Attention, aspiring screenwriters: Diane Keaton wants to play your creepy villain. Long the queen of comedy, the actress said she is open to playing “types,” provided the script is good. “I really like working, so I wouldn’t mind doing any types, at this point, it’d be fun,” Keaton said during a recent interview with IndieWire. “I could play some hideous person. Any creep. A killer. I’d be happy to look at it. Give me a chance. Whatever’s out there, that I like, I would take it.”
Since first making her name in classics like “The Godfather” and “Annie Hall,” the actress has carved out her niche as Hollywood’s go-to for charming goofballs, practically trademarking her scattered earnestness and bubbly lilt. While it’s intriguing to imagine those ineffable Keaton qualities mapped onto a power hungry witch or maniacal killer, her latest role is much more in her wheelhouse.
In “Mack & Rita,” a new comedy from director and actress Katie Aselton (“The Freebie”), Elizabeth Lail plays a 30-something who gets trapped in the body of a 70-something (Keaton, of course) after attending a new age-y “past life regression” ritual in Palm Springs. It’s a zippy role that allows Keaton to show off her physical comedy chops, including walking in stiletto boots and learning how to post on Instagram.
In addition to playing off the always-charismatic Taylour Paige (“Zola”), Keaton also got a dalliance with a hunky younger man (Dustin Milligan) that, despite the gimmicky setup, delivered a sweet May/December storyline that doesn’t come around very often. “[It was] fun for me,” Keaton said of the onscreen romance. “Maybe not for the audience, but guess what? I didn’t care. I got to have that. Yay.”
Though it’s been almost 20 years since her last critical hits like “Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Family Stone,” Keaton has been consistently churning out light studio movies aimed at Baby Boomers, most recently “Book Club” and “Poms.”
“Not a lot of scripts are jumping out at me,” she said. “It’s not like I get a lot of them, in general. It’s like, once in a while, something comes my way. And, usually, what I do is, I take it. If I’m lucky enough and someone thinks, ‘OK. Well, maybe she could be in this,’ I’m definitely going to be in it, because I like to do it.”
Keaton had a dramatic stint on Paolo Sorrentino’s HBO series “The Young Pope” in 2016, but says she prefers doing movies to television. “I don’t want to do TV. … Unless it’s one episode. Not, the story goes on, and on, and on, and I’m there forever,” she said. “And if it did well, it would keep going on and on. I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life, or a part of my life. Being in an episodic series, I think, would eventually drive me crazy. … I prefer a film because it tells you to go and then it’s over.”
Though she recognizes that many excellent filmmakers have moved to TV, like many of her generation, Keaton laments the loss of the theatrical experience.
“I like to go to the theater and become engulfed by what I’m seeing and it’s big. I love it. I always have,” she said. “And I’m sorry that the audience is not engaged, anymore. … At home, there’s always the potential for something to stop you from continuing to see it … you want to just go away from your home, leave it, and be there, in this big space, alone with it, so you have to stay there. Stay there and be involved. I miss that.”
Gravitas Ventures releases “Mack & Rita” in theaters on Friday, August 12.