*HBO’s “Jane Fonda in Five Acts” will deep dive into the life, work, activism and controversies of the actress and fitness tycoon.
As noted in the official synopsis, Ms. Fonda has been vilified as “Hanoi Jane,” lusted after as “Barbarella” and heralded as a beacon of the women’s movement.
Directed by Susan Lacy, the documentary draws on 21 hours of interviews with Fonda, who speaks candidly and frankly about her life and her missteps. She explores the pain of her mother’s suicide, her father’s emotional unavailability, 30 years of an eating disorder and three marriages to highly visible, yet diametrically opposed, men.
Featuring interviews with Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, producer Paula Weinstein and former spouses Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, among others, the first four acts of Fonda’s life are named after the four men who shared — and hugely influenced — her personal and professional ambitions. The fifth act is named after Fonda herself, as she finally confronts her demons, reconnects with her family and resumes a successful career as both an actress and an activist, entirely on her own terms.
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Fonda and Lacy spoke about the project during the HBO portion of the Summer 2018 TCA Press Tour on July 25 in Beverly Hills, where one reporter asked the icon to share what she has learned about being an “effective revolutionary.”
“I try to listen more than I talk, that’s one important thing that I’ve learned,” said Fonda, adding: “I wouldn’t use the word revolution now, but constant change yes, I’m still changing, I’m only 80, and you know, there’s still a few decades to go, if I’m lucky, and why be alive if you’re not learning and changing and growing? I think that 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.
When asked why she agreed to share so much of her private life with the public through this doc, Fonda explained:
“Well, Susan asked me to, and I very much admire Susan as a documentary filmmaker, and my book, which has been translated into 17 languages — I still 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 it had an impact on men as well as women. And, 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, and so I felt that, you know, that if these things could be brought to a broader audience, that it would be informative and helpful to other people. And I was in good hands. A lot of people have asked to do documentaries about me for a long time but I wanted to work with Susan for HBO, so I said yes.”
As she recounted her life for this documentary, Jane said the biggest life change that had the most impact on her was “The Vietnam War.”
“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. And so when I decided to throw in my lot with the antiwar 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.”
As for what triggered the decision to become an anti-war activist, Fonda explained:
“Well, because I had met American soldiers in Paris and they told me what they had seen and done in Vietnam and they gave me a book to read, a book by Jonathan Schell called the “The Village of Ben Suc.”And prior to that experience, I had been completely uninvolved with anything. I didn’t even know where Vietnam was. And after reading that book and talking to these men, the coin shifted and I said, “I feel betrayed by this country’s leadership. We’ve been lied to and I want to do whatever I can to expose that.”
“As it says in the documentary, when I grew up, my father was in the second World War. I was so proud of that, he was so proud of that. I really thought that if we had men fighting, they were on the side of the angels and I didn’t like it when people in France who knew better than I did and who had already been fighting and lost the war in Vietnam when Vietnam was fighting for independence from colonialism. So I believed if we were there it was for a good reason. It’s kind of like the more you believe in something, if you find out that it’s totally not true, then you become…a very staunch advocate on the other side. We had to end that war. And I decided I would do everything I could in my power to stop it. Not individually but as part of a movement. “
But hindsight is an enlightening perspective, as they say, so when soldiers who fought in Vietnam come up to her today and attempt to engage, isn’t it always positive.
‘Not always,” she admits. “It makes me know that they still, after all this time, haven’t learned the nature of the war and why we fought it. And that’s sad. And I’m proud that I went to Vietnam when I did, and I’m proud that the bombing of the dikes stopped.”
On that controversial 1972 war photo that earned her the name “Hanoi Jane,” Fonda insists: “What I say in the film is true. I’m so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time, and the image that — the message that sends to the guys who were there and their families. It just — it’s horrible for me to think about that.”
On news that there’s going to be a “9 to 5” sequel and her involvement in the film…
“My involvement is as an executive producer and kind of together with Lily (Tomlin), working with the writers, talking with the writers, I’m sorry to say the situation is worse today. And I’ll tell you why. Back in the day, the company was called Consolidated, which it still is in the new version, but you worked for the company. You were hired by the company. If you had problems, you went to the company. Today, a lot of the workforce is hired by an outside company and subcontracted back to Consolidated. So if there’s a problem, where do you go? Who do you complain to? Who do you fight with? Plus, with social media, the internet, the computers, all the things that we didn’t have then, you can be spied on very easily. Everything you say, everything you do, everything you write, every email you send. So it’s much worse. Although I do think probably sexual harassment will tend to drop because guys are scared.”
When asked if those changes will be reflected in the film as well as other hot topics that drive the conversation around women’s issues, Fonda states: “If they’re not, I’m not gonna be in it. But right now, Dolly, Lily, and I are all intending to be in it.”
Watch the first trailer for “Jane Fonda in Five Acts” below, premiering Sept. 24 on HBO at 8pm.
The first trailer for the Susan Lacy-directed @HBO documentary ‘Jane Fonda in Five Acts’ gives an intimate look into the life, work, activism and controversies surrounding actress Jane Fonda. Watch: pic.twitter.com/8nxgg6TDQC
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) August 20, 2018