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A Personal Film Odyssey Reshapes Life for Dyan Cannon : Movies: The writer, director and star of ‘The End of Innocence’ discovers herself while exploring a woman’s search for self.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“I love the light in this house,” Dyan Cannon said dramatically. “I spent so many hours in the editing room that’s one of the reasons I bought the house. I love the bright.”

The former Malibu resident recently moved east to the Hollywood Hills into a white, airy, antique-ladened home complete with prerequisite swimming pool and gym and a 360-degree view that takes in Beverly Hills on one side and the San Fernando Valley on the other.

Cannon sold her Malibu home to help finance “The End of Innocence,” a $3.5-million feature for which she served as writer, director and star. The film opens today for a brief Academy Award qualifying run, preceding its release next month.

“The End of Innocence,” a comedy-drama about a woman’s search for self-discovery, marks Cannon’s feature-film directorial debut. Previously, she received an Oscar nomination for best live-action short film for 1976’s “Number One,” a 48-minute gem about children’s natural curiousity about their bodies and adults’ attempts to stifle them. The ambitious filmmaker wrote, directed, produced, edited and scored “Number One,” under the sponsorship of the American Film Institute.

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The success of “Number One” brought Cannon several offers to direct features, all of which she says she turned down. “There was never enough prep time,” said Cannon, who has earned two Oscar nominations as an actress for her supporting roles in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” and “Heaven Can Wait.” “I was offered a couple of films to replace directors at the last minute. It was never the right time.”

Producers also wouldn’t give Cannon what she wanted: “I knew instinctively what I needed to do. It doesn’t have to do with money. But in this film I got to spend it the way I wanted to, and the way I spent it was with giving myself as much time as I could, not with the filming because I only spent eight weeks filming, but in the editing room.”

Cannon also had lost her desire to direct. “I would get acting jobs and then I would be distracted,” she said.

A few years ago her interest was sparked when her friend, independent filmmaker Henry Jaglom, gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “He said, ‘I have this grant. I am working with this company that is giving $1 million to several women to make films.’ I said, ‘Great.’ ”

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Cannon penned “End of Innocence” during her free moments while making “Caddyshack II” in Florida. Jaglom was impressed with her first draft, but told Cannon the film would exceed the $1-million grant. “I thought the way I do quick cuts, it would be cheaper,” she said laughing. “I didn’t know that every scene needed a set and time to move to the set.”

So, Cannon sold her house and received money from several friends. “I was determined to finish the movie. That part was the scariest about making the movie, that my friends trusted and supported me and gave me their money.”

Cannon also naively thought directing herself would be a snap. “I didn’t realize it when I was writing the script. I was painting a canvas and looking at the whole picture. I wasn’t looking at my part. I didn’t realize how much of an emotional yo-yo she was on. I would get inside her, yell ‘Cut,’ come out of the scene, answer 50 questions and get back inside her and think, ‘Am I losing it? Am I doing too much.?’ ”

Though there are autobiographical overtones in “End of Innocence,” Cannon said it’s not her story.

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“It’s not my parents and it’s not my life, but I had to understand her in order to write it. I love observing life and I love observing behavior.”

Making the film became something of a voyage of self-discovery for Cannon. In fact, she discovered that real life can imitate reel life. Since completing the film, she has separated from her husband of five years, real-estate businessman Stanley Fimberg, and moved into her new house.

“It is so weird,” she said. “I learned from the movie. I am watching myself go through the steps (her character does in her film). I am living this now. I was acting in that movie and this is different. This is a real performance.”

Cannon said she has mixed feelings about the changes in her life. “This is a very scary move for me, this separation and everything. I am married to a very lovely man and we are good friends. I just have always entered everything in my life like it was going to last forever and have done everything that way. This is the first time in my life, honestly, where I am not living that way. As a result, each day is more of an adventure, and I think I am enjoying every day more or hurting in it more. It’s a big step not to make everything forever.”

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“The End of Innocence” is dedicated to Rebecca Schaeffer, the actress who was killed last year by an obsessed fan. Cannon’s eyes welled up with tears at the mention of her name.

“You can’t imagine what it was like to have someone murdered and have to work on them every day in the editing room,” she said softly. “I had seen her a few weeks before (her murder), she had come in (to dub some lines). I have never known anyone like her.”


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