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Diane Lane

Being "Unfaithful" works for sexy Lane

Critical analysis: “Allowing her beautiful, chiseled face to register every anguished tremor of guilt, anxiety and exhilaration, Ms. Lane shows us the harrowing cost of surrendering to a delicious whim. For an actress to be so direct takes more than talent: Courage is required.” — Stephen Holden, New York Times

Awards pedigree: Actress kudos from the New York Film Critics Circle, plus a Globe nom for “Unfaithful”; Emmy nom for “Lonesome Dove”; Indie Spirit nom for “A Walk on the Moon”

Upcoming: Lane, the mother of an 8-year-old girl, is not sure: “I have two scripts in front of me, but I want to deal with 4th grade and the PTA.”

When director Adrian Lyne — known for respectably raunchy fare like “Fatal Attraction,” “9½ Weeks,” “Indecent Proposal” and “Lolita” — needed a star who could handle the complex role of a happily married suburban wife and mother who tumbles into a heady affair with a younger man, he went to Diane Lane, not exactly an obvious choice.

Lane — who made her acting debut at 6 — wasn’t known for her choice of steamy roles, despite her role as a housewife who has an affair in the well-received “A Walk on the Moon.”

Although the actress has starred in 43 films over three decades, she might still be most identified with her starring turn in “A Little Romance” opposite Laurence Olivier when she was just a teen. Nevertheless, she was unflinching when the “Unfaithful” script called for a little nudity.

“It almost felt like a dare,” says Lane, who has just spent three months in Italy filming “Under the Tuscan Sun” for Disney. “If you want me to do something, pretty much all you have to do is dare me. And I feel compelled.”

“There’s something about Adrian,” she adds. “His insight into the psyche and current pulse of a certain kind of (adulterous conduct) — well, I think it’s also a judgment of ourselves and how much that’s connected to our sexuality, in terms of how honest we are with ourselves. And how much we like to kid ourselves.

“So I knew (this role) would be a journey into something that was going to be very rewarding as an actor. But I didn’t realize he’d like as many takes as he does,” laughs Lane, who is in almost every frame of “Unfaithful.” “It was really quite a marathon, a stamina run for me — 98 filming days.”

The effort paid off. Critical raves have followed, including honors from the New York Film Critics Circle for best actress.