Following her theatrical debut in the original 1968 production of Broadway’s Hair, the California native turned to film. Her first role was in 1970’s Lovers and Other Strangers, two years before she got her big break in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.
“I always thought I was the most outsider, weird person in the movie, and ‘Why was I cast in it?’ and I had no voice,” Keaton said of her character, Kay Adams, while celebrating the original movie’s 45th anniversary at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. “But then I had a couple of good scenes with Al [Pacino].”
At the time, the Oscar winner confessed that she hadn’t seen the iconic mafia movie in nearly three decades. “I saw it on my computer. I hadn’t seen it for I think about 30 years,” she said. “And … I just remember all the people, I couldn’t handle it, it was so astonishing, it was so beautiful, and everybody is so great in it, and the music, and every choice [Coppola] made.”
Keaton went on to appear in the franchise’s 1974 sequel and 1990 follow-up. While her dramatic turns are award-worthy, fans also love the Then Again author’s comedic timing in Annie Hall, Father of the Bride, The Family Stone and more.
“Diane, of course, she was kind of our leader on the movie,” costar Luke Wilson exclusively told Us Weekly in December 2021 of working alongside the iconic actress in The Family Stone. “She would never say that but everyone was so admiring of her.”
Keaton, for her part, was intrigued by her character in the holiday film, Sybil Stone, a strong-willed mother of five.
“She’s not an over-the-shoulder mom or a sweet mom or a mean mom. She’s a progressive woman who made a choice and decided that her family would be her career and her passion and her celebration,” the actress told The Baltimore Sun in 2005. “She gave her whole life and energy and considerable brain to it. … Sybil Stone grapples with pain and fear, but is invigorated and kind of saved by her family. That’s such a positive statement to have, especially at Christmastime.”
“I saw how much [my mother] gave up. … I think that she is the reason why I didn’t get married,” Keaton told Interview magazine in June 2021. “I didn’t want to give up my independence.”
Scroll down for a look back at Keaton’s most memorable roles through the years: