Jane Fonda turns 82 next month. She has big plans for her birthday.
“I’m going to spend the night in jail,” she said Sunday at Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center.
The actress has spent the last three months getting arrested at Fire Drill Friday protests in Washington DC. Her demands for action to curb human-induced climate change were inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.
“She said, ‘You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone.’ So I did….Civil disobedience, which has a very long, noble history, needs to be become the new normal,” Fonda said during her 75-minute talk, billed as An Evening with Jane Fonda, A Celebration of a Storied Career.
Not that activism is anything new to the two-time Oscar winner, best-selling author, and queen of 1980s workout videos.
Men who visit the VFW post in Morris Plains will find a bull’s-eye target of “Hanoi Jane” in one of the urinals.
Posing on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun in 1972 to protest the Vietnam War got Fonda blackballed by Hollywood, though not for long. Her 60-film career includes Oscars for Klute and Coming Home and acclaim for 9 to 5, The China Syndrome and On Golden Pond, her father Henry Fonda’s last film and only Oscar-winning role.
An adoring, mostly female audience cheered Jane Fonda in Sunday’s half-full theater, where film critic Stephen Whitty relayed questions from fans and teased out poignant and frequently funny reflections about the star’s famous family, co-stars and husbands.
Jane warmly remembered the last days of her brother, actor Peter Fonda, who died of lung cancer in August.
“I had the most wonderful time with him as he was dying,” she said, recounting hospital visits when the Easy Rider star laughed at her stories when he no longer could speak.
“We laughed so hard together. That’s what I loved, he went out laughing. So I can hold that in my heart and feel just fine. I know he’s up there still laughing.”
Jane’s mentors were acting teacher Lee Strasberg –who convinced her she had talent–and On Golden Pond co-star Katharine Hepburn.
Prickly at first, Kate was miffed when Jane was not around to introduce her to Henry Fonda. (Jane was touring hillbilly country with Dolly Parton, to prepare for another movie.)
But when Jane struggled to nail the climactic scene with her dad, it was Kate who peeked through a bush and waved her fists as encouragement. She sprang from the bushes again with kudos after Jane finally mastered a backflip for the film.
Delivering a spot-on impression of the wheezy Hepburn, Jane rasped:
“You’ve taught me to respect you, Jane. You’ve faced up to your fears. If you don’t do that, you’ll become soggy!”
Jane’s favorite leading man, Robert Redford, is moody, grouchy and (sorry, ladies!) a lousy kisser.
“I would get so excited as the day approached when we would have a love scene. And it always was so disappointing, because he would never open his mouth. He hated love scenes. And that’s no fun.”
She suffered a nervous breakdown during the first season of her Netflix series Grace and Frankie. Jane and her 9 to 5 co-star Lily Tomlin play old wives whose husbands fall for each other and dump them.
Three days of intensive psychotherapy made Jane realize how the show’s premise triggered fears of abandonment and body-image insecurities stretching back to childhood, when her father chided her as too fat.
Once she recognized the association, Jane said, she identified with Grace and “fell in love” with the character. She expects to feel sad when the series ends after seven seasons.
Jane said her efforts to please her dad carried over to her marriages.
Her first husband, French director Roger Vadim, made her writhe naked for two days of shooting the title sequence of Barbarella (1968). “He taught me how to impersonate a woman,” Jane deadpanned.
Next came activist Tom Hayden, followed by CNN founder Ted Turner. On their first date, Captain Courageous lamented buying and selling MGM.
“I didn’t even own it long enough to use the casting couch,” Jane remembered him saying.
Don’t bet on Husband Number Four.
“I’ve closed up shop,” Jane said, to roars of laughter in the house. “I’ve had three fantastic husbands. I’m never going to get married again or anything else. I’ve learned I’m not gifted at longterm relationships.”
But she wishes she could have another crack at Barbarella, the sexy space adventurer.
“I’d like to tweak the script, because it could be a really feminist movie,” Jane Fonda said.