Diane Lane discovers danger online

CanWest News Service
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SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Yes, that's definitely Diane Lane - and not a double - hanging upside down from a hook in the ceiling during one chilling sequence in Untraceable.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Yes, that's definitely Diane Lane - and not a double - hanging upside down from a hook in the ceiling during one chilling sequence in Untraceable.

She's surprised that anybody need ask: physical discomfort is often a necessary part of the territory if you're an actor. Besides, she's playing a determined FBI cybercrime expert on the trail of a maniac killer who's given to torturing his victims to death on the Internet - so naturally, if she gets too close to him, she'll end up in dire danger herself. Untraceable, which opens Jan. 25, is that kind of movie.

Lane does concede that hanging upside down with a gag in your month isn't that pleasant. But the 43-year-old actress tends to be pragmatic about such things.

"Yoga has actually prepared me for being upside down quite a lot," she reveals. "But yeah, I did practice, but I didn't want to stay upside down for too long, because you get a little woozy after a while."

She can't take herself all that seriously. What she does take seriously is the nasty underside of the Internet - which is why she thinks that Untraceable is more than just another suspense movie.

She's also serious about the practice of her craft - and she's astonished (and a little impatient) that she still gets questions about having a woman as the hero of an action thriller.

"I don't see any reason why age or sex should eliminate anybody from a job qualification," Lane says tartly. "But hey, I wouldn't volunteer to be the linebacker for the Dolphins!"

At the same time, she wants to point out that a huge number of women do put their lives on the line in a job like law enforcement, and she talked to some of them in preparing for the role of Special Agent Jennifer Marsh, who's both a cop and a single mother in this movie.

She's also perplexed at the reaction of some journalists to her character.

They seem surprised that Jennifer Marsh, this dedicated cop who's eminently capable of taking care of herself, also has a vulnerable side.

"Being vulnerable and being empowered ought not to be mutually exclusive," she points out. Lane finds Jennifer to be a fascinating and complex woman - a single mother who is highly capable in her job but also so accustomed to being independent that her relationships suffer.

In Untraceable, Jennifer becomes increasingly distracted from family because of the horrific nature of the crime she's investigating. She's based in the FBI's Portland, Oregon, field office, prowling the Internet every working day in search of credit card fraud and sexual predators. She encounters a creepy new website - killwithme.com - which she initially thinks is too outrageous to be real only to discover later that it's the domain of a technically brilliant killer who tortures and murders his victims on his own website, a website which is virtually untraceable because of an endless number of servers and hosts.

The film is also a commentary on the Internet culture: the more hits the killer's site gets, the faster the victim dies - and it does attract a lot of thrill-seekers. Lane says she's a "wimp in reality" but she decided in researching her role that she had to explore some of the more revolting byways of the Internet.

"Within five minutes, things were occurring there that I wish I hadn't seen. This is the thing - there's an appetite that certain people have to see certain things, and it will always exist."

She says one question the film struggles to ask is: "How far is too far?"

True, the fictional events depicted in Untraceable haven't yet happened in real life, but Lane clearly believes that anything is possible on the Web these days.

"But to even have a film that deals with something like this that could happen . . . is good because it's sort of a shocking reality check of all these elements combining in a way that is scary."

Director Gregory Hoblit believes Lane was attracted to the project because, like himself, she is a parent concerned about the less savory side of the Internet. Lane says he's absolutely right.

"There's nothing scarier, I think, about being a modern parent than the invention of that alternate universe that young people today feel is theirs and that they're entitled to it at any time of the day all day long . . . If you can even make eye contact with a young person it's pretty impressive!

"So yeah, it's daunting for sure. I understand the whole commodity of innocence and how much lack of it is available in terms of what's offered for kicks online. Yet you know that it's the real world, they're going to grow up. they're going to inherit this world. So I think this is a cautionary tale, and to me, the commodity of innocence is always more valuable as it's diminishing, like any commodity, and as a parent, nothing is more precious than the innocence of your offspring."

Nevertheless Lane, who normally hates watching violence, seems ambivalent about its presence in Untraceable.

"I think that the premise of the film is frightening and the violence of the film is equally frightening in a different way," she comments.

She also admits a fact of Hollywood life: "A comfort level with R-rated violence is kind of a prerequisite for thriller entertainment."

So where does she stand on the issue? "I don't know. It's not typically something that people would necessarily associate me with, but I was happy to play the good guy coming up against the bad guy, and definitely by the time we get to him, I'm glad it's me because it would be good to eliminate somebody like that."

Organizations: FBI

Geographic location: Untraceable, SANTA MONICA, Portland, Oregon Hollywood

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