When you’ve made the cover of Time at the ripe old age of 14, what else is there in life to accomplish? If you’re Diane Lane, plenty, including an Oscar nomination for her sizzling turn as an adulteress in “Unfaithful,” an Emmy nod for her portrayal of a tenacious ex-prostitute in the television classic “Lonesome Dove,” and an onscreen love affair with Richard Gere that’s lasted through three, possibly four, movies.

When you’ve made the cover of Time at the ripe old age of 14, what else is there in life to accomplish? If you’re Diane Lane, plenty, including an Oscar nomination for her sizzling turn as an adulteress in “Unfaithful,” an Emmy nod for her portrayal of a tenacious ex-prostitute in the television classic “Lonesome Dove,” and an onscreen love affair with Richard Gere that’s lasted through three, possibly four, movies.


Lane is also one of the few working actresses who can boast of having starred opposite the likes of Olivier, Lancaster, Steiger, Duvall and Streep. Now she is sharing the screen with a thoroughbred of a different sort in “Secretariat” (opening Friday), the story of the legendary racehorse and the feisty filly who owned him.


Her name was Penny Chenery, and Lane is right on the money in capturing what it was like to be one of the few women involved in the Sport of Kings in the early 1970s. The film, surprisingly, is as much about Chenery, and the overt sexism she endured, as it is about Secretariat’s record-shattering run to the Triple Crown in 1973.


A lifelong fan of the ponies, Lane said during a visit to Boston last week that as much as she liked Secretariat, she admired Chenery – a wife and mother in addition to being a horse breeder – even more.


“It was an era when it was an anomaly for a woman to be stepping out of the hearth and home to take on such a brazen endeavor,” said Lane, looking even more elegant and glamorous in person than on screen. “But Penny never stooped to becoming defensive on the gender issue.” If anything, Lane said, it worked in her favor.


“People wanted to interpret her as a neophyte,” Lane said. “But the truth was this was her family business. She grew up on a horse-breeding farm (in Virginia).”


What Chenery wasn’t prepared for, Lane said, was the full-on assault by the media that only grew as Secretariat closed in on becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years.


“Causing such hoopla was not something she bargained for, but desperate times called for desperate measures. And I think she rose to the challenge and so did what’s his name,” Lane said, flashing her radiant smile while pointing to a picture of what most experts consider to be the greatest racehorse of all time.


And much like Seabiscuit three decades earlier, Secretariat helped bring a divided nation together during poor economic times.


“I remember it was one of the very few things people could agree on back then,” said Lane, who was 8 in 1973. “It was an event that was non-polarizing, had no guile, no manipulation, no politics involved. It was the pure essence of joy for joy sake.


“And I think it’s very timely that Secretariat has decided to come back to rejoin us now. Between the wars and the economy and the hijacking of the tea party title ... I find it very interesting.”


If you’re sensing a bit of political bias in her voice, you shouldn’t be surprised. After all, her mother-in-law is Barbra Streisand, a leading fund-raiser for the Democratic Party. You also might know her husband, Josh Brolin, who is the son of James Brolin, quite possibly the only stud more in demand than Secretariat in the early 1970s. So, what’s it like being part of one of Hollywood’s most famous families?


“The empathy factor is strong. It’s more comfortable to be among others who have that common trait than to be the only one, and have to be apologetic to your family for putting them in an uncomfortable place,” Lane said of the fame game. “As a family, we can all be oddities together rather than being the only one at the kitchen table that has these stories to tell (about life on the set).”


It also can put a strain on a marriage, as evidenced by a 2007 incident in which her husband was taken into custody on suspicion of domestic abuse, a case in which no charges were filed and the couple swear was blown out of proportion by the media. If there is any tension between them, you’d never know it from the way Lane’s face glows when talking about Josh and the success he’s enjoyed since starring in the Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men.”


“I always said he was my personal blue-chip stock,” said Lane, adding that she awoke early that morning to watch him ring the opening bell at NASDAQ. “The fact that everybody else has sort of awakened to what I always knew, I just feel like there are canary feathers sticking out of my teeth. I knew it, and I’m sort of gloating. It’s true, yeah.”


Since they both are working steadily, finding time to be together can be difficult, Lane said, but they take joy in seeing each other as much as they can.


“This week, Josh is supporting two films,” she said. “He’s got ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ and the Woody Allen picture, so we’re both out there doing interviews and such. It’s interesting to be doing exactly the same thing at the same time.”


So, have they ever crossed paths on a talk show stage? “Not yet,” Lane said with a hearty laugh. “That would be bizarre. We prefer to cross paths in the kitchen.”


The kitchen is just one of the rooms you’ll see Lane in when HBO shows her next project, “Cinema Verite,” the story of America’s first reality TV family, the Louds.


Lane plays Pat Loud, the matriarch of the clan that became a cultural sensation during the 1970s, when PBS began airing its “American Family” series.


“You get to see behind the scenes what really happened,” said Lane in describing the production in which she costars opposite Tim Robbins and James Gandolfini. “They were the first persons that were thrown into the (reality TV) volcano. Little did they know it was going to become the No. 1 device of television entertainment, not to mention the demise of the culture.


“If you offer people junk food, that’s what they’ll eat. And I think that’s part of the demise of this generation and our culture. They are not being offered nutritious things. They are being crowded out by a sort of fast food, as it were.”


As the end of the interview nears, I can’t help asking about her decades-long friendship with Gere, with whom she appeared in “The Cotton Club,” “Unfaithful” and “Nights in Rodanthe.”


“I’m so lucky to have fallen on that pillow with him three times,” Lane said. “He’s such a golden heart. He conjures forth a great response from me. I can’t help it. He’s a great photographer, too. I have a room in my house that’s all his photography. He’s truly gifted.”


And what about a fourth film together. Might it be a possibility?


“I can always hope,” she said, “because we do it very well.”


Al Alexander can be reached at Aalexander@ledger.com.