When Diane Lane first signed on to costar with Richard Gere in 1984's The Cotton Club
, the pair were brought together for a "chemistry meeting." The result? They passed with flying colors. "It's a no-brainer in hindsight," says Lane, who 24 years later is starring in her third movie with Gere.
In Nights in Rodanthe
, based on Nicholas Sparks' bestselling novel, they play two strangers who get a second chance at love. "When we get back together, it's like seeing an old trusted compatriot," Gere, 59, says of Lane, 43, who admits she has a hard time not cracking up when they film love scenes. The pair spoke with PEOPLE's Brenda Rodriguez about friendship, family and two decades of steaming up the screen.
Why did you decide to join forces again in Nights in Rodanthe
RICHARD: I've certainly sent a lot of scripts to Diane over the years, and she never wants to do anything with me—
DIANE: Hardly! It just gets better and more fun.
RICHARD: I just go, "Well, who's the best actress?" and it's almost always her.
Did you get emotional, reuniting on-set after all these years?
DIANE: Yes. We did ugly crying!
RICHARD: Ugly hugging!
Where does that onscreen chemistry come from?
DIANE: I'm convinced there's some past life stuff we're working out here. No, I'm just kidding! I'm joking.
RICHARD: She's not joking. She's not joking at all!
DIANE: We're stronger together than [apart] if we're working on the same story.
RICHARD: We've been through the fire three times, so the trust level is extremely high.
What did you think of each other when you first met in The Cotton Club
DIANE: I always felt so exposed around Richard. Then I realized that Richard has that effect on every woman! I felt like I had been X-rayed, and he just wouldn't take me seriously.
RICHARD: I was delighted by you! Totally delighted by you. You took that as not being taken seriously?
DIANE: I suppose. I was 18.
RICHARD: I took you seriously.
DIANE: I've owed you an apology. I think I was a bit of a brat when you met me.
RICHARD: Yeah, which is why you were also perfect for the part!
Does your friendship make it awkward to do love scenes?
RICHARD: We were doing a love scene one day, and she started giggling and couldn't stop. Then I started giggling.
DIANE: I'm usually very reserved.
RICHARD: [It's] really mostly brother and sister with us. We get the cosmic joke of things. We were there looking at each other pretending to be desperately in love, and there's 40 people around us!
DIANE: We were fighting the giggles. He was literally talking to himself [going], "Stop it! Just stop it!" I was like, "Okay, he's having a moment."
How do your spouses—Carey Lowell and Josh Brolin—feel about your working relationship?
DIANE: They're greatly relieved that it's going to be a pleasant experience.
RICHARD: Spouses pay for a bad experience that you're having [in a movie].
DIANE: I've cried on the kitchen floor a few times.
Do you feel sexier today than you did in the '80s?
RICHARD: As one becomes more comfortable with who one is, of course it's sexier. That's probably true with us.
DIANE: She's talking about [whether you still feel] like eye candy.
RICHARD: You're just talking about being eye candy? Oh man, I just took that in a totally [different direction].
DIANE: You went all profound!