CSUN Helps Provide New Direction for ’80s Cult Film Actress

  • Diane Franklin poses with the book she was inspired to write at CSUN. Photo by Lee Choo.

  • Franklin plays the role of French foreign exchange student Monique in 80s comedy film "Better off Dead". Photo provided by Diane Franklin.

  • Franklin proudly poses with her CSUN degree. Photo provided by Diane Franklin.

Diane Franklin ’16 (English) often compares her life to the story of the tortoise and the hare.

First, she was the hare. After a modeling career that begin at the age of 10, Franklin moved on to acting, where by the end of her 20s, she played main roles in The Last American Virgin, Better off Dead, Amityville II: The Possession and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Then, in her 40s, she was the tortoise. She attended Moorpark College off and on. She had stalled on writing her autobiography, and motherhood had largely replaced her acting career.

But after transferring to California State University, Northridge, Franklin found an inspiring new career for the next chapter of her life — and the direction she needed to keep running.

“I began to think [in my mid-40s] how I could use my acting life to give back to others at this stage of my life,” Franklin said. “I knew CSUN had a great education program and thought, based on their reputation, expense and close location, it would be a perfect match for me. At CSUN, I decided I wanted to become a teacher, and bring drama and acting into my class.”

Franklin never gave up on her dream of earning a bachelor’s degree, despite some bumps in the road.

After earning enough money through modeling and doing commercials, Franklin enrolled at New York University in 1981 at the age of 18. However, she dropped out a year later after earning a lead role in The Last American Virgin, a decision some of her friends thought was a mistake.

 “All my life, people told me that once you stop education you’ll never go back, but that thought just never occurred to me,” Franklin said. “I went back to school not to defy anyone, but to say, ‘I just don’t get what you’re talking about.’ Finishing my degree opened up the world to me.”

Franklin’s decision to come to CSUN at a later stage in life wasn’t just a humbling experience, but the only path she felt her career allowed her to take, she said.

“Some careers like dancing, sports and acting are typically careers [for the young], and when [opportunity] knocks, you have to answer it. Opportunities like [movie roles] won’t wait for you to get your degree,” Franklin said.

Returning to CSUN, she said, “was a trippy experience learning from teenage peers and being taught by younger professors.”

But that initial uneasiness quickly turned into an enriching experience that allowed her to connect with her peers and develop the writing skills needed to complete two autobiographies — a feat she never thought she’d accomplish until she came to CSUN.

“CSUN taught me how to write and how to take the ideas in my head and put it on paper,” Franklin said. “When writing, I never realized how important it is to get the facts right, back up what I’m saying and how to tell a story that leaves the audience with a good ending.”

On a personal level, Franklin was able to connect with adults her age and give advice to those who needed it.

“I saw women who had children like me, and I was able to bond with them and tell them that it’ll be OK, since I’ve been there too,” said Franklin, a mother of two . “I realized that older adults can really help young adults, and if they can leave out their ego, we can all learn from each other.”

This desire is one of the many reasons Franklin has her heart set on teaching the next generation of adults. Currently earning her drama teaching credentials, Franklin is teaching students in the Rio School District drama in Oxnard.

“CSUN really has integrated my past and present life and has brought it all together,” Franklin said. “I would like to soon work as a middle school or high school teacher.”

Franklin autobiographies, Diane Franklin: The Excellent Adventures of the Last American, French-Exchange Babe of the 80s and Diane Franklin: The Excellent Curls of the Last American, French-Exchange Babe of the 80s can be found on Amazon.

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