Diane Keaton, who won the 1977 Best Actress Oscar for her title role as the nutty muffin Annie Hall, has long since waved goodbye to the apple-cheeked image of herself as a romantic lead. ''When I was 30, it was exactly what I wanted to do,'' says Keaton, 58, whose age-embracing star turn in ''Something's Gotta Give'' earns the actress her fourth Oscar nomination. ''I wanted to be in romantic comedies and be charming and be Katharine Hepburn or Jean Arthur or any of those great ones. But I don't really feel fetching anymore.''
Thank God, then, for Nancy Meyers, who snapped Keaton out of her string of sexless roles. Fed up with stories of AARP eligibles walking off into the sunset with 25-year-old hipless cuties, the director wrote the romantic comedy ''Something's Gotta Give'' expressly for Keaton, who squares off on screen with Jack Nicholson. ''She's just naturally funny, which is something you can't figure out and can't make happen,'' says Meyers. ''And she's spectacular-looking.'' Amanda Peet, who plays Keaton's daughter and Nicholson's initial object of affection, is equally smitten: ''She's one of those women who mysteriously is as equally goofy as she is sexy. And I just want you to know that Diane Keaton has a better body than I do. Hands down.''
And now the Academy has recognized what audiences already have: how when her loopy, sharp charms wrap themselves around Nicholson's heart, Keaton makes you fall right along with him. And when love kicks her around, when that wide-open face sags in disbelief and regret, you're reminded that she's so much more than a cute master of physical comedy. Plus, she totally smokes the screen in that black cocktail dress. We're glad she's come full circle. And back into the Oscar fold.