EW Staff
August 11, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In ”People,” Diane Lane’s irresponsible, hard-partying mom tries to fix her life by taking her unwilling son (”Taken”’s Anton Yelchin) to live with a wealthy benefactor (Donald Sutherland). The role reunited the actress with a term she’s always hated: sugar daddy. ”My son [in the movie] perceives it as, ‘Oh, she’s shtupping this guy,”’ she says. ”He just assumes. It’s so enraging as a woman. I went through it as an actress. People thought I was having a thing with [Francis Ford] Coppola. Oh yeah, that’s why he hired me…for three movies!”

The ’70s-set film, which eventually takes a dark turn, is based on Dirk Wittenborn’s 2002 novel that director Griffin Dunne, an old friend, optioned before it was finished. ”He asked for my help on finding an ending,” says Dunne. ”I said, ‘I don’t have any ideas, but I’ll option it right now on the chance you’ll find one.”’ The director had Wittenborn expand Lane’s character, then set about creating a rich man’s world on a poor man’s budget. ”It was challenging, but it looks fantastic,” says Dunne. ”We have balloon races and show cars. It’s got a ‘Great Gatsby’ feel to it.” How in the name of Richard Branson do you do a balloon race with no money? Quips Dunne, ”Never again is how you do it.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE Lane’s proven she’s brilliant playing wayward mothers. Let’s hope this is not one manic mom too many.

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