Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful) is returning to her theater roots in Tennessee William’s Sweet Bird of Youth at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and the actress is ready to show off her mean side. William’s 1959 play tells the story of an aging actress (Lane) and the hustler (Finn Wittrock) who keeps her company.
“I’ve thought for a long time now, I just want to play a bitch, and believe me, I’m capable of it,” Lane told the New York Times of playing against type. “You’re either playing Cinderella or else one of the jealous sisters or the evil stepmother. Oh, no, I can be all of those things. You can ask my husband — and my ex-husband.” While Lane's own career continues to prosper, she still identifies with the play's past-her-prime leading lady. “I can pretty much relate to everything the Princess goes through, though it’s a little tricky with the gigolo thing. Don’t know that I’ve ever paid for it.”
Lane has been itching to return to Broadway and was hoping to star in a production of another William’s piece, The Night of the Iguana. Unfortunately timing with the production's director Michael Wilson did not work out. Only after actor James Franco pulled out of a planned Broadway production of Sweet Bird of Youth, which would have co-starred Nicole Kidman, did this opportunity present itself to Lane. The show's director David Cromer, who was also attached to helm the Broadway revival, approached the Goodman Theatre to pick up the production, and built it around a new leading lady.
Lane began performing in off-off-Broadway theaters as a child and soon found herself under the tutelage of off-Broadway icons Ellen Stewart (La MaMa) and Joe Papp (The Public). However, after a fallout with Papp, Lane disappeared from the stage and pursued a career in film. "The mafia made me an offer I couldn't refuse," she joked of heading to Hollywood. For Lane, being back in the theater feels a bit surreal. “I used to walk past the Juilliard School every day on the way to Cherry Orchard [at Lincoln Center] and think I was a scrappy off-off-Broadway kid who would never be part of the elite theater world.”
Sweet Bird of Youth will run September 14 through October 25.