Today I am thrilled to share an excellent success story interview with actress Diane Franklin. Diane was the Princess in one of my favorite movies, “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” and was the French-exchange student in the hilarious classic “Better Off Dead.”
My questions and comments are in bold; Diane's responses are in plain text.
About Diane Franklin
Diane Franklin is an iconic 80s American film actress, known for her dark curly hair and dialects. At the age of ten, Diane started with modeling, theater, commercials, and soap opera work. She then won the lead role of the dream girl, Karen, in cult classic THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN (1982). Soon after, she played the daughter, Patricia Montelli in AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION.
Her breakout film role was the spirited French-exchange student, Monique Junot, from the off-beat comedy BETTER OFF DEAD. And her most notable commercial success was playing the medieval Princess-babe, Joanna, from 1980s iconic comedy, BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. – IMBd
Diane Franklin on Acting
How did you get involved in acting?
I started acting when I was 10 years old, but I wanted to start acting when I was four.
When I was four, I actually auditioned for a role. My hair was short and curly, and the agent said, “Come back when her hair is long and straight.” Of course, I didn't understand rejection at that time, and my parents were German immigrants – so they didn't understand anything either.
My parents just followed my wishes. I wanted to be on TV. I watched television and was raised with the generation that watched TV. And when I was little, that's what my dream was.
When I was 10 years old, my hair finally grew out, and I straightened it. I started with modeling because I didn't have any acting instruction. And then I did modeling until I didn't grow anymore.
That got me into doing commercials, and I did commercials for years. I started going for some auditions a little bit until I finally got connected to a manager named Barbara Jarret.
She was very popular in the late '70s, and she had a lot of clients that were ‘up and coming,' including Lori Loughlin. When I would go on auditions, I would constantly see the same other actresses I was modeling or doing commercials with. In fact, it sort of felt like a high school because everybody knew each other.
I even did modeling with Brooke Shields, which was terrific and amazing. You can imagine how young we all were that we were the same height, so it was kind of funny.
How long were you straightening your hair? It's so crazy to me to hear about straight hair because you're known for your curly hair.
Well, I'm glad you asked that because that's what my second autobiography is about. After I finished my first one, I realized which is basically about all the different jobs and the various films I did and how I even became an actress in the first place.
My second book really was the realization that I had been the first actress to be seen as the beautiful dream girl with dark curly hair. That was not happening before the early 1980s. There was the Farrah Fawcett cut and maybe the Kristy McNichol shag. The film I did, The Last American Virgin, is a time capsule of the 80s. I was the first actress seen as a beautiful girl in that film with curly hair.
Whereas before that, curly hair was seen as frizzy or bushy, or I'd wind up playing be the homely girl or the funny girl. You would be the sidekick or the friend, which is interesting because it's why I never really got a role before that.
I was told that I was too pretty to play the best friend, so even though my personality could be goofy and funny, it didn't jive with how I looked. So, it was interesting. The first role I wound up getting was a leader because I could play this girl, Karen, in the film who was essentially just the beautiful girl, the pretty girl that you see at school and you fall for.
Well, it was a great, great film. I think that the '80s culture is coming back now too, which is kind of cool.
Well, this is a good point for actors. This is something that I didn't know until now, and that is when you act at a young age in film or television, your audience is aging with you to a certain point where they're now the adults. That is why you see a lot of '80s things coming back. The adults are the ones that are spending money on things, and they're the consumers.
When you go into a store and hear '80s music, it's because the people who are spending money are from the '80s. They were teens, and it brings back memories for them. I remember growing up, and I would listen to '50s music when I was a kid and think, “Why are they playing '50s music when that's not my generation, that's not my age?” And it's weird because I didn't have the money. I was a kid, and whoever has the money, they're going to play that music.
So, everyone gets their time. There will be '90s music playing, and as people get older and with every generation, there's that wonderful nostalgic throwback to your life, and it's wonderful. I really love nostalgia, and I think it brings back many fond memories, and it makes us remember when we were vulnerable and innocent.
And at a time when maybe we weren't so cynical, and when we believed in love. I still believe in love, but I think it's essential. I think films are significant, and especially the movie that you experience your first crush because your first crush is where you fall for someone, and there are no consequences. And it's just a good feeling, and it's essential.
It's how we even get into relationships. If we hear happy stories and useful things, it makes us feel connected. And then you go through life, and you fall in love, and maybe you have some problems and mistakes, and you have to work that out.
I know some people have mixed feelings about reboots.
Everyone will always love the original, and it's funny; I mean, the original of something is still special. But I think that it's great for certain movies to see a reboot because it just brings the story into the contemporary. It doesn't become just an old story but becomes timeless.
For instance, they think of doing a Bill and Ted's, a new one, and they are supposed to shoot that this year. I don't know if I'm in it, but the new one is called Bill and Ted's Face The Music. I was thrilled to hear they're going to do it, whether I'm in it or not, because now you have another generation who will be able to understand what everyone was talking about in the '80s, about loving Bill and Ted. And understanding how to being excellent to each other is so important.
And they're lovable characters, you know, Bill and Ted. So, it would be great if they brought the princesses back. But regardless, that's why I think it's exciting to see the movies come back.
Diane Franklin on Success
Let's talk a little bit about success and what a typical day looks like?
This means you need to be able to be self-disciplined to make things happen. If you are not a self-disciplined person, it's not going to make you happy. I mean by self-disciplined that as an actress, I would know that every day I'd get up and have to watch what I ate.
I would say to myself, “Okay, eat vegetables and eat protein. Don't eat a lot of carbs.” Even then, back in the '80s, I knew not to eat a lot of carbs.
The other thing was the exercise. I would exercise every day, not just every other day, but every day. I might take off twice a week or one day a week, but I would get some exercise.
Then maybe I have an audition, or perhaps I'd have two or three auditions. And that can happen within a day. I might have one day where I have one audition; maybe I have a day off there where I have no auditions. Oh, my goodness! Now, I've got three auditions in one day. And how do you do that?
What did that mean? In New York, it meant that, when I was acting when I was a kid, it meant I had to get up from my house. My mom would drive me to Long Island Railroad LARR. I'd take a 45-minute train ride to the city.
I'd take a subway or a bus to the audition. I'd go to the audition and read the lines. Maybe for five minutes, I'd have to prepare. I'd go in for the audition, and it would probably take less than five minutes. I'd get out of the audition and go back on the subway or the bus. I'd get back to LARR, where I'd take a 45-minute train ride back home, where I'd probably do my homework on the train. Then I'd go home and eat dinner and get ready for the next day. So, that's what it was like when I was a kid.
Then when I got to be in my 20s, that would mean if it was Los Angeles, I'd get in my car, I'd drive maybe an hour or 45 minutes, just because it took a long time to get to the auditions. You'd find parking; you'd go for the audition.
Again, you read your lines; maybe you had five to 10 minutes to prepare. If you had a bigger audition, you'd prepare the night before. You'd get the script, and then you'd go for your addition of another five minutes, get back in the car, drive another 45 minutes back home. So, auditioning takes a long time, but the deal with auditioning is the more you go, the better your chances – as with anything. I mean, the more you do something, the better your chances.
The other thing you're doing is when you're not auditioning; you’re studying scripts and lines. You're reading scripts. You're studying characters. You're watching behavior; you're watching good films. You're watching TV, you're observing actors who you like, who you think are good actors, or who are actors perhaps that play what you play, and you're taking note of what they're doing: their behavior and their acting.
I think an actor's life is so much about observance. Not just television, but people. You “people watch,” and you watch how people behave, and you question things. Why is it that this person seems this way? What are they doing? I always say, “Body and voice tell a story.” So, what is it in their body and voice that makes you believe or think something about them?
I never went into an audition, ever thinking, “Oh, it's just another audition.” If you want to work in the entertainment business, every audition is an opportunity, and every audition is an opportunity for the casting director to know how good you are, regardless if you're correct for the part.
So, you go in, and you audition as if it's your last audition. You put your heart into it. I think that's the difference between someone getting a callback and not. It doesn't mean you're right for every role, but many casting directors saw me, and they thought, “Wow, she did an amazing audition, but she's not right for this. But I'm going to call her back for something else.”
That is the kind of work an actor does. You cannot be someone who thinks it should be handed to you. It takes a tremendous amount of effort, and I am telling you that every actress I know who has been in the entertainment business for a long time worked just as hard. It is not a given. And you might say, “Oh, well, maybe they had a look,” and it's possible. They may have had a look that got them in the door, but it doesn't keep them there. So, every person who does, I would say in a creative field, any freelance person will tell you that you might have that opportunity, but what do you do with that opportunity when you've given it?
Many of the actors and actresses that I've talked to are successful and may have another job. I think it shows dedication, and it is inspiring, but some people may say you’re not a success if you have today's job or side gig.
First of all, how do you pay your bills? I acted young and saved my money. When I was in my 20s, I was able to live off my money while I did acting auditions.
However, if you don't have savings, then what do you do as an actor? You have to find a night job to work at night or later in the day because you need your days free for auditions.
Today I think weirdly it might be a little easier because you could work on your phone, online jobs, or jobs that have a flexible schedule. Back in the '80s, that was impossible. It was really, really hard. So, I think in a way that may have limited the competition, because not everybody could do that.
During the '80s, people did one job, you were a lawyer, or you were a teacher, or you were an accountant, and you did not do a second job. You were an actor, and you did not want anybody to know that you did anything else.
Today, everybody does everything, which is so interesting. Things have changed so radically that you could deliver pizza, but you're on a TV series. I know someone who is a doctor, and now they're an actor. I mean, the world has changed so much, and there's so much more chance to act and to perform that it's in the actor's favor now. There's more opportunity.
There is more competition, more people are auditioning, there are more types that are seen on television, but at the same time, there's more work. So, it just gives you an interesting perspective on how the entertainment business has changed.
So, you think generally people today are more accepting of actors and actresses having a day job and side hustles?
I think it's more common. There's another thing that happened when I was younger. In the '80s, you didn't publicize yourself when you were an actor. Publicity was really something you didn't do, or it was frowned upon because, as an actor, you want to play many different characters.
So, if you become too well known for something, then people wouldn't want to see you as anything else. But today publicity is such a big important part of entertainment. And I think it helps the actor because people get to know who they are, and it makes them stand out, sort of like something that they're special at.
But the most important thing is that it's true. It must be you. It must be authentic. That hasn't changed. You must be yourself when you publicize, and you must be yourself when you perform because people can tell if it's not authentic.
Do you think that people are just expecting to be connected with the brands, influencers, and people they love because of social media?
Well, I think that's an excellent question. I think the difficulty in acting is that you have to keep it going. And I'll tell you that influencers are working just as hard as I did when I was acting because they have to come out with content constantly. And it's exhausting. I mean, to a certain extent, those people may not have vacations.
They don't take days off. I think it really can ruin a person down, and I think they have to be very careful that they don't get too manic about it. Because if you don't pace yourself, then you're going to run yourself down. Also, people would get bored. Sometimes if you give something too easily, you know, we get bored, we move onto something else. On the one hand, you have to pace yourself if you're going to be an influencer or have a blog.
Social media is like a friendship. You're having a friendship with someone. You don't want to get too bothersome, you don't get too much in their face, but you want to sort of share the good parts of you. Or when you have something valuable to say. Or, you know, fun. Putting people in a good mood is just as legitimate as having something important to say.
If you're on social media and want to be famous, there may be a time where this might not be free anymore. Now, the internet is free; YouTube is free; we can play anything anywhere pretty much. But I am telling you that I don't think it's necessarily going to be that way all the time, and there'll be a time where people will start charging more and more, and you won't get any free content anymore.
So, I would say, take advantage of it now because things change drastically. You could never have told me that movies would have been so available. Now, people can watch anything I've done. I would never believe you 30 years ago, but today it is. There'll be a time where maybe it'll all be pulled, and no one will see anything. So, take advantage of it when it's there.
Are there any common mistakes that you see people make with social media?
Well, I always say, “Don't watch your work; be in your work.” This means, if you are always looking for a response from your audience, you will lose a sense of yourself.
You can't do and watch at the same time. And what I mean by that is, if you're watching what people think of you, you're not coming from a place of integrity. Because it will change based on your audience, what they're giving you.
If you are who you are, then you will find your audience. They will find you, and it will be authentic and true. And it'll be more interesting. I know that my audience is people who love the '80s, and it's because I love the '80s too.
I love the films I do. I embrace them, and I want to bring people on a ride with me, whether through my books or my social media, to have fun.
Obviously, there are dark things that happen globally, but I try to encourage people on my social media not to bring that to bear because that's not why people are coming to me.
It's not to say negative things don't happen, and bad things don't happen, and I have tremendous empathy when they do and for people. That's not the world that I want to share with people. I want to share hope and good thoughts, and I can do that because it's sincere. So, that's kind of where I come from, and someone else's social media strategy is about finding the truth, or standing up for something, or being insightful.
What are a couple of tips you would have for people who may have difficulty making it in the industry?
There are several things that it takes to be successful. If you are having problems, these might be the areas that are causing problems, but they are not problems that can't be overcome.
One is being kind to yourself. Meaning, as you go through the process, understand that the process is as valuable as reaching the goal. And that when you make a mistake, it is precious that you made that mistake. The problem is not seeing it as an opportunity. The opportunity is to learn what not to do and gain empathy for others who make mistakes. You have now become human, and you understand that, oh my gosh, maybe other people have gone through that, and now I can maybe help them with that. Or, I am someone who has empathy, and I can understand what it means to be human about a problem.
Actors are people who love problems. We go through it, and we have a situation, and we have to make it work. If I have a scene and, in the scene, I have to say a certain piece of dialogue, it doesn't make sense. An actor must figure out a way to make that piece of dialogue make sense within the story.
Just as, if you are someone who's having problems, you say to yourself, “What are my problems? Maybe I'm not ambitious enough. Maybe I'm just sad. This is not making me happy what I'm doing.” Maybe you're doing your job that doesn't make you happy. You have to confront your vulnerabilities. I'm not saying you have to fix them in a day. That's why I said to be kind to yourself. Give yourself just as much time to solve your problem as you did get into the problem.
Once you do that, you will develop self-esteem in the area that you are most vulnerable, which is the most important thing. You will develop courage and bravery. One of the things for me is that I do things that scare the heck out of me even to this day. I face my fears, and I don't like to, but I do it, and guess what? My self-esteem grows, and I then feel so much better about myself. And I then I'm a more confident person. But if you go into your fears, you don't face your fears; you will always be weak. And successful people don't fall into their weaknesses. They go, and they face their fears.
You may need help. Maybe you need help from someone else to learn how to do it. Maybe you need to go to the Internet and do a tutorial. Perhaps you need to speak to someone who does it and understand what you're talking about. But if you don't face your fears, they will haunt you. They'll follow you for your whole life.
That is great advice. I always tell people who are in debt, “It may take you as much time to get out of debt as it took to get into debt.”
Yeah, exactly. And guess what? Being in debt, maybe you need to be in debt for a little while, never getting in again because you need to feel what it's like to experience that.
And by the way, just because you're in debt, it's a big picture thing. Maybe no one ever told you how not to be in debt? Maybe this is something that was a learning curve, and you know what? Being in debt isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person.
It is the ebb and flow of life. As an actress, you need to know what it's like to have high highs and low lows. You dance, whether it's financial or even to play characters who have a lot of money and who doesn't. That is the actor's journey. And honestly, it is fun because you go through that, and you go, “You know what? Okay, so maybe today I eat cereal for dinner, whatever that is.” And that's a journey.
And you know what? You could have a lovely time doing that and say, “You know what? Someday I'm going to do this.” As long as you keep moving forward, and that is the key.
I have a great story to tell you a little late. I didn't know if you'd call it a myth but say a fable or tale. I think it's Irish. There were two grasshoppers, and both of them fell into a glass of milk. One of them freaked out, panicked, and just lost all hope and drowned.
The other grasshopper just kept moving forward and said, “I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know. I don't want to be in this situation,” he kept running, and running, and running in the milk. Moving forward, struggling, struggling, but moving forward, believing it was going to be okay. The grasshopper knew to work and keep moving forward, and eventually, the milk turned into butter, and he hopped out of the milk, out of the butter.
So, what I'm saying to you is, are you the grasshopper that drowned? Or are you the grasshopper that churned and worked really hard and then hopped out? That's your choice.
That's what we're all about here, just taking the first small steps and keep trying to move forward a little bit by bit.
I'm going to share something else. Don't worry, don't feel shame. Shame is something that's put on us by society. And perhaps people who value themselves only by money, maybe that's why they think of shame.
Shame. There can be a shame for many reasons, but that is something you put in your head. Not everybody carries around shame with them. Shame is when you feel bad, but honestly, if you have good intentions and you go, and you go… making your head decided that you're going to make a change, you will not have to carry that shame with you anymore.
Do you have a book you recommend to help people reach their goals?
One book that I'd highly recommend is Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life by Shakti Gawain.
So, some of it's spiritual, some of it's not. I found it when I was in my early '20s, and I used it repeatedly. The idea is that you set your life goals, and you figure out what you want to accomplish in 10 years, five years, one year, six months. The big point is what you want to attain in your entire life. Some people want to get married, some people want children, some people want to be rich.
Some people want to own a house or a mansion. Some people want to be a singer or dancer. Some people want to be a famous actor or be in a movie. Or some people want to win an Oscar. These are all very different goals.
Once you figure out what's important to you, then looking at these charts and working it backward can attain these.
You'd be surprised and shocked by how you can attain your goals. It's not going to be what your parents want. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. I always say there are three directions you can go in your life; what you want to do, what your parents want you to do, and what you're gifted at. Ironically, you may want to be something, your parents may want you to do something else, but what you're gifted at maybe what you make money at.
You may want to be an actor, but what you're gifted at is math. So, do accounting, help people with their money, but then when you're acting, that's where you're going to get the satisfaction of what you want to do. When people do all three things, maybe their parents want them to be lawyers, and they go to law school. But when they're done with law school, they say, “You know what, mom and dad? I want to be a singer. I did what you wanted. Great, I have it, but now I'm doing what I want.” So, remember we had these choices in life, and we always have them at any age. It's just when you decide you're ready to make that choice and those decisions.
That's kind of like what financial planning is like, because we sit down with people and ask, ” what are you trying to achieve, what are your goals?” Then work towards them step by step.
I think it's the greatest financial advice as well because it's the same thing. You don't have to rush into it. What's your dream? And believe me, it will happen. It will happen.
It's amazing, you may start with nothing, and you can become rich. It's just like people say it's habits, but I really think it's more; it's figuring out what you want.
Once you figure it, you'll get behind it because you'll know that's what you want. So, very important, I think, in financial situations and creative to be in the flow and the fluid with yourself and your emotions.
You must be connected to what you want. You can be rich and have a wonderful family life, but you have to understand what that means down the line. And maybe at a certain point, you have to choose between something.
You can live a great life; you don't have to be rich.
Oh my Gosh, Yes! Can I just tell you? I would say I'm not rich, but I would have to say that money doesn't make me happy; experiences do. That's the funny part. I love experiencing things. To me, that is what gives me happiness
If you aren't happy without money, having money probably won't make you happy either. Getting your finances under control is a great goal and reduces stress, but you don't have to be rich to be happy.
I think there is a pattern that they've developed maybe to become rich, which now they're afraid to let go because they're worried. And you know what? Being rich takes a lot of time and energy too.
People who think that being rich is easy, oh my gosh, watching your money, oh my gosh, I cannot imagine the amount of focus and attention, because now you're watching other people manage your money, or perhaps maybe your people have control of it.
Working at a job you don't like is just as hard as working on something you do like. So, why not do something that you enjoy and that you love?
That brings up a point I really want people to know. Do what you love, and if it takes you a little longer to retire, that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that.
Okay. I hate to say this, but retiring freaks me out. The thought of it freaks me out. I am one of those people that I love doing things. I mean, maybe you'll have a job that you travel with, and maybe you have something else.
If retirement means doing what you want to do, then why don't you just do it? Why don't you just go for it? But I will tell you this; you can do it! Again, we're in a generation where you can do it all.
You can work a job and go after your dreams. It's like the tortoise and the hare, at the same time. Do some things slowly and some things quickly. And that is kind of another part of how I kind of live my life. Some things I move very quickly. Some things I move very slowly.
For example, I started acting early, but then I saved my money, and I went to college with my money. My parents would not have been able to afford college. But I saved my money and I went to college. With acting, dance, sports, there are certain things that you have to do when you're young because that's when it's called on you. It's your time. So, I stopped school, and I went to do acting. Well, what happened is years later, I went back to school. I did some nighttime school. I raised my family. When did I graduate? 2016. Just graduated.
And then, I even changed my major, and I switched it to English. And guess what I did? I wrote two books.
If you would have told me that when I was young, I would've been like, “That's not even a thing. I've never really been into English as much as reading and … You know, that's not my thing.” And here we go. So, you just don't know what's open to you until you are open yourself?
Can you tell us a bit about your books?
One's called Diane Franklin; The Excellent Adventures of the Last American French-Exchange Babe of the '80s. I put that because I didn't know if people will remember me.
The second one is Diane Franklin, The Excellent Curls of the Last American French-Exchange Babe of the '80s. And that is about, mostly about Last American Virgin and how my curls sort of became the fashion, and the fashion trend of the '80s. You will see pictures and photos of things you've never seen before
Is there anything that I should ask that I haven't?
I did a film in 1982 called Amityville II: The Possession, and I played the daughter in the movie. You thought, “Oh, of course.” No one sees part two when you have to keep up one.
But what happened was the director, Daniel Farrands, saw me act when I was in this film Amityville II, and he loved that film. And he decided to write a movie based on the true story that happened in 1974. The actual murder that took place where a 23-year old boy murdered his family. And this is a true story, and honestly, I wish this had never been possible because I want it never to have occurred. These situations, the murders.
I mean, there's just no way that should have been even something that we should be discussing. But Daniel wrote a very amazing script, a very wonderful script, and he contacted me, and said, “Now, you played the daughter in the story. I now want you to play the mother.”
So, I am so grateful that he contacted me because I actually play Louise DeFeo, who was in this family. It's going to be coming out this February 8th in theaters, and it's going to be all over on the internet, streamed.
You will be able to access the film fully in February. And there's going to be a lot of press about it coming in January. So I won't get into too much detail, but look it up; you can look up the trailer now. It's called Amityville Murders Trailer. Or you may see the murders, which is not good.
Here is a link to the trailer – Michael
Where can people find you online?
You can go on Twitter; it's Diane Franklin, then Instagram, it's actress Diane Franklin. And then Facebook, go to Diane Franklin Fans because my other one got filled up, so I have to go to Diane Franklin Fans, but it is me.
I'm going to be at a signing convention in Burbank at the Hollywood show on February 3rd and 4th. Also, I have a signing in New Jersey in March, then another convention in May in Ohio.
Thank you, Diane, for this awesome interview!
Please head over to Diane's social media and check out her upcoming projects!
Michael launched Wealth of Geeks to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.