Diane Keaton opens up about her heartache over her brother’s mental health struggles in new book

The Hollywood star opens up about her lifelong pain.
Diane Keaton

It’s one of her best-known movies but, for the first time, Diane Keaton has opened up about a certain heartbreaking role in Annie Hall, and how it was based on her beloved and troubled brother, Randy Hall.

The actress has always been open with discussing the difficulties faced by her younger brother, who in his youth was diagnosed with illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizoid personality disorder, and now suffers from dementia.

But in her new memoir Brother & Sister, Diane (74) reveals Randy (71) was the inspiration for Annie Hall’s brother Duane in the famed flick.

And while the peculiarities of Duane (played by Christopher Walken) were used for laughs in the movie, Diane’s reality was much darker.

“Over the years people did a lot of measuring of Randy’s mental status, and it all came to naught,” she says.

“He was so hidden. I wanted to explore the mystery of him.”

As a child, Diane struggled to understand Randy.

A scene in Annie Hall in which Duane confides that he fantasises about driving into oncoming cars is typical of the mindset of real-life Randy, Diane reveals.

“He’s had a hard life, you know? He’s a very interesting person. Very sensitive, a writer and poet. But he’s also a big drinker, and completely solitary. It’s so complicated… I don’t know if he knows who I am.”

Born in Los Angeles to Dorothy, a stay-at-home mum, and John, a real estate broker, Diane, Randy and sisters Dorrie and Robin enjoyed a normal childhood.

But Diane also knew there was something different about her brother, or as she calls it, “the other side of normal”.

“I wondered why he was always crying,” she remembers, adding that he seemed to be afraid of everything, including playing in the backyard and planes flying over their house.

“Why was he afraid of the outdoors?” she recalls thinking. “That’s weird!”

But as Diane plunged into acting, with her career taking off after her appearance in The Godfather in 1971, she admits she and her previously close brother drifted apart.

He got married briefly to a woman he’d met while working at their father’s business, but after that failed he descended deeper into alcoholism.

Randy had developed a talent for art and an impressive imagination but wrote letters to his sister that detailed graphic thoughts he’d had about harming women.

“[He] had a so-called fantasy of killing women,” she says in the book.

“But I was never worried he’d act on them. There was no indication that he would, in anything he’d ever done. He didn’t have that bone in his body. He wrote about them and did collages instead. Reality, you know? Reality was not something Randy could handle.”

These days Randy lives in a senior living facility, with Diane, who is mum to Dexter (25) and Duke (20), visiting every Sunday.

In many ways, they’re the closest they’ve ever been.

She’s also still busy with film roles – she’s just completed filming on her next movie, Love, Weddings & Other Disasters – and her ever-growing list of hobbies, including writing, managing her extensive property portfolio, photography and fashion; she posts her outfits of the day on her Instagram page.

“I’ve followed the paths I’ve wanted to follow. I like redoing houses, I like architecture, I like visuals, I like fashion, I like all of it,” she says.

“I’m fearless about what I like.

“I’ll take it wherever I want to go. I’ve had a lot of independence, and nobody’s telling me what to do.”

She’ll never stop loving being in front of the camera, but if the Hollywood offers do end up drying up, she’s content with falling back on her other interests, adding she’s thinking about writing another book that combines all of them.

“I have a lot of hobbies that are very time-consuming that I love. I’ll address those and those will be my work.

“But I have no intention of stopping any kind of work whatsoever.”

Related stories

Get NZ Woman’s Weekly home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 29% on a magazine subscription.