"Did you ever have one of those days?" Diane Lane says with a cheerful sigh. She has just arrived at a favorite neighborhood Italian joint near her home in Los Angeles. "I couldn't find my car keys, I got stuck in traffic, and a little home-improvement project we're doing just turned into a major home-improvement project. I'm making my office into a serenity room, something like I imagine Oprah has. A place where you can go and pull the covers up over your head. But as one room gets upgraded, you have to do the next...." She slaps her forehead and giggles. "Sometimes you justwant to wave the white flag!" Not that she will. After nearly four decades in the spotlight, and four years of marriage and blending families with 40-year-old actor Josh Brolin (Diane has a 15-year-old daughter, Eleanor, with her former husband, actor Christopher Lambert; Josh has a son, Trevor, 20, and a daughter, Eden, 15, from his marriage to actress Alice Adair), Diane knows that resilience can be its own reward. "I think the secret to happiness is having a Teflon soul," she says. "Whatever comes your way, you either let it slide or you cook with it." For Diane, that's been a recipe for huge success. Although she was hailed on the cover of Time
as one of "Hollywood's Whiz Kids" at 14 and Francis Ford Coppola cast her in The Outsiders
a few years later, it wasn't until her late 30s that Diane earned her highest praise (and an Oscar nod), for the 2002 film Unfaithful
. That demanding, sensual role led to a string of crowd-pleasing performances in films like Under the Tuscan Sun
and Must Love Dogs
. Now the actress, 43, is pairing up again with Unfaithful
costar Richard Gere for Nights in Rodanthe
, an old-fashioned romance based on the bittersweet novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. Diane plays a housewife who retreats to a friend's bed-and-breakfast when her husband ditches her for a younger woman. As luck would have it, Gere â€” who plays a surgeon with life issues of his own â€” is the only guest at the inn. On a gorgeous beach. During a storm. Take a guess at what comes next. Once again, Diane starts to giggle, but this time mischievously. "What do you think happens?" she laughs. "I mean, come on! It's Richard Gere!"What appealed to you about this movie?
I liked the ability of the characters to grow and learn and have the muse come back into their lives. It's easy to get stuck in a rut, but if someone else appreciates you or makes you question yourself, that's an enlivening process. I like that they are willing to turn criticism into something positive. That's what couples do for each other.In what ways have you grown over the years?
] In recent years, everything in my life has mushroom-clouded â€” in a good way. My work life has grown, my relationship with Josh has grown, my responsibilities as a parent grew and changed. One day about a year and a half ago, I realized I can't put these responsibilities in a jar and tend to them later, especially when it comes to time with my family. Life isn't "when the kids get a little older" or "when Josh and I have the perfect quiet moment alone." Right now is all we've got. How did that revelation change you?
It quadrupled my sense of gratitude. As I take each baby step toward 60 and away from, uh, 20 [she lets out a big laugh
], I'm realizing I have everything I need. I'm not talking about material possessions. To me, there's no greater reward than being around people you care about and can be present with. To be at home doing the crossword puzzle cheek to cheek with my daughter â€” that's
a moment. Or to hear Josh going on brilliantly about some issue he saw in the paper. Or to realize I'm the person I've always wanted to become â€” or, should I say, the person I always knew I was. I like that -- "the person I always knew I was." What can you say about that person?
Oh, I guess it's that I realize I am as smart as I thought I was. I do have some talent. I really do have conviction. I'm not a bad parent and partner, even if I make a thousand mistakes. Even when things aren't going exactly where you thought they'd go, you're getting somewhere just by dedicating yourself to what really matters. What did Helen Keller say? "True happiness...is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." I'm full of those one-liners, but I certainly believe that.