Forty-five years after Diane Keaton charmed her way to a Best Actress Oscar for her comedic turn in the career-making Annie Hall, she is letting loose once again and showcasing her knack for physical comedy in the new feature, Mack & Rita.
At 76, Keaton has had plenty of dramatic roles throughout her brilliant Hollywood career, including a recent turn in HBO’s The New Pope. Speaking with LAMag, she says that she still finds exhileration in performing in the crowd-pleasing comedies that have become central to her more recent filmography.
“It couldn’t have been more fun. It was just a joy,” Keaton says of working on actor Katie Aselton’s third directorial feature. “It was always kind of fun and loose, which was really important and made the movie even better. The gals were great; the casting was really smart; it was just the best experience in a long, long time.”
The movie’s plot resembles classic comedy Freaky Friday as it follows 30-year-old self-proclaimed homebody Mack Martin (Elizabeth Lail) as she reluctantly joins a Palm Springs bachelorette trip for her best friend Carla (Taylour Paige), only to magically transform into her future self: Aunt Rita (Keaton). From there, she becomes an unlikely social media sensation and sparks a tentative romance with Mack’s adorable dog-sitter (Dustin Milligan).
While the comedy celebrates being true to yourself at any age, Keaton’s Rita at first struggled to accept the sagging breasts and grey hair of her new appearance. Though she was essentially mocking her own looks, Keaton gushed that she loved filming that particular scene.
“Come on, man. You don’t get to do that very often,” she laughs. “I feel like I’m the same person—self-deprecating. But I don’t think we talked a lot about those things [on set]. We just did them in this movie.”
Watching Keaton improvise using her own life experiences was a “pinch me” moment for Aselton, she tells LAMag.
“To be able to watch it live was such a wild and very surreal experience because all of those moments are just quintessential Diane Keaton moments, and they are moments that can’t be written,” Aselton says. “They just come from inside of her, so getting to watch them was just wild and laugh-out-loud funny.”
Aselton recalls another magical experience related to her star when Dustin Milligan, the movie’s romantic interest, showed up to set, looked at her, and said, “So today I’m kissing Diane.”
“I’m like, ‘Yes—you’re welcome.’ He was like, ‘This is a moment I will never forget,” she says.
Milligan agrees, noting it was an acting moment that he did not anticipate would come in his career.
“I never imagined [kissing Keaton] would be something that I would get to do,” Milligan tells LAMag. “Who would’ve thought that this would be something that would be a reality for any of us… she’s so lovely. It was, just to be honest, bizarre to really kind of focus twice as hard just to make it professional because you’re just like, ‘this is crazy.’”
Milligan jokes that he lost himself ahead of that big on-screen kiss.
“As soon as they call action, I just black out completely and I have no idea what’s going on,” he says. “It was strange and kind of a constant mental pinching of myself the whole time.”
Since the film takes viewers on something of a time-traveling adventure, we asked Keaton to get nostalgic herself and discuss some of her favorite roles. After a career that has seen her portray activist Louise Bryant (Reds), a schoolteacher leading a double life (Looking for Mr. Goodbar), and appear alongside some of the greatest actors of her era as a leukemia patient (Marvin’s Room), Keaton says that it has to be her early roles alongside Woody Allen; despite his recent controversies, she still credits the filmmaker for her ongoing career success.
“My favorite role? Well, you know, it has to be the Woody Allen movies. It has to be because otherwise I just wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be in anything else,” Keaton says. “It was loose and easy and fun. Those were way back but that’s the first time I got to be in a film.”
Mack & Rita hits theaters on August 12.
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