Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing an aging Hollywood movie star in Youth, Jane Fonda explains why she chose this role. “I wanted to work with Paolo Sorrentino even before I read the script, because I had seen Il Divo and The Great Beauty, and directors like this don't come along all the time. In my opinion, he is in the school of Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni.”
The daughter of Henry Fonda, Jane started her acting career in the early 60s. The Hollywood Foreign Press recognized her potential right away, giving her an International Recognition award “as most likely to achieve prominence during the coming year” in 1962, after her first film, Tall Story by Joshua Logan with Anthony Perkins.
Fonda acted opposite Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park (1967) from the Neil Simon play, she moved to France and starred in Barbarella (1968) directed by her first husband Roger Vadim, made They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) directed by Sidney Pollack.
Then she started her own production company. “During the 70s I really enjoyed acting, because I was producing my own movies, Nine to Five with Lily Tomlin, Coming Home with Jon Voight, China Syndrome with Michael Douglas.” The HFPA honored her work with Best Actress Golden Globes for Klute directed by Alan Pakula with Donald Sutherland, Julia (1979) by Fred Zinnemann with Vanessa Redgrave, Coming Home (1979) by Hal Ashby.
Outspoken in her opposition to the Vietnam War, founder of a grass-roots organization with her second husband Tom Hayden, involved in stopping violence against women, Jane credits her father’s choice of socially responsible films for her political activism: “My father didn't talk much, but he made movies like Grapes of Wrath, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Oxbow Incident and Twelve Angry Men, which obviously I saw when I was very young, and that got into my DNA.”
In 1981 she produced a film where she acted with her father and Katherine Hepburn playing her parents, On Golden Pond directed by Mark Rydell. “Katharine Hepburn had a huge impact on me, she was a real character but she really went out of her way to teach me lessons, so I learned a lot from her more than anybody.” In the 80s she made other movies of substance, Agnes of God (1985) by Norman Jewison, The Morning After (1986) by Sidney Lumet with Jeff Bridges, Old Gringo (1989) with Gregory Peck, Stanley & Iris (1990) by Martin Ritt with Robert De Niro.
In 1991 she moved from Santa Monica to Atlanta after marrying her third husband, TV mogul Ted Turner. She says, “I was so unhappy acting that I left the business for 15 years, from the age of 49 to 65 to live my life. Then I thought I could do this again with more joy, so I came back, and I've been blessed to be able to recreate a career between 65 and 78. I have worked very hard on myself as a human being and it's made it possible for me to be creative again.”
Fonda, a curious person always searching for ways to improve herself, collected information from experts in various fields, and then dispensed her advice in two autobiographical books, My Life So Far and Prime Time. Having launched the aerobics craze in the early 80s, recently she produced more exercise videos, now geared towards seniors.
She has also been doing television lately; she had a recurring role in The Newsroom by Aaron Sorkin, now stars with Lily Tomlin in the Netflix comedy Gracie and Frankie. “There’s nothing like a steady job when you’re my age. I‘m so lucky to still be acting, it’s unusual. People forget that this is how we earn our living.”