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INT: Jane Fonda

May. 11, 2005by:

After a 15 year layoff, actress/activist/home video fitness diva Jane Fonda returns to the big screen this week with the romantic comedy MONSTER-IN-LAW. Fonda stars as Viola, a mother determined to keep her precious son (Michael Vartan) from marrying his new fianc (Jennifer Lopez), by any means necessary. Through a series of increasingly wacky schemes, Viola slowly drives herself insane trying to break up the happy couple.

Known primarily for fitness videos such as Jane Fondas Workout, Jane Fondas Lower Body Solution and Jane Fondas Favorite Fat Burners, Jane is also famous for her turbulent ten-year marriage to media titan Ted Turner. She recently penned an autobiography, My Life So Far, which currently sits atop the New York Times Bestseller list. Jane stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week to talk about her experience returning to Hollywood . Check it out.


Why did you decide to come out of retirement?

Three reasons one is I realized that I am really different than I was 15 years ago, when I left the business. And I had no intention of coming back. I thought, Gosh, I wonder if that would make the process joyful again? Then this character came along, and Ive never played anybody like her, and I thought, Wow, that would be fun. And Im ready for laughter. And then three half of my salary went to support the work I do. So it was a way to endow the work in Georgia .

When you started to think about returning, did you have a comedy in mind? Or was it a certain script you were looking for?

It was the character. I had no preconceived notions. I had been offered a few things at that same time that were serious and this character just beckoned to me. I just wanted to inhabit her for a while, cause Ive never been inside someone like her and I thought it would be a lot of fun. And it was.

Now that youre back in the business, do you regret at all your decision to leave?

No. I didnt miss it when I was out of it. Im not sorry I left. It was fun to come back and I hope to do a couple more before I die.

Are you surprised at how interested the media has been in you lately, with your new book, movie, etc.?

No. Im not surprised. Its been an interesting past and its an interesting book. Im just totally relieved that the movie is so funny. You can have a blast doing it and everybody can laugh a lot on the set, but you never know, ultimately, when people who dont have a stake in it see it, if theyre going to think its funny. So its a big relief.

Is the attention on celebrity different than what it was 30 years ago?

Oh my god. Fortunately, Im at an age where that wont go on, but I dont envy the young ones today. We never had that kind of scrutiny. It was never this kind offrom the moment you step out your front door, everything you do, everything you wear, yuck!

What was it like working with Michael Vartan?

Michael touches me so much. Hes a good, good, person. And like all interesting people, theres a tremendous amount of pain underneath.

What do you mean?

Hes had a difficult life. And its what makes him vulnerable and interesting. I just want to put my arms around him and hold him. Hes just great.

Are you open to making a sequel to Monster-in-Law?

I loved the character that I played. She was so much fun. I would adore to play her again. Its my first villain cause she is the villain of the movie. It may be a romantic comedy, but not from my point of view! (laughs) From my point of view it was a deep psychological thriller, filled with angst and torment.

You and Wanda Sykes were great together.

Thats another thing; Ive never seen in a movie now maybe yall can correct me but Ive never seen a movie with a rich, white, upper-class woman and a black assistant with a lot of attitude, who I put up with. Its an unusual relationship.

Was it cathartic for you to write your book?

The catharsis happened before I wrote the book, which is why I wrote the book, because I realized that I have a story to tell and that it has kind of a happyits not an ending because its called My Life So Far, but everything sort of turns out ok. The process of writing it was more transformational than cathartic.

How so?

Yall are too young, but when you get to a certain age, if youre able to step back and look at your whole life which you really cant do until youre in your third act, which means over 60 and understand the patterns and understand what youre supposed to learn from your past, that is such an amazing experience. It taught me a lot.

What was it about your parents that shaped you the most?

Maybe some of you can relate to this: when a child grows up made to feel that they arent good enough, that in order to be loved they have to be perfectI think boys internalize that differently than girls do. With girls, it usually attaches itself to your body. Youre just not perfect and you need to try to be perfect. And it doesnt mean your parents are bad or cruel or anything; they just didnt know how to do it differently. That marks you, unless you try to put in the work and time to try to get well, which I have.

Being such an icon, how do you make people feel at ease when they first meet you?

Well, what do you think? It takes about a half a minute. Im clearly not a diva. It doesnt take long. I dont know; I like people. The thing that I dont like about celebrity is that it puts up barriers between you and humanity.

Was acting always a passion for you?

I got into acting by default. I did not want to be an actor. I never got the feeling from my father that there was joy in acting. He never brought joy home; he brought problems home. You know script problems, the director, whatever. I felt that I was plain and didnt have any talent and it was Lee Strasberg who gave me the confidence. What that did for mebecause I came from a family where you did not express emotion. You didnt express need and emotions; that was weak.

When I became an actress, suddenly I was encouraged to explore an inner life and to reveal emotions. It was like manna from heaven; it was fantastic. That was in class. Real-life work in Hollywood was a different thing, because theres so much pressure on how you look. And I hated it. But I didnt know how to do anything else. When I began to become an activist and then made movies that reflected my social concerns, that was when I began to enjoy making movies. And I had this amazing run of films that were successful and they also said what I wanted to say. It was very rewarding.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at



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