Josh Brolin, Diane Lane

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Diane Lane can't help it—her maternal instinct is always on.

She smiles when I tell her that Nelsan Ellis and Kevin Connolly, two of her costars in Secretariat, both described her to me as motherly. "Oh, good!" she says, while sipping a glass of cold iced tea while doing press for the movie at the Santa Anita Race Track outside of L.A. "Oh, very good. I'm glad to hear that."

Is it something she's heard before?

"I have heard that," Lane says. "I try. Actually, I don't try—I just do. Motherhood has made a much better person out of me." (She and her first husband, actor Christopher Lambert, have a daughter, Eleanor, 17.)

Secretariat follows the true-life story of the champion racehorse of the same name. Lane stars as its feisty owner Penny Chenery Tweedy. Considered the greatest racehorse of all time, Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. In fact, he's the only non-human on ESPN's list of the 100 top athletes of the 20th century.

It didn't take much to convince Lane to sign on. Director Randall Wallace brought her a dozen red roses when he and producer Mark Ciardi first met Lane over lunch to discuss the project. "I was like, 'You had me at hello,'" she remembers before laughing, "I guess I'm a cheap date. But I was such a fan of Secretariat myself, so when I saw that they were making a movie, I just got all excited."

Be prepared to cry a bunch of times during this feel-good flick. Think The Blind Side, but at the horse races. "My husband cried," Lane says about Josh Brolin, "at the trailer!"

Next up for Lane is Cinema Verite, HBO's fictionalized take about the making of An American Family, a 1973 PBS documentary about the Loud family of Santa Barbara, California that's now considered the first reality television series.

However, that does not mean Lane is a regular viewer of reality TV.

"I watch America's Funniest Home Videos," she says. "When the swing breaks, I need a laugh at the end of the day."

And then, like a true mom, she says, "So long as nobody's getting hurt, it's fine."

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