Jane Seymour Fonda is an American actress, political activist, and former fashion model. She is the recipient of various accolades including two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, the AFI Life Achievement Award, and the Honorary Golden Lion.
Born to actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour, Fonda made her acting debut with the 1960 Broadway play There Was a Little Girl, for which she received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and made her screen debut later the same year with the romantic comedy Tall Story. She rose to prominence in the 1960s with such films as Period of Adjustment, Sunday in New York, Cat Ballou, Barefoot in the Park, and Barbarella. Her first husband was Barbarella director Roger Vadim. A seven-time Academy Award nominee, she received her first nomination for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress twice in the 1970s, for Klute and Coming Home. Her other nominations were for Julia, The China Syndrome, On Golden Pond, and The Morning After. Consecutive hits Fun with Dick and Jane, California Suite, The Electric Horseman, and 9 to 5 sustained Fonda's box-office drawing power, and she won a Primetime Emmy Award for her performance in the TV film The Dollmaker.
In 1982, she released her first exercise video, Jane Fonda's Workout, which became the highest-selling VHS of all time. It would be the first of 22 such videos over the next 13 years, which would collectively sell over 17 million copies. Divorced from her second husband Tom Hayden, she married billionaire media mogul Ted Turner in 1991 and retired from acting, following a row of commercially unsuccessful films concluded by Stanley & Iris. Fonda divorced Turner in 2001 and returned to the screen with the hit Monster-in-Law. Although Georgia Rule was the star's only other movie during the 2000s, in the early 2010s she fully re-launched her career. Subsequent films have included The Butler, This Is Where I Leave You, Youth, Our Souls at Night, and Book Club. In 2009, she returned to Broadway after a 49-year absence from the stage, in the play 33 Variations which earned her a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, while her major recurring role in the HBO drama series The Newsroom earned her two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. She also released another five exercise videos between 2009 and 2012. Fonda currently stars as Grace Hanson in the Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie, which debuted in 2015 and has earned her nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Fonda was a visible political activist in the counterculture era during the Vietnam War. She was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun on a 1972 visit to Hanoi, during which she gained the nickname "Hanoi Jane". During this time she was effectively blacklisted in Hollywood. She has also protested the Iraq War and violence against women, and describes herself as a feminist and environmental activist. In 2005, along with Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, she co-founded the Women's Media Center, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women in the media through advocacy, media and leadership training, and the creation of original content. Fonda serves on the board of the organization.
Early life and educationJane Seymour Fonda was born in New York City on December 21, 1937. Her parents were Canadian-born socialite Frances Ford Brokaw and American actor Henry Fonda. According to her father, the surname Fonda came from an Italian ancestor who immigrated to the Netherlands in the 1500s. There, he intermarried; the resultant family began to use Dutch given names, with Jane's first Fonda ancestor reaching New York in 1650. Fonda also has English, French, and Scottish ancestry. She was named for the third wife of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, to whom she is distantly related on her mother's side. Her brother, Peter, was also an actor, and her maternal half-sister is Frances de Villers Brokaw, whose daughter is Pilar Corrias, the owner of the Pilar Corrias Gallery in London.
In 1950, when Fonda was 12, her mother died by suicide while undergoing treatment at Craig House psychiatric hospital in Beacon, New York. Later that year, Henry Fonda married the socialite Susan Blanchard, 23 years his junior; this marriage ended in divorce. Aged 15, Jane taught dance at Fire Island Pines, New York.
Fonda attended Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Connecticut; the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York; and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Before her acting career, she was a model and appeared twice on the cover of Vogue.
Career beginnings (1950s–1962)Fonda became interested in acting as a teenager while appearing with her father in a charity performance of The Country Girl at the Omaha Community Playhouse. After dropping out of Vassar, she went to Paris for six months to study art. Upon returning to the US, in 1958, she met Lee Strasberg; the meeting changed the course of her life. Fonda said, "I went to the Actors Studio and Lee Strasberg told me I had talent. Real talent. It was the first time that anyone, except my father – who had to say so – told me I was good. At anything. It was a turning point in my life. I went to bed thinking about acting. I woke up thinking about acting. It was like the roof had come off my life!"
Fonda's stage work in the late 1950s laid the foundation for her film career in the 1960s. She averaged almost two movies a year throughout the decade, starting in 1960 with Tall Story, in which she recreated one of her Broadway roles as a college cheerleader pursuing a basketball star, played by Anthony Perkins. Frequent collaborator Robert Redford also made his debut in that film. Period of Adjustment and Walk on the Wild Side followed in 1962. The latter, in which she played a prostitute, earned her a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.
Rise to prominence (1963–1969)In 1963, she appeared in Sunday in New York. Newsday called her "the loveliest and most gifted of all our new young actresses". However, she also had detractors – in the same year, the Harvard Lampoon named her the "Year's Worst Actress" for The Chapman Report. Fonda's career breakthrough came with Cat Ballou, in which she played a schoolmarm-turned-outlaw. This comedy Western received five Oscar nominations, with Lee Marvin winning best actor, and was one of the year's top ten films at the box office. It was considered by many to have been the film that brought Fonda to bankable stardom. The following year, she had a starring role in The Chase opposite Robert Redford, in their first film together, and two-time Oscar winner Marlon Brando. The film received some positive reviews, but Fonda's performance was noticed by Variety magazine: "Jane Fonda, as Redford's wife and the mistress of wealthy oilman James Fox, makes the most of the biggest female role." After this came the comedies Any Wednesday, opposite Jason Robards and Dean Jones, and Barefoot in the Park, again co-starring Redford.
In 1968, she played the title role in the science fiction spoof Barbarella, which established her status as a sex symbol. In contrast, the tragedy They Shoot Horses, Don't They? won her critical acclaim and marked a significant turning point in her career; Variety magazine wrote, "Fonda, as the unremittingly cynical loser, the tough and bruised babe of the Dust Bowl, gives a dramatic performance that gives the film a personal focus and an emotionally gripping power." In addition, renowned film critic Pauline Kael, in her New Yorker review of the film, noted of Fonda: " has been a charming, witty nudie cutie in recent years and now gets a chance at an archetypal character. Fonda goes all the way with it, as screen actresses rarely do once they become stars. She doesn't try to save some ladylike part of herself, the way even a good actress like Audrey Hepburn does, peeping at us from behind "vulgar" roles to assure us she's not really like that. Fonda stands a good chance of personifying American tensions and dominating our movies in the seventies as Bette Davis did in the thirties." For her performance, she won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and earned her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Fonda was very selective by the end of the decade, turning down lead roles in Rosemary's Baby and Bonnie and Clyde.
Resurgence and critical acclaim (1970–1979)In the seventies, Fonda enjoyed her most critically acclaimed period as an actress despite some setbacks for her ongoing activism. According to writer and critic Hilton Als, her performances starting with They Shoot Horses, Don't They? "heralded a new kind of acting: for the first time, she was willing to alienate viewers, rather than try to win them over. Fonda's ability to continue to develop her talent is what sets her apart from many other performers of her generation.
Fonda won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1971, again playing a prostitute, the gamine Bree Daniels, in Alan J. Pakula's murder mystery Klute. Prior to shooting, Fonda spent time interviewing several prostitutes and madams. Years later, Fonda discovered that "there was like a marriage, a melding of souls between this character and me, this woman that I didn't think I could play because I didn't think I was call girl material. It didn't matter." Upon its release, Klute was both a critical and commercial success, and Fonda's performance earned her widespread recognition. Pauline Kael wrote:
"As an actress, has a special kind of smartness that takes the form of speed; she's always a little ahead of everybody, and this quicker beat – this quicker responsiveness – makes her more exciting to watch. This quality works to great advantage in her full-scale, definitive portrait of a call girl in Klute. It's a good, big role for her, and she disappears into Bree, the call girl, so totally that her performance is very pure – unadorned by "acting." She never stands outside Bree, she gives herself over to the role, and yet she isn't lost in it—she's fully in control, and her means are extraordinarily economical. She has somehow got to a plane of acting at which even the closest closeup never reveals a false thought and, seen on the movie streets a block away, she's Bree, not Jane Fonda, walking toward us. There isn't another young dramatic actress in American films who can touch her".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also praised Fonda's performance, even suggesting that the film should have been titled Bree after her character: "What is it about Jane Fonda that makes her such a fascinating actress to watch? She has a sort of nervous intensity that keeps her so firmly locked into a film character that the character actually seems distracted by things that come up in the movie." During the 1971–1972 awards season, Fonda dominated the Best Actress category at almost every major awards ceremony; in addition to her Oscar win, she received her first Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama, her first National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress and her second New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
Between Klute in 1971 and Fun With Dick and Jane in 1977, Fonda did not have a major film success. She appeared in A Doll's House, Steelyard Blues and The Blue Bird. In the former, some critics felt Fonda was miscast, but her work as Nora Helmer drew praise, and a review in The New York Times opined, "Though the Losey film is ferociously flawed, I recommend it for Jane Fonda's performance. Beforehand, it seemed fair to wonder if she could personify someone from the past; her voice, inflections, and ways of moving have always seemed totally contemporary. But once again she proves herself to be one of our finest actresses, and she's at home in the 1870s, a creature of that period as much as of ours." From comments ascribed to her in interviews, some have inferred that she personally blamed the situation on anger at her outspoken political views: "I can't say I was blacklisted, but I was greylisted." However, in her 2005 autobiography, My Life So Far, she rejected such simplification. "The suggestion is that because of my actions against the war my career had been destroyed... But the truth is that my career, far from being destroyed after the war, flourished with a vigor it had not previously enjoyed." She reduced acting because of her political activism providing a new focus in her life. Her return to acting in a series of 'issue-driven' films reflected this new focus.
In 1972, Fonda starred as a reporter alongside Yves Montand in Tout Va Bien, directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin. The two directors then made Letter to Jane, in which the two spent nearly an hour discussing a news photograph of Fonda.
Through her production company, IPC Films, she produced films that helped return her to star status. The 1977 comedy film Fun With Dick and Jane is generally considered her "comeback" picture. Critical reaction was mixed, but Fonda's comic performance was praised; Vincent Canby of The New York Times remarked, "I never have trouble remembering that Miss Fonda is a fine dramatic actress but I'm surprised all over again every time I see her do comedy with the mixture of comic intelligence and abandon she shows here." Also in 1977, she portrayed the playwright Lillian Hellman in Julia, receiving positive reviews from critics. Gary Arnold of The Washington Post described her performance as "edgy, persuasive and intriguingly tensed-up," commenting further, "Irritable, intent and agonizingly self-conscious, Fonda suggests the internal conflicts gnawing at a talented woman who craves the self-assurance, resolve and wisdom she sees in figures like Julia and Hammett." For her performance, Fonda won her first BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, her second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, and received her third Best Actress Oscar nomination.
During this period, Fonda announced that she would make only films that focused on important issues, and she generally stuck to her word. She turned down An Unmarried Woman because she felt the part was not relevant. In 1978, Fonda was at a career peak after she won her second Best Actress Oscar for her role as Sally Hyde, a conflicted adulteress in Coming Home, the story of a disabled Vietnam War veteran's difficulty in re-entering civilian life. Upon its release, the film was a popular success with audiences, and generally received good reviews; Ebert noted that her Sally Hyde was "the kind of character you somehow wouldn't expect the outspoken, intelligent Fonda to play," and Jonathan Rosenbaum of the San Diego Reader felt that Fonda was "a marvel to watch; what fascinates and involves me in her performance are the conscientious effort and thought that seem to go into every line reading and gesture, as if the question of what a captain's wife and former cheerleader was like became a source of endless curiosity and discovery for her." Her performance also earned her a third Golden Globe Award for Best Actress as well, making this her second consecutive win. Also in 1978, she reunited with Alan J. Pakula to star in his post-modern Western drama Comes a Horseman as a hard-bitten rancher, and later took on a supporting role in California Suite, where she played a Manhattan workaholic and divorcee. Variety noted that she "demonstrates yet another aspect of her amazing range" and Time Out New York remarked that she gave "another performance of unnerving sureness."
She won her second BAFTA Award for Best Actress in 1979 with The China Syndrome, about a cover-up of a vulnerability in a nuclear power plant. Cast alongside Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas, in one of his early roles, Fonda played a clever, ambitious television news reporter. Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, singled out Fonda's performance for praise: "The three stars are splendid, but maybe Miss Fonda is just a bit more than that. Her performance is not that of an actress in a star's role, but that of an actress creating a character that happens to be major within the film. She keeps getting better and better." This role also earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. The same year, she starred in the western adventure-romance film The Electric Horseman with her frequent co-star, Robert Redford. Although the film received mixed reviews, The Electric Horseman was a box office success, becoming the eleventh highest-grossing film of 1979 after grossing a domestic total of nearly $62 million.
Continued box office success, exercise videos, retirement (1980–1990)In 1980, Fonda starred in 9 to 5 with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. The film was a huge critical and box office success, becoming the second highest-grossing release of the year. Fonda had long wanted to work with her father, hoping it would help their strained relationship. She achieved this goal when she purchased the screen rights to the play On Golden Pond, specifically for her father and her. The father-daughter rift depicted on screen closely paralleled the real-life relationship between the two Fondas; they eventually became the first father-daughter duo to earn Oscar nominations for their roles in the same film. On Golden Pond, which also starred four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn, brought Henry Fonda his only Academy Award for Best Actor, which Jane accepted on his behalf, as he was ill and could not leave home. He died five months later.
Fonda continued to appear in feature films throughout the 1980s, winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for The Dollmaker, and starring in the role of Dr. Martha Livingston in Agnes of God. The following year, she played an alcoholic actress and murder suspect in the 1986 thriller The Morning After, opposite Jeff Bridges. In preparation for her role, Fonda modelled the character on the starlet Gail Russell, who, at 36, was found dead in her apartment, among empty liquor bottles. Writing for The New Yorker, Pauline Kael commended Fonda for giving "a raucous-voiced, down-in-the-dirty performance that has some of the charge of her Bree in Klute, back in 1971." For her performance, she was nominated for yet another Academy Award for Best Actress.
She ended the decade by appearing in Old Gringo. This was followed by the romantic drama Stanley & Iris with Robert De Niro, which was her final film for 15 years. Both films did not fare well at the box office, and despite receiving mixed to negative reviews, Fonda's performance as the widowed Iris in the latter was praised by Vincent Canby, who stated, "Fonda's increasingly rich resources as an actress are evident in abundance here. They even overcome one's awareness that just beneath Iris's frumpy clothes, there is a firm, perfectly molded body that has become a multi-million-dollar industry."
For many years Fonda took ballet class to keep fit, but after fracturing her foot while filming The China Syndrome, she was no longer able to participate. To compensate, she began participating in aerobics and strengthening exercises under the direction of Leni Cazden. The Leni Workout became the Jane Fonda Workout, which began a second career for her, continuing for many years. This was considered one of the influences that started the fitness craze among baby boomers, then approaching middle age. In 1982, Fonda released her first exercise video, titled Jane Fonda's Workout, inspired by her best-selling book, Jane Fonda's Workout Book. Jane Fonda's Workout became the highest selling home video of the next few years, selling over a million copies. The video's release led many people to buy the then-new VCR in order to watch and perform the workout at home. The exercise videos were produced and directed by Sidney Galanty, who helped to put the deal together with video distributor Stuart Karl, of Karl Home Video. Galanty produced the first video and 11 more after that. She would subsequently release 23 workout videos with the series selling a total of 17 million copies combined, more than any other exercise series. She released five workout books and thirteen audio programs, through 1995. After a fifteen-year hiatus, she released two new fitness videos on DVD in 2010, aiming at an older audience.
Return and new career prospects (2005–present)In 1991, after three decades in film, Fonda announced her retirement from the film industry. In May 2005, she returned to the screen with the box office success Monster-in-Law, starring opposite Jennifer Lopez. Two years later, Fonda starred in the Garry Marshall-directed drama Georgia Rule alongside Felicity Huffman and Lindsay Lohan. Georgia Rule was panned by critics, but A. O. Scott of The New York Times felt the film belonged to Fonda and co-star Lohan, before writing, "Ms. Fonda's straight back and piercing eyes, the righteous jaw line she inherited from her father and a reputation for humorlessness all serve her well here, but it is her warmth and comic timing that make Georgia more than a provincial scold."
In 2009, Fonda returned to Broadway for the first time since 1963, playing Katherine Brandt in Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations. In a mixed review, Ben Brantley of The New York Times praised Fonda's "layered crispness" and her "aura of beleaguered briskness that flirts poignantly with the ghost of her spiky, confrontational screen presence as a young woman. For those who grew up enthralled with Ms. Fonda's screen image, it's hard not to respond to her performance here, on some level, as a personal memento mori." The role earned her a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.
Fonda filmed her second movie in French when she had a leading role in the 2011 drama All Together. The same year she starred alongside Catherine Keener in Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, playing a hippie grandmother. In 2012, Fonda began a recurring role as Leona Lansing, CEO of a major media company, in HBO's original political drama The Newsroom. Her role continued throughout the show's three seasons, and Fonda received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
In 2013, Fonda had a small role in The Butler, portraying First Lady Nancy Reagan. She had more film work the following year, appearing in the comedies Better Living Through Chemistry and This is Where I Leave You. She also voiced a character on The Simpsons. She played an acting diva in Paolo Sorrentino's Youth in 2015, for which she earned a Golden Globe Award nomination. She also appeared in Fathers and Daughters with Russell Crowe.
Fonda appears as the co-lead in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie. She and Lily Tomlin play aging women whose husbands reveal they are in love. Filming on the first season was completed in November 2014, and the show premiered online on May 8, 2015. In 2016, Fonda voiced Shuriki in Elena and the Secret of Avalor.
In June 2016, the Human Rights Campaign released a video in tribute to the victims of the 2016 Orlando gay nightclub shooting; in the video, Fonda and others told the stories of the people killed there.
Fonda starred in her fourth collaboration with Robert Redford in the 2017 romantic drama film Our Souls at Night. The film and Fonda's performance received critical acclaim upon release. In 2018, she starred opposite Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen in the romantic comedy film Book Club. Although opened to mixed reviews, the film was a major box office success grossing $93.4 million against a $10 million budget, despite releasing the same day as Deadpool 2.
Fonda is the subject of an HBO original documentary entitled Jane Fonda in Five Acts, directed by the documentarian Susan Lacy. Receiving rave reviews, it covers Fonda's life from childhood through her acting career and political activism and then to the present day. It premiered on HBO on September 24, 2018.
Political activismDuring the 1960s, Fonda engaged in political activism in support of the Civil Rights Movement, and in opposition to the Vietnam War. Fonda's visits to France brought her into contact with leftist French intellectuals who were opposed to war, an experience that she later characterized as "small-c communism". Along with other celebrities, she supported the Alcatraz Island occupation by American Indians in 1969, which was intended to call attention to the failures of the government with regards to treaty rights and the movement for greater Indian sovereignty.
She supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers in the early 1970s, stating: "Revolution is an act of love; we are the children of revolution, born to be rebels. It runs in our blood." She called the Black Panthers "our revolutionary vanguard... we must support them with love, money, propaganda and risk." She has been involved in the feminist movement since the 1970s and dovetails her activism in support of civil rights.
Opposition to the Vietnam WarIn April 1970, Fonda, with Fred Gardner and Donald Sutherland formed the FTA tour, an anti-war road show designed as an answer to Bob Hope's USO tour. The tour, described as "political vaudeville" by Fonda, visited military towns along the West Coast, aiming to establish a dialogue with soldiers about their upcoming deployments to Vietnam. The dialogue was made into a movie which contained strong, frank criticism of the war by servicemen and servicewomen; it was released in 1972.
On May 4, 1970, Fonda appeared before an assembly at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, to speak on GI rights and issues. The end of her presentation was met with a discomfiting silence until Beat poet Gregory Corso staggered onto the stage. Drunk, Corso challenged Fonda, using a four-letter expletive: why hadn't she addressed the shooting of four students at Kent State by the Ohio National Guard, which had just taken place? Fonda in her autobiography revisited the incident: "I was shocked by the news and felt like a fool." On the same day, she joined a protest march on the home of university president Ferrel Heady. The protesters called themselves "They Shoot Students, Don't They?" – a reference to Fonda's recently released film, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, which had just been screened in Albuquerque.
In the same year, Fonda spoke out against the war at a rally organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She offered to help raise funds for VVAW and was rewarded with the title of Honorary National Coordinator. On November 3, 1970, Fonda started a tour of college campuses on which she raised funds for the organization. As noted by The New York Times, Fonda was a "major patron" of the VVAW.
Visit to HanoiBetween 1965 and 1972, almost 300 Americans – mostly civil rights activists, teachers, and pastors – traveled to North Vietnam to see firsthand the war situation with the Vietnamese. News media in the United States predominantly provided a U.S. viewpoint, and American travelers to Vietnam were routinely harassed upon their return to the States. Fonda also visited Vietnam, traveling to Hanoi in July 1972 to witness firsthand the bombing damage to the dikes. After touring and photographing dike systems in North Vietnam, she said the United States had been intentionally targeting the dike system along the Red River. Columnist Joseph Kraft, who was also touring North Vietnam, said he believed the damage to the dikes was incidental and was being used as propaganda by Hanoi, and that, if the U.S. Air Force were "truly going after the dikes, it would do so in a methodical, not a harum-scarum way". Sweden's ambassador to Vietnam, however, observed the bomb damage to the dikes and described it as "methodic". Other journalists reported that the attacks were "aimed at the whole system of dikes".
Fonda was photographed seated on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun; the photo outraged a number of Americans, and earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane". In her 2005 autobiography, she wrote that she was manipulated into sitting on the battery; she had been horrified at the implications of the pictures. In a 2011 entry at her official website, Fonda explained:
It happened on my last day in Hanoi. I was exhausted and an emotional wreck after the 2-week visit ... The translator told me that the soldiers wanted to sing me a song. He translated as they sung. It was a song about the day 'Uncle Ho' declared their country's independence in Hanoi's Ba Dinh Square. I heard these words: 'All men are created equal; they are given certain rights; among these are life, Liberty and Happiness.' These are the words Ho pronounced at the historic ceremony. I began to cry and clap. 'These young men should not be our enemy. They celebrate the same words Americans do.' The soldiers asked me to sing for them in return ... I memorized a song called 'Day Ma Di', written by anti-war South Vietnamese students. I knew I was slaughtering it, but everyone seemed delighted that I was making the attempt. I finished. Everyone was laughing and clapping, including me ... Here is my best, honest recollection of what happened: someone led me towards the gun, and I sat down, still laughing, still applauding. It all had nothing to do with where I was sitting. I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed ... It is possible that it was a set up, that the Vietnamese had it all planned. I will never know. But if they did I can't blame them. The buck stops here. If I was used, I allowed it to happen ... a two-minute lapse of sanity that will haunt me forever ... But the photo exists, delivering its message regardless of what I was doing or feeling. I carry this heavy in my heart. I have apologized numerous times for any pain I may have caused servicemen and their families because of this photograph. It was never my intention to cause harm.
Fonda made radio broadcasts on Hanoi Radio throughout her two-week tour, describing her visits to villages, hospitals, schools, and factories that had been bombed, and denouncing U.S. military policy. During the course of her visit, Fonda visited American prisoners of war, and brought back messages from them to their families. When stories of torture of returning POWs were later being publicized by the Nixon administration, Fonda said that those making such claims were "hypocrites and liars and pawns", adding about the prisoners she visited, "These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed." In addition, Fonda told The New York Times in 1973, "I'm quite sure that there were incidents of torture ... but the pilots who were saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that's a lie." Her visits to the POW camp led to persistent and exaggerated rumors which were repeated widely, and continued to circulate on the Internet decades later. Fonda, as well as the named POWs, have denied the rumors, and subsequent interviews with the POWs showed these allegations to be false—the persons named had never met Fonda.
In 1972, Fonda helped fund and organize the Indochina Peace Campaign, which continued to mobilize antiwar activists in the US after the 1973 Paris Peace Agreement, until 1975 when the United States withdrew from Vietnam.
Because of her tour of North Vietnam during wartime and the subsequent rumors, resentment against her persists among some veterans and serving U.S. military. For example, when a U.S. Naval Academy plebe ritually shouted out "Goodnight, Jane Fonda!", the entire company of midshipmen plebes, who had not yet been born when Fonda protested against the Vietnam War, replied "Goodnight, bitch!" This practice has since been prohibited by the academy's Plebe Summer Standard Operating Procedures. In 2005, Michael A. Smith, a U.S. Navy veteran, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Kansas City, Missouri, after he spat chewing tobacco in Fonda's face during a book-signing event for her autobiography, My Life So Far. He told reporters that he "consider it a debt of honor", adding "she spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did." Fonda refused to press charges.
RegretsIn a 1988 interview with Barbara Walters, Fonda expressed regret for some of her comments and actions, stating:
I would like to say something, not just to Vietnam veterans in New England, but to men who were in Vietnam, who I hurt, or whose pain I caused to deepen because of things that I said or did. I was trying to help end the killing and the war, but there were times when I was thoughtless and careless about it and I'm very sorry that I hurt them. And I want to apologize to them and their families.... I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.
In a 60 Minutes interview on March 31, 2005, Fonda reiterated that she had no regrets about her trip to North Vietnam in 1972, with the exception of the anti-aircraft-gun photo. She stated that the incident was a "betrayal" of American forces and of the "country that gave me privilege". Fonda said, "The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda's daughter... sitting on an enemy aircraft gun was a betrayal... the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine." She later distinguished between regret over the use of her image as propaganda and pride for her anti-war activism: "There are hundreds of American delegations that had met with the POWs. Both sides were using the POWs for propaganda... It's not something that I will apologize for." Fonda said she had no regrets about the broadcasts she made on Radio Hanoi, something she asked the North Vietnamese to do: "Our government was lying to us and men were dying because of it, and I felt I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies and help end the war."
Subject of government surveillanceIn 2013, it was revealed that Fonda was one of approximately 1,600 Americans whose communications between 1967 and 1973 were monitored by the United States National Security Agency as part of Project MINARET, a program that some NSA officials have described as "disreputable if not downright illegal". Fonda's communications, as well as those of her husband, Tom Hayden, were intercepted by Britain's Government Communications Headquarters. Under the UKUSA Agreement, intercepted data on Americans were sent to the U.S. government.
1970 arrestOn November 3, 1970, Fonda was arrested by authorities at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on suspicion of drug trafficking. Her luggage was searched when she re-entered the United States after participating in an anti-war college speaking tour in Canada, and several small baggies containing pills were seized. Although Fonda protested that the pills were harmless vitamins, she was booked by police and then released on bond. Fonda alleged that the arresting officer told her he was acting on direct orders from the Nixon White House. As she wrote in 2009, "I told them what were but they said they were getting orders from the White House. I think they hoped this 'scandal' would cause the college speeches to be canceled and ruin my respectability." After lab tests confirmed the pills were vitamins, the charges were dropped with little media attention.
Fonda's mugshot from the arrest, in which she raises her fist in a sign of solidarity, has since become a widely published image of the actress. It was used as the poster image for the 2018 HBO documentary on Fonda, "Jane Fonda in Five Acts", with a giant billboard sporting the image erected in Times Square in September 2018. In 2017, she began selling merchandise with her mugshot image to benefit the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential.
Feminist causesIn early March 2017, in an interview with Brie Larson, published by People magazine, Fonda stated, "One of the great things the women's movement has done is to make us realise that not our fault. We were violated and it's not right." She said, "I've been raped, I've been sexually abused as a child and I've been fired because I wouldn't sleep with my boss." She said, "I always thought it was my fault; that I didn't do or say the right thing. I know young girls who've been raped and didn't even know it was rape. They think, 'It must have been because I said 'no' the wrong way.'"
Through her work, Fonda said she wants to help abuse victims "realize that is not our fault". Fonda said that her difficult past led her to become such a passionate activist for women's rights. The actress is an active supporter of the V-Day movement, which works to stop violence against women and girls. In 2001, she established the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, which aims to help prevent teen pregnancy. She was a victim of the "disease to please" in her early life, which plagued many American females of her generation. Fonda revealed in 2014 that her mother, Frances Ford Seymour, was recurrently sexually abused as young as eight, and this may have led to her suicide when Jane was 12.
Fonda has been a longtime supporter of feminist causes, including V-Day, a movement to stop violence against women, inspired by the off-Broadway hit The Vagina Monologues, of which she is an honorary chairperson. She was at the first summit in 2002, bringing together founder Eve Ensler, Afghan women oppressed by the Taliban, and a Kenyan activist campaigning to save girls from genital mutilation.
In 2001, she established the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University in Atlanta to help prevent adolescent pregnancy through training and program development.
On February 16, 2004, Fonda led a march through Ciudad Juárez, with Sally Field, Eve Ensler and other women, urging Mexico to provide sufficient resources to newly appointed officials in helping investigate the murders of hundreds of women in the rough border city. In 2004, she also served as a mentor to the first all-transgender cast of The Vagina Monologues.
In the days before the September 17, 2006 Swedish elections, Fonda went to Sweden to support the new political party Feministiskt initiativ in their election campaign.
In My Life So Far, Fonda stated that she considers patriarchy to be harmful to men as well as women. She also states that for many years, she feared to call herself a feminist, because she believed that all feminists were "anti-male". But now, with her increased understanding of patriarchy, she feels that feminism is beneficial to both men and women, and states that she "still loves men", adding that when she divorced Ted Turner, she felt like she had also divorced the world of patriarchy, and was very happy to have done so.
In April 2016, Fonda said that while she was 'glad' that Bernie Sanders was running, she predicted Hillary Clinton would become the first female president, whose win Fonda believed would result in a "violent backlash". Fonda went on to say that we need to "help men understand why they are so threatened – and change the way we view masculinity."
Native AmericansFonda went to Seattle, in 1970 to support a group of Native Americans who were led by Bernie Whitebear. The group had occupied part of the grounds of Fort Lawton, which was in the process of being surplussed by the United States Army and turned into a park. The group was attempting to secure a land base where they could establish services for the sizable local urban Indian population, protesting that "Indians had a right to part of the land that was originally all theirs." The endeavor succeeded and the Daybreak Star Cultural Center was constructed in the city's Discovery Park.
In addition to environmental reasons, Fonda has been a critic of oil pipelines because of their being built without consent on Native American Land. In 2017, Fonda responded to American President Donald Trump's mandate to resume construction of the controversial North Dakota Pipelines by saying that Trump "does this illegally because he has not gotten consent from the tribes through whose countries this goes" and pointing out that "the U.S. has agreed to treaties that require them to get the consent of the people who are affected, the indigenous people who live there."
Israeli–Palestinian conflictIn December 2002, Fonda visited Israel and the West Bank as part of a tour focusing on stopping violence against women. She demonstrated with Women in Black against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip outside the residence of Israel's Prime Minister. She later visited Jewish and Arab doctors, and patients at a Jerusalem hospital, followed by visits to Ramallah to see a physical rehabilitation center and Palestinian refugee camp. She was heckled by three members of Women in Green as she arrived to meet with leading Israeli feminists.
In September 2009, she was one of more than 1,500 signatories to a letter protesting the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival's spotlight on Tel Aviv. The protest letter said that the spotlight on Tel Aviv was part of "the Israeli propaganda machine" because it was supported in part by funding from the Israeli government and had been described by the Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin as being part of a Brand Israel campaign intended to draw attention away from Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. Other signers included actor Danny Glover, musician David Byrne, journalist John Pilger, and authors Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, and Howard Zinn.
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center stated that "People who support letters like this are people who do not support a two-state solution. By calling into question the legitimacy of Tel Aviv, they are supporting a one-state solution, which means the destruction of the State of Israel." Hier continued, saying that "it is clear that the script are reading from might as well have been written by Hamas."
Fonda, in The Huffington Post, said she regretted some of the language used in the original protest letter and how it "was perhaps too easily misunderstood. It certainly has been wildly distorted. Contrary to the lies that have been circulated, the protest letter was not demonizing Israeli films and filmmakers." She continued, writing "the greatest 're-branding' of Israel would be to celebrate that country's long standing, courageous and robust peace movement by helping to end the blockade of Gaza through negotiations with all parties to the conflict, and by stopping the expansion of West Bank settlements. That's the way to show Israel's commitment to peace, not a PR campaign. There will be no two-state solution unless this happens." Fonda emphasized that she, "in no way, support the destruction of Israel. I am for the two-state solution. I have been to Israel many times and love the country and its people." Several prominent Atlanta Jews subsequently signed a letter to The Huffington Post rejecting the vilification of Fonda, who they described as "a strong supporter and friend of Israel".
Opposition to the Iraq WarFonda argued that the military campaign in Iraq will turn people all over the world against America, and asserted that a global hatred of America would result in more terrorist attacks in the aftermath of the war. In July 2005, Fonda announced plans to make an anti-war bus tour in March 2006 with her daughter and several families of military veterans, saying that some war veterans she had met while on her book tour had urged her to speak out against the Iraq War. She later canceled the tour due to concerns that she would divert attention from Cindy Sheehan's activism.
In September 2005, Fonda was scheduled to join British politician and anti-war activist George Galloway at two stops on his U.S. book tour—Chicago, and Madison, Wisconsin. She canceled her appearances at the last minute, citing instructions from her doctors to avoid travel following recent hip surgery.
On January 27, 2007, Fonda participated in an anti-war rally and march held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., declaring that "silence is no longer an option". She spoke at an anti-war rally earlier that day at the Navy Memorial, where members of the organization Free Republic picketed in a counter protest.
Fonda and KerryIn the 2004 presidential election, her name was used as a disparaging epithet against John Kerry, a former VVAW leader, who was then the Democratic Party presidential candidate. Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie called Kerry a "Jane Fonda Democrat". Kerry's opponents also circulated a photograph showing Fonda and Kerry in the same large crowd at a 1970 anti-war rally, though they sat several rows apart. A faked composite photograph, which gave a false impression that the two had shared a speaker's platform, was also circulated.
EnvironmentalismIn 2015, Fonda expressed disapproval of President Barack Obama's permitting of Arctic drilling at the Sundance Film Festival. In July, she marched in a Toronto protest called the "March for Jobs, Justice, and Climate", which was organized by dozens of nonprofits, labor unions, and environmental activists, including Canadian author Naomi Klein. The march aimed to show businesses and politicians alike that climate change is inherently linked to issues that may seem unrelated.
In addition to issues of civil rights, Fonda has been an opponent of oil developments and their adverse effects on the environment. In 2017, while on a trip with Greenpeace to protest oil developments, Fonda criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying at the summit on climate change in Paris, known as the Paris agreement, Trudeau "talked so beautifully of needing to meet the requirements of the climate treaty and to respect and hold to the treaties with indigenous people... and yet he has betrayed every one of the things he committed to in Paris."
In October 2019, Fonda was arrested three times in consecutive weeks protesting climate change outside the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. She was arrested with members of the group Oil Change International on October 11, with Grace and Frankie co-star Sam Waterston on October 18, and with actor Ted Danson on October 25. On November 1, Fonda was arrested for the fourth consecutive Friday; also arrested were Catherine Keener and Rosanna Arquette. On December 5 Fonda explained her position in a New York Times op-ed.
WritingOn April 5, 2005, Random House released Fonda's autobiography My Life So Far. The book describes her life as a series of three acts, each thirty years long, and declares that her third "act" will be her most significant, partly because of her commitment to the Christian religion, and that it will determine the things for which she will be remembered.
Fonda's autobiography was well received by book critics and noted to be "as beguiling and as maddening as Jane Fonda herself" in its review in The Washington Post, calling her a "beautiful bundle of contradictions". The New York Times called the book "achingly poignant".
In January 2009, Fonda started chronicling her Broadway return in a blog with posts about topics ranging from her Pilates class to fears and excitement about her new play. She uses Twitter and has a Facebook page.
In 2011, Fonda published a new book: Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit – making the most of all of your life. It offers stories from her own life as well as from the lives of others, giving her perspective on how to better live what she calls "the critical years from 45 and 50, and especially from 60 and beyond".
Charitable workFonda's charitable works have focused on youth and education, adolescent reproductive health, environment, human services, and the arts.
Fonda marketed her highly-successful line of exercise videos and books in order to fund the Campaign for Economic Democracy, a California lobbying organization she founded with her second husband Tom Hayden in 1978.
Fonda has established the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential in the mid 1990s and the Fonda Family Foundation in the late 1990s. In the mid 2000s, Fonda founded the Jane Fonda Foundation in 2004 with one million dollars of her own money as a charitable corporation with herself as president, chair, director and secretary; Fonda contributes 10 hours each week on its behalf. In 2017, she began selling merchandise featuring her 1970 arrest mugshot on her website, the proceeds of which benefit GCAPP.
RelationshipsJane Fonda has been married and divorced three times. She married her first husband, the French film director Roger Vadim, on August 14, 1965 at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas. The couple had a daughter, Vanessa Vadim, born on September 28, 1968 in Paris and named after the actress and activist Vanessa Redgrave.
On January 19, 1973, three days after obtaining a divorce from Vadim in Santo Domingo, Fonda married activist Tom Hayden in a free-form ceremony at her home in Laurel Canyon. Their son, Troy O'Donovan Garity, was born on July 7, 1973 in Los Angeles and was given his paternal grandmother's maiden name, as the names "Fonda and Hayden carried too much baggage". Fonda and Hayden named their son after Nguyen Van Troi. Hayden chose O'Donovan as the middle name after the Irish revolutionary Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. In 1982, Fonda and Hayden unofficially adopted an African-American teenager, Mary Luana Williams, whose parents were Black Panthers. Fonda and Hayden divorced on June 10, 1990 in Santa Monica.
on the red carpet at the 1992 Emmy Awards
Fonda married her third husband, the cable television tycoon and CNN founder Ted Turner, on December 21, 1991, at a ranch near Capps, Florida, about 20 miles east of Tallahassee. The pair divorced on May 22, 2001 in Atlanta.
In 2009, Fonda began a relationship with the record producer Richard Perry. It ended in 2017.
In a 2018 interview, Fonda stated that up to the age of 62, she always felt she had to seek the validation of men in order to prove to herself that she had value as a person, something she attributes to the early death of her mother's leaving her without a female role model. As a consequence, she attached herself to "alpha males", some of whom reinforced her feelings of inadequacy, despite her professional success. Fonda said that she came to see that attitude as a failing of the men in her life: "Some men have a hard time realizing that the woman they're married to is strong and smart and they have to diminish that, because it makes them feel diminished. Too bad we have defined masculinity in such a way that it's so easily shamed."
FaithFonda grew up atheist but turned to Christianity in the early 2000s. She describes her beliefs as being "outside of established religion" with a more feminist slant and views God as something that "lives within each of us as Spirit." She practices zazen and yoga.
HealthAs a child, Fonda suffered from a poor self-image and lacked confidence in her appearance, an issue exacerbated by her father Henry Fonda. About that, Fonda said:
I was raised in the '50s. I was taught by my father that how I looked was all that mattered, frankly. He was a good man, and I was mad for him, but he sent messages to me that fathers should not send: Unless you look perfect, you're not going to be loved.
In adulthood, Fonda developed bulimia, which took a toll on her quality of life for many years, an issue that also affected her mother Frances Ford Seymour, who died by suicide when Fonda was 12. On the subject of her recovery from bulimia, Fonda said,
It was in my 40s, and if you suffer from bulimia, the older you get, the worse it gets. It takes longer to recover from a bout... I had a career, I was winning awards, I was supporting nonprofits, I had a family. I had to make a choice: I live or I die.
Fonda was diagnosed with breast cancer and osteoporosis in her later years. She underwent a lumpectomy in November 2010 and recovered. In April 2019, Fonda revealed she had had a cancerous growth removed from her lower lip the previous year and pre-melanoma growths removed from her skin.
Awards and honorsIn 1962, Fonda was given the honorary title of "Miss Army Recruiting" by the Pentagon.
In 1981, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award.
In 1994, the United Nations Population Fund made Fonda a Goodwill Ambassador. In 2004, she was awarded the Women's eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century award as one of Seven Who Change Their Worlds. In 2007, Fonda was awarded an Honorary Palme d'Or by Cannes Film Festival President Gilles Jacob for career achievement. Only three others had received such an award – Jeanne Moreau, Alain Resnais, and Gérard Oury.
In December 2008, Fonda was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. In November and December 2009, she received the National German Sustainability Award and New York Women's Agenda Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also selected as the 42nd recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 2017, she received a Goldene Kamera lifetime achievement award.
She was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
In 2019, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.