NEW YORK (AP) — Diane Lane has returned to a New York stage. It took her long enough.
The "Unfaithful" and "Man of Steel" star was still basically a girl the last time she appeared live here — a whopping 37 years ago.
What lured her back was "The Mystery of Love & Sex," a new play by Bathsheba Doran at Lincoln Center Theater, the same place where in 1977 at age 12, she was in the ensemble of "The Cherry Orchard" and goofed around with co-stars Raul Julia and Meryl Streep.
"There are wonderful ghosts here, actually," she said over tea during a recent rehearsal break. "I feel like I walk past the ghost of myself."
In the new play, directed by Sam Gold, Lane plays the mother of a college-age daughter forced to grapple with both her own marriage and her daughter's budding romance.
The Associated Press asked Lane, 50, about why she came back, what she was like way back then and who she looked up to.
AP: What attracted you to this play?
Lane: There were a lot of little things in there that I related to. She's 50. Her daughter's 21. She has this whole Georgia thing. I lived in Georgia for a long time and that accent is very close to me. I felt like, 'Oh, there's enough familiar territory on the table for me to not feel like I'm completely out of orbit.'
AP: Why has it taken so long to lure you back?
Lane: I moved to L.A. That's a huge thing. When your kid is in school, you're anchor is out. It's like, 'Forget it. Call me in 20 years.' Leaving your people to do a play is incredibly selfish. Yes, it's incredibly selfish to do a film as well, but it's not quite as long and not quite as immersive.
AP: Did doing "Sweet Bird of Youth" in Chicago in 2012 prepare you? That was the first time you'd been onstage in 23 years.
Lane: It was intense. I use this metaphor: I wanted to find out what was under the hood. I want to blow out my pipes. It's like an old car that's been sitting out there. You don't know. You might blow out a gasket or something. I wanted to see if it was road worthy.
AP: When you were last at Lincoln Center, did you really play jacks at intermission with Raul Julia?
Lane: He was such a generous heart. You don't really realize how kind people are until you look back on your childhood memories and remember those who were kind to you as a child. Who needs to be kind to a slightly obnoxious young person? It takes patience and presence to be there for them.
AP: What about Streep?
Lane: I had no business being in a 26-year-old's makeup kit, but she indulged me.
AP: What were you like back then?
Lane: I was just this punk kid who was lucky not to screw up the cues. Really. I learned by making every mistake there was. I peed in my pants. I fell asleep backstage. I spoke English in the middle of a Greek play because the props were in the wrong place. I was 7. I was allowed to learn in a way that wouldn't be afforded to somebody today.
AP: Who were your acting heroes?
Lane: I loved Shirley MacLaine, I loved Vivian Leigh, and I loved Jane Fonda. Those were my three archetypical types of excellence and self-possession. They possessed a kind of mercurial talent that they themselves were not necessarily even cognizant of. That is what I loved about real actresses that I saw in the theater.
AP: You dad, Burt Lane, was an acting coach, who adored theater. Was he worried about you going off to Hollywood in 1978?
Lane: He was very trepidatious. He was very worried. He felt like the vampires live out there. He said, 'They'll punch in you in face in New York, but they'll stab you in the back in L.A.' He was worried. Especially in that era when there was no Internet and no anonymity. Now everyone stabs you in the face!
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits