, written into the script and accredited to her. He says it’s something she says in real life, but when asked in an interview about it, Keaton simply laughed and said “he’s out of his mind.”
20. She Took On A Darker Role
Wanting to stray away from the “funny, awkward girl” trope and show her versatility as an artist, Diane Keaton took on a controversial role. She starred in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, playing the role of a troubled Catholic school teacher who visits singles bars for a hookup. The film is considered risqué, raunchy, and violent—a definite deviation from her usual romantic comedy. And that wasn’t the only way Keaton surprised people.
21. She Tried Her Hand At Singing
Keaton had once done vocals on a record from her original cast recording of Hair, but it wasn’t enough for her. Throughout the 70s, on a constant search for something new, she briefly attempted a career as a recording artist, stating that she always had a desire to be a singer. In 1977, she began recording tracks for a solo album. Unfortunately, it would never materialize.
22. Her Childhood Movie-Star Crush Reached Out
It’s not every day that a person’s childhood celebrity crush seeks them out; Diane Keaton would be one of the lucky few. Ever since she saw actor Warren Beatty lock lips with actress Natalie Wood on screen, her love bloomed, even writing a letter to the film’s producer in a request for them to change the unhappy ending.
They didn’t reply to her then—but a phone call from Beatty himself one Christmas Eve would change everything.
23. She Was Saved By An Angel Not-In-Disguise
Just as Diane Keaton was diving into the depths of her darkness and struggling to cope with her rising fame, Warren Beatty swooped her up into his arms. Over the phone, he informed her that she could “do anything”: be a director, a politician. Keaton described her attraction to Beatty as intense—and it would only get more intense from there.
24. Her Bold Beau Made Her Soar
Under Beatty’s wing, Keaton soared to new heights. When she admitted she was afraid of her flight from Los Angeles to New York, Beatty showed up just as she was boarding and walked right on with her, holding her hand the entire way. Upon landing, like the true romantic he was, he gave that hand a kiss and flew right back. She was head over heels, and things were getting hot.
25. Her Romance Was Too Hot To Handle
What better way to say “I love you” than to shower your love in lavish gifts? On Valentine’s Day, Beatty surprised Keaton with a sauna installed in one of her bathrooms and a steam room in the other. Though appreciative, Keaton felt out of his league. His smart, Hollywood friends and his refined nature intimidated her.
Starring alongside him in an upcoming production only made matters worse.
26. Her Relationship Fizzled With Production
Reds is one film Diane Keaton nearly bailed out of, whether due to the stress of dating her co-star, or the film experiencing two-year-long delays over financial and scheduling problems. She stuck through it, however—but it came at a sad cost. Her performance received praise, but she could barely enjoy it, as her now-strained relationship with Beatty was coming to an end.
The whole incident served as a prime example for why it isn’t wise to date co-workers—but neighbors, on the other hand?
27. Her Lovers Kept Getting Smarter
Keaton’s next potential smarty-pants lover was living right next door—but visiting his apartment ended it all. Young and very much eager to share his ideas for the future, she wound up in a tedious conversation with none other than Steve Jobs. But she didn’t have the attention span for all that computer talk, and so she began searching for something that would thrill her.
28. Her Thriller Was Not So Thrilling
Despite her notoriety in humor and drama, her attempt at a thriller failed miserably. 1984’s The Little Drummer Girl was a disaster, receiving 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics claiming that Keaton was miscast. Even worse, People magazine said she’d never live it down. After a rocky couple of years in film, however, Keaton hit her now-famous sweet spot.
29. She Became a Muse
The success following the release of the 1987 film Baby Boom directed by soon-to-be regular collaborator Nancy Meyers saved Keaton’s reputation. She would later go on to star in three other relatively successful productions by Nancy Meyers, staying true to what worked and proving the notion “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
30. Her Role In The Godfather, Revisited
20 years after her role in the second Godfather film, Keaton’s received criticism for her character’s lack of consequence in the third film. Most scenes involving Keaton consisted of her nagging her ex-husband, which had The Washington Post expressing that she “suffered tremendously.” Be that as it may, she did, however, find her way into another co-star relationship.
31. Her On-Again, Off-Again Relationship With Her Co-Star (Again)
Happy to reunite with a long-time crush, during the production of The Godfather Part III, the stars seemed to align—they were now both single, and Diane Keaton entered a wishy-washy relationship with Al Pacino, stating that he was “the most entertaining man” with what she called “the most beautiful face” that was just “killer.” This time, it was her intensity that scared someone away.
32. Her Lover Was All Talk, No Walk
Keaton said there was something special about Al Pacino. He talked non-stop, but she worried he only saw her as a conversation partner. She wanted so much more than that. After demanding he tie the knot with her, he got cold feet and fled the scene. Keaton has regrets and considers Pacino “the one that got away”—and letting him go would cause her a serious complex.
33. Her Confidence Was Low
After the filming of The Godfather Part III and Keaton’s relationship with Al Pacino came to an end, she was devastated. Fears riddled her mind and she worried that she wasn’t “pretty enough.” She lost all of her “sexy confidence,” she says, not that she had much to begin with. Then, right on time, an old ghost came back to haunt her…
34. She Had A Good Relationship With Her Exes
The year 1993 saw Woody Allen enter Keaton’s life again, and this time he needed her help. For their first major collaboration since 1979, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Allen had originally cast Mia Farrow, whom he was in the midst of a controversial custody battle with. Ever the faithful friend to Allen, Keaton stepped into the role.
35. She Was A Breath Of Fresh Air
Where a star’s scandal could largely impact production, Keaton didn’t let that happen. Woody Allen said her presence was therapeutic. According to Anjelica Huston, who also appeared in Manhattan Murder Mystery, the atmosphere on set was unusually free of anxiety and pain. In turn, Keaton and Allen were able to get in character and tap into the natural chemistry they shared.
36. She Stands By Her Opinions
With Woody Allen’s public reputation suffering even until this day, Keaton has taken a controversial stance on the reviled director. She’s still the one person standing beside him. Keaton had refused to gossip during interviews, simply saying “I believe my friend.” She managed to avoid the heat of the scandal, and producers soon cast her first to star in an upcoming film alongside charming A-listers.
37. Her Most Popular Film Started a Cult
The comedy The First Wives Club, which Keaton starred in alongside Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler made serious bank. It’s a story about revenge—the revenge of middle-aged ladies whose husbands left them for younger women. Much to their surprise, the film gained a cult following of women who could ragefully relate. But it was their character dynamics that really gave the film that spark.
38. She Experienced a Real-Life Gossip Girl
According to Diane Keaton, “it all came out in the make-up trailer.” Keaton expressed that she grew closer to Hawn than Midler as the two of them shared a trailer, but the chatty positivity that radiated from Hawn exhausted her. However, both of them would have to endure boss-mode Midler when it came to the film’s most iconic scene.
39. She Has Two Left Feet
For the musical number of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” at the end of The First Wives Club, no amount of preparation was enough—not even Keaton’s musical roots with Hair. She couldn’t catch on to the choreography. When it came to the singing, Middler didn’t hold back on her co-stars. She commanded them to “get their voices into their noses more.”
Through the highs and lows, Keaton still deemed that scene her favorite.
40 They Said She Was “Too Old”
In the midst of another dry spell, Keaton would finally find her first major hit since her 90s chick flick—the only problem was her age. Starring alongside Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give, directed by friend Nancy Meyers, with Keaton being 56 and Nicholson being 65, shouldn’t have been a problem—but it was. The studio considered that small of an age gap a “bold choice.”
On top of that, Twentieth Century Fox worried they were too old and that they’d lose viewers. Boy, were they wrong.
41. She Vouched For Older Roles
Keaton stood up for the film’s production, expressing that people their age are deep, soulful, and wise, as they have been through a lot in life. The idea that their love stories weren’t “bankable” at their age was ridiculous. It was a good thing she spoke up. The film was a massive success and she was able to conquer a fear she kept tightly under wraps.
42. She Joined The Barenaked Ladies
Diane Keaton, now middle-aged, finally dropped something she was holding onto so tightly—her robe. For a scene in Something’s Gotta Give, she had to be completely bare and she did absolutely nothing to prepare for it. She stated in an interview that a person’s view on their body changes as they get older; it becomes less of a precious commodity. The audience thought she looked great, and so did her co-star.
43. Her Confession Was Too Believable
Keaton’s acting was incredibly convincing to co-star Jack Nicholson—in fact, he was a little too convinced. One day after rehearsal, he approached director Nancy Meyers. “Diane just told me she loved me,” he said, and Meyers couldn’t tell if he was terrified or thrilled. She had to break it to him, saying, “It’s part of the script, Jack.”
Keaton always kept them guessing.
44. Her Non-Traditional Views
In regards to one of society’s heftiest pressures on women, Keaton calls herself a “late bloomer.” Experiencing her father’s death opened her eyes to the subject of mortality—and led to a dramatic decision. At the age of 50, she finally became a mother to two adopted children. It was one of the most humbling things she ever experienced. But Keaton was never truly afraid of aging.
45. Her Philosophy? Keep It Natural
While most seasoned celebrities poke and prod at their face with Botox and liposuction, Diane Keaton has outwardly expressed herself as being anti-surgery. She needs to be “authentic,” she says, “[looking] the way she feels.” Beginning in 2006, Keaton signed a deal with L’Oréal and appeared in ads for many different beauty products.
Sadly, she would soon, again, have to take another look beyond the surface.
46. Her Mother Inspired Her Memoir
A sudden shock in Keaton’s life led to a chilling realization. She’d spent her life, as she said, “avoiding intimacy.” After losing her mother to Alzheimer’s in 2008, she knew it was time to write her first memoir, Then Again, an honest book relying mostly on her mother’s in-depth journal entries, which she’d never wanted to read before.
One account described her daughter as a mystery, both basic and wise at the same time. Keaton’s mother always let her talk, and Keaton talked on.
47. She Voice Acted In A Major Animation
Who can predict voicing over an animated fish? In 2016, Keaton voiced the mother of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), an amnesiac fish, in Disney and Pixar’s Finding Dory. The film was a wild hit, grossing over US$1 billion. It’s the biggest animated film of all time in the US. But this wasn’t the only time Keaton and fellow funny woman DeGeneres linked up. On The Ellen Show, the two always opened a fresh can of worms.
48 Her Non-Traditional Views: Marriage Edition
Diane Keaton has no problem with her marital status in regards to her age. She considers herself a true “old maid,” claiming that she’s not marriage material because of her fierce independent streak. Being single hasn’t made her life any less joyous, and the concept of devoting to one person for decades moves her, but if she could choose…
49. She Thinks Age Is Just A Number
While on The Ellen Degeneres Show in 2015, Keaton made a stunning revelation. She told DeGeneres that she hasn’t had a date in 35 years. But who was she into? Without skipping a beat, she said Channing Tatum. Well, she can’t be blamed for wanting a little magic in her life.
50. She Couldn’t Resist This Smooth-Voiced Actor
In an interview with questions asked by famous friends and fans, Diane Keaton was quick on the draw. After being asked by Morgan Freeman, her co-star in 2015’s film 5 Flights Up, who her favorite on-screen kiss was, her answer was rather sweet. Who was it? It was him—out of the many, many co-stars she had kissed, it was him—him and “those lips.”