Lane's maternal grandmother, Eleanor Scott, was a three-times married Pentecostal preacher of the Apostolic denomination, and Lane was influenced by the theatricality of her grandmother's sermons. Lane began acting professionally at the age of six at the La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York, where she appeared in an acclaimed production of Medea and at 12 she had a role in Joseph Papp's production of The Cherry Orchard with Meryl Streep. Also at this time, Lane was enrolled in an accelerated program at Hunter College High School and was put on notice when her grades suffered from her busy schedule. At thirteen, she turned down a role in Runaways on Broadway to make her feature film debut opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance. At fourteen, Lane was featured on the cover of Time declaring her one of Hollywood's "Whiz Kids".
One of few child actors to make a successful transition into adult roles, Lane made a hit with audiences in the back-to-b