Diane Franklin is an iconic American film actress, known for her dark curly hair, and dialects. Beginning her acting career at the age of ten, Diane started with modeling, theater, commercials, and soap opera work. She then won the lead role of the dream girl, Karen, in cult classic THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN and soon after played the daughter, Patricia Montelli in AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION. Her breakout film role was the spirited French-exchange student, Monique Junot, from the off-beat comedy BETTER OFF DEAD. And her most notable commercial success was playing the medieval Princess-babe, Joanna, from the iconic comedy, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and much, much more.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Diane to discuss her journey in the entertainment industry and here’s what went down:
Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
I started modelling in New York at the age of 10, then worked in commercials, voice-over, theater, and a soap opera. My big break was in 1982 when I was cast as the lead girl in the teen comedy, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. I was 19 at the time, attending NYU and in the same year, I also booked the classic horror film, AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION. I did a TV pilot for ABC as a series regular, followed by the major roles in TV movies for ABC, and CBS. Then in 1985, I was cast in iconic cult comedy BETTER OFF DEAD as the spirited, French-Exchange student, Monique Junot, playing opposite John Cusack. This is perhaps my most beloved role. Then in 1987, I won the role of the original Medieval Babe, Princess Elizabeth, in the classic comedy BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989.) The film earned worldwide recognition, and became an American 80s classic! (FYI “Bill and Ted: Face the Music” is coming out this week!) My most recent work can be seen in AMITYVILLE MURDERS, playing Louise Defeo (Starz) and WALLY GOT WASTED (Amazon Prime.) And my upcoming films are HIGH HOLIDAY, WAKING NIGHTMARE, and a big project to be announced next year. (2021)
What do you like most about acting?
Acting is freeing, expressive, creative, unpredictable, and artistic – a raw human experience. It’s an incredible feeling to act.
How different is it to act in a movie and to act in a TV series? And which one do you prefer?
Back in the 80s TV series and film were very different. Generally, TV shows are technical. Actors needed to be skilled at taking direction, efficient with their emotion and energy, and there is no room to improvise dialogue. Everything is timed. The actor needs to know how to handle the pressure.
Film on the other hand is a very expressive medium. Like, theater, time is allowed to explore your character. Improvisation is encouraged. It is an artistic and creative form.
But today, TV series and films are not so divided. A lot of thoughtful and powerful work can be seen on television and even the internet. Therefore, actors need to be ready for both. Personally, I don’t have a preference between film and TV. I care more about the role I am playing. I love interesting characters and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?
My weakest point has to be my nerves. I still get nervous, but it’s also excitement. I constantly have to remind myself to stay on point: Focus on the work. Get off my back. Have fun.
What are your strong points as an actor?
My strongest point is my ability to “be in the moment.” To relax, listen, and respond. I also feel very comfortable when there is no dialogue and only body language. I am comfortable with silence.
What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
Unfortunately, many directors do not have the time to give great direction while they are working on set. There are often too many other things they need to focus on. Yet, I think my best acting direction has come from acting coaches. A good acting coach helps you access yourself, in ways you didn’t know. The best advice I ever got from an acting coach was “if you cry too much, the audience won’t.” Smart.
What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?
A freelance lifestyle can be challenging. If you are not self- motivated, a career in acting can turn into a struggle. Simple daily life can seem difficult. Maintaining focus, and promote relaxation through daily routines, exercise, breathing techniques, and/or meditation. Take good care of your mind, body, and spirit.
In addition, remain autonomous to the outcome. Drive forward with your own passion for your work. As in the case with most challenging careers, at some point preparation will meet opportunity and you will get your break.
What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
Being yourself. Being real. Being truthful. It feels scary, but it’s also empowering.
When I get a script, I visualize myself in the story. I make acting choices based on my real-life experiences. I allow myself to be vulnerable.
What do you do when you’re not filming?
Live life! Take chances! Keep learning! I went back to college and finally got my BA at 55. Studied illustration at Otis/Parsons, took a Russian language class, studied film producing, and had fun taking animation classes at T.A.G. I exercise, sing and dance. I direct plays and musicals and coach students in acting and am now writing my third book, a tribute to the comedy I was in: BETTER OFF DEAD. Also, I love spending time with my husband, writer, Ray DeLaurentis, my daughter, comedy writer/actress, Olivia DeLaurentis (APOCOLYPSE GOALS/Snapchat), son, musician/composer, Nick DeLaurentis (Album GOODBOY/Spotify), and our Texel guinea pig.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?
The most memorable experience I ever had was screen testing for the film, Amadeus. Details of this are in my first autobiography, “Diane Franklin: The Excellent Adventures of the Last American French-Exchange Babe of the 80s.” Very intense experience.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
That’s tough, but here are some: George Carlin, John Cusack
F. Murray Abraham, Dino DeLaurentis, Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, Ally Sheedy, David Ogden Stier, Donna Reed, Vincent Schiavelli, Sergio Leone, Bill Murray, Barry Bostwick, Michael Anderson, Kim Darby, Burt Young, E.G Daily, Bill Paxton, Robert Helpmann, Milos Foreman, Amanda Wyss, Rutanya Alda, Curtis Armstrong, Kimmy Robertson, Savage Steve Holland, and Boaz Davidson.
If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?
A woman full of surprises…
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
My plan is to somehow bring happiness to the world. Not sure if that will be through acting, writing, teaching, or just being kind to people.
Now, 5 questions for the ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:
1. Last good movie I’ve seen: “The Shape of Water” or “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? To me, beauty is an ENERGY. It can be soft, strong, colorful, pale, symmetrical, unsymmetrical. It comes in all shapes and colors. You see it and are drawn to it.
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? I wish I could do a role in a Star Wars film. I wish I could work with Quentin Tarantino. I wish I had my own 80s TV series, and have 80s actor friends on it!
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” go surfing!
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? Curly hair. I was ashamed of my hair as a kid, until I did the film LAV, when I made my film debut and then it kick-started the curly hair trend of the 80s! (See Diane Franklin “Curls” book) Amazing. Now I wouldn’t change it for the world!