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Ladies We Love: Jane Fonda


Jake Shears: You were nominated for a Tony for your performance in Mois's Kaufman's 33 Variations, which just transferred to L.A. How's it going?
Jane Fonda: I'm glad we're almost through. I don't think I'll do another one again. It just takes over your life. I wake up and I feel like a truck ran over me, and then I have to do the play again.

33 Variations is your first show in a long time.
In 46 years. I did four plays in the early '60s. My father loved live theater, and to the extent that he ever talked about anything with joy, it was theater. And here I had done four plays, and none of them were enjoyable or meant anything to me. So as I'm in my dotage, I thought, I don't want to die without understanding what my father saw in live theater, what it was that it gave him. This script came along, and it was something that touched my heart very much. And, sure enough, I loved the experience. I love getting the feedback from the audience. I love the community that's created because it's unlike movies. You can do a movie with somebody and never meet them. [Laughs] So I'm glad I did it. It was a success. And I don't want to do it again because there are too many things in life I like to do.

Like 17 million other kids, my mom had your workout video when I was a kid. We had lots of movies, but my favorite tape to play was your workout.
Because you did it with your mom?

No, without her even there. I would just want to sit there and watch it -- when I was 3.
And watch it?

I just liked to watch the pretty ladies in their fun leotards dance around to the music.
That is hysterical.

As you know, I was a massive fan of yours growing up. I was a 9 to 5 child. Then, soon after you did Old Gringo you left the movies for a while. Do you remember the moment when you said, "I want to be in a movie again"?
I knew I wanted to leave around 1988 because I was so unhappy. I don't know about you, but I find it very, very hard to be creative when I'm deeply unhappy as a human being. As an actor, the only instrument you have is yourself. You don't have a violin; you don't have a canvas and a paintbrush. You have your own psyche, your own body. And I just felt like I wanted to die. So I decided to just leave. And then I met Ted Turner. On our second date, he said, "If this is going to work, you're not going to be able to have a career." And then he said, "Of course, you're not going to give up your career until you've won an Oscar." I said, "Ted, I've got two." He didn't know. But I wanted to see if I could have a successful relationship if I wasn't working. I thought maybe that was what had gone wrong with the others -- that I was away so much. And then Ted and I split up, and I began to write my memoirs. Writing my life changed me because I realized that there was a there there. I always thought that there wasn't, and that I was only what the man I was with wanted me to be. It doesn't matter how famous one is. If you feel like crap -- if you feel that you aren't anybody because that's the way you've been brought up -- then that's the way it is.

And then in 2000 I was asked to be a presenter at the Oscars, and I said to my best friend who made the call, "But I'm not in the business anymore. Why would I do that?" And she said, "You're going to do it, and Vera Wang is going to make you a dress. And Sally Hershberger is going to cut your hair." Well, it turned out that that was my second hair epiphany, the first being Klute [Fonda made headlines after attending the 1972 Oscar ceremony in the same heavily fringed shag she rocked in Klute]. I had whole new lease on life. I appeared at the Oscars, and agents started calling to ask to represent me. And I kept saying, "I don't want to work anymore." But after a few years of writing my books, I thought, I think I want to do this again. And lo, there came Monster-in-Law.

You were hilarious in it.
Thank you. Everybody came to see Jennifer Lopez but discovered Jane Fonda, especially all these young people who had no idea who I was. So it was my comeback film, and it was hysterical. Now I want to do more comedies. The next stage will be a TV sitcom -- I bet you anything.

Do you feel attitudes have changed in the entertainment business?
If it had been then like it is now, I wouldn't have survived. There's almost no such thing as privacy, with all the close-up shots of cellulite, and getting a camera in your nose every time you step outside your house. But in terms of the paparazzi, nobody pays much attention to me. They take pictures, but they can't sell them. So I don't have to worry about that. [Laughs]

I've always loved your outspokenness. The night we met I was with Justin Bond, and you just leaned over and said to him, "Pardon me, are you a transgender?" Justin was so happy that you just asked him.
I think transgender people are the bravest people in the world because they give up penis privilege voluntarily. And our whole culture almost globally is based on penis privilege -- patriarchy. It's the bravest thing to do because it's the biggest threat to the status quo. So I really, really admire people who take that step, and I know many of them.

I also love the great work you do for girls, socially.
And boys. People think it's all girls, but I have such a deep connection to the pain of boys. It's so hard to be a boy in this culture. It's harder than it used to be, and there's no safe place here for a boy who isn't afraid to show his emotions. We've got to make it safer to be a boy whose head and heart are connected, instead of cut in half.

You have opinions and you're a very smart, accomplished woman. At the same time, you never take yourself too seriously. It's a joy to be on the dance floor with you -- just letting loose and having fun. You like to be social and connect with people.
Well, it saves me because my tendency is toward the dark side, which I get from both parents. But I've seen what happens when you go there, and it's just no fun. So I do make an effort to look at the light side.

Talking of which, you've relaunched Jane Fonda's Workout.
Yes. I've created a new brand called Prime Time, and I'm working on the next two.

And you've been talking up a possible sequel to Barbarella.
I can't say too much about it because I don't want anyone to steal it, but I've got a whole concept where I would be Barbarella -- but I'm a grandmother. I did mate with that angel, right? Which means I would lay an egg and something would come out of it.

That would be amazing.

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