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Diane Lane on HBO's 'Cinema Verite,' 'An American Family' and reality television

April 21, 2011 |  7:16 am

VERITE-span-articleLarge Long before "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," there was the real housewife of Santa Barbara. Her name was Pat Loud, and she was the first woman to let a camera crew into her home to film her family's every move for the groundbreaking 1973 documentary series "An American Family," which will air on PBS this Saturday, to coincide with the premiere of HBO's "Cinema Verite," an original dramatic movie that focuses on the making of that controversial project.

Known by many as the first reality TV stars, the Louds were savaged by the press for allowing 10 million people to watch their marriage fall apart on screen. Looking back at the series and the scandal it inspired, Diane Lane, who plays Pat in "Cinema Verite," observed that times have certainly changed for those who've managed to claim their own 15 minutes of fame today.

"They were the first family to stare down into the volcano," said Lane during a telephone interview. "And back then, the question was, did they jump or were they pushed? Now everyone's jumping into that volcano, saying, 'You can burn me in effigy if you want to!' Today people are so afraid of being boring that they light themselves on fire."

Lane also feels the public may have been too harsh with the Louds: "You can ask, why are they filming this, but the real question is, why are you watching?" says Lane.

What exactly were people watching? And why was it so controversial? For more on the series and the HBO film, check out "A New Look at 'An American Family,'" which features an interview with Craig Gilbert, the director of the original documentary.

-- Melissa Maerz

Left photo: The Loud family in HBO's drama "Cinema Verite." Credit: HBO. Right photo: The real-life Louds in PBS' "An American Family." Credit: PBS.