Last summer, HBO released Jane Fonda in Five Acts, a tribute documentary covering the extraordinary life and career of the world-famous actress, producer and philanthropist. Born in 1937, Fonda started acting and producing in the late 1950s but she also became known as a committed activist for causes such as pacifism and reproductive health. Fonda continues to act. She is currently starring in Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie along with Lily Tomlin, featured in film Book Club with Diane Keaton and is involved in future projects, such as filming the second part of the hit movie 9 to 5.
AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS
In her 2005 memoir My Life So Far, which was number one in the New York Times best-seller list, Fonda reveals her late feminist awakening and narrates the hardships she endured in order to feel comfortable with herself and her body. As she puts it, she sees her book as “a roadmap for other people.”
Jane Fonda (American accent): I get letters and e-mails from people all the time who have just read my book and it had a big impact on people. What surprised me is that it had an impact on men as well as women. Oddly enough, a lot of people identify with the various struggles that I’ve had, issues with parents, issues with eating disorders, issues with men, issues with self-confidence. I felt that if these things could be brought to a broader audience, that it would be informative and helpful to other people and that I was in good hands.
Fonda began her political activism in the 1970s, during US involvement in the Vietnam War. Shortly after that, she travelled to Hanoi for the first time. It was, she says, a defining moment in her life.
Jane Fonda: I would say that prior to my becoming an anti-war activist, I had lived an eventful life, an interesting life, but a meaningless life. I was a kind of a pretty girl who made movies and kind of hedonistic. When I decided to throw in my lot with the anti-war movement, everything shifted. Everything, the way I looked at the world and other people, the people I was drawn to, what interested me, everything changed, that was the big change.
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
Fonda has starred in more than fifty movies and has worked with some of the best actors and film-makers in Hollywood. Nevertheless, she points out that the woman that has impacted her the most was Katharine Hepburn, with whom she worked in the film On Golden Pond along with her own father Henry Fonda.
Jane Fonda: The woman that had the biggest effect on me was Katharine Hepburn and On Golden Pond, which I also produced. And that was really the first time that I can honestly say, someone I was working [with] - a woman that I worked with – had a lifelong impact on me.
Fonda, who turns 81 on the 21st of this month, reveals that she is still evolving, since she keeps questioning herself and learning from experience in order to live a full and spiritual life.
Jane Fonda: I try to listen more than I talk, that’s one important thing that I’ve learned. I wouldn’t use the word ‘revolution’ now, but constant change, yes, I am still changing. I’m only eighty and you know, there’s still a few decades to go if I’m lucky. Why be alive if you’re not learning and changing and growing? I think that’s the purpose, is to try to figure out how do you keep doing it. You may not be able to make your life longer, but you can make it deeper and wider.