Jane Fonda, who continues to apologize for her “thoughtless, but not treasonous” actions during the Vietnam War, said she feels sorry for the people who cannot let go of their hatred for her.
“They’re pathetic,” she said during a recent interview to promote her new movie Georgia Rule, which opens Friday in the wake of the Spider-Man 3 tidal wave.
Jane Fonda, Felicity Huffman, Lindsay Lohan, Cary Elwes, Dermot Mulroney
(Universal Pictures; US theatrical: 11 May 2007 (General release); 2007)
“The fact that they have never stopped going after me shows that they haven’t healed. That’s sad. And I do feel sorry for them because they have to live with the lies.”
In 1972, the actress made a trip to North Vietnam with a large group of antiwar activists, but she received most of the attention when she was photographed sitting and smiling atop an anti-aircraft battery surrounded by enemy soldiers.
The two-time Oscar winner insists that the controversy surrounding her trip was initiated by people with political motives, and accused unspecified “right-wingers” with continuing to use her to further their cause during the war in Iraq.
“I’m a lightning rod,” she explained. “They need me as a warning to other people who might want to protest against this war. It’s as if they’re saying: “If you protest, you could end up like Hanoi Jane.”
Fonda, who will turn 70 on Dec. 21, said she is somewhat amused by the suggestion in some circles that she initiated the antiwar movement, as she believes that she came late to the fray.
“I tend to get too much credit, and all of the blame,” she said. “I only turned against the war after three years of going to military bases, talking to soldiers and listening to what they were saying about the war. I supported the troops. I went to Vietnam to support the troops. I know in my heart that going there was in no way, shape or form treasonous. I did not betray my country. And I did not betray the soldiers.”
As for the infamous photo of her on the anti-aircraft battery, Fonda said she understood that she had made a mistake within seconds.
“We were all standing around and someone said to sit here and I moved two steps and sat down. As soon as I got up and started walking away, I realized how it must have looked and said to my interpreter: “Oh my god, please destroy that film.”
“I wasn’t supporting them against us. That’s not who I am, and that was not what I was thinking.”
Fonda said that she has met many veterans who said they understand what happened, but the criticism of her, particularly on the Internet, continues unabated.
“There is nothing new in anything they write,” she said. “It’s the same old story all the time. But it will end someday. It will end when they die.”
Born Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda in New York City to an actor father (Oscar winner Henry Fonda) and a socialite mother (Frances Seymour Brokaw), young Jane seemed destined to become an actress.
But she says her destiny had nothing to do with her father, but rather her inability to do anything else. The only “real” job she ever held was as a 19-year-old secretary to a Broadway producer, but she was fired shortly after she started (if you’d like to find out the juicy details behind why she got fired from that job, check blogs.ocregister.com/barry).
After working in the theater, Fonda made the transition to the big screen with the help of family friend Josh Logan, the noted director who gave his goddaughter her first film role in his 1960 movie, Tall Story.
Her breakthrough role came in the 1965 hit Cat Ballou, and she continued her winning streak in films such as Barefoot in the Park in 1967, Barbarella in 1968 and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in 1969, for which she got the first of seven Oscar nominations.
She won the Oscar in 1972 for playing a prostitute in Klute, and again in 1979 for the antiwar drama Coming Home.
In 1984, she won an Emmy for the television movie The Dollmaker. Her workout videos during the 1980s revolutionized the fitness industry, and her 2005 autobiography My Life So Far hit the top of the bestsellers list. The same week, her comeback film Monster-in-Law opened at No. 1, giving her the distinction of being the only person to ever have a number one book and film in the same week.
Fonda, who has been married and divorced three times (French director Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden and billionaire Ted Turner), retired from acting in 1990 and didn’t come out of retirement until 15 years later with Monster-in-Law.
She explained her absence from films this way: “If you’re a painter, you have a canvas and a brush. If you are a musician, you have an instrument. But when you’re an actor, you only have this,” she said, pointing to her body.
“If you’re unhappy and don’t like yourself, or if you are shut down emotionally, it is very hard to go to work every day. I found it very painful and very scary to act. I just didn’t want to do this anymore.
“But I never missed it,” she added. “And I never expected to come back. Movies have never been the center of my life, which I think has been my saving grace. It is much healthier when you are someone in this mercurial business to have other aspects of your life.”
Following her last divorce, she became a born-again Christian (raised an atheist, she now calls herself a “feminist Christian”), although she said she had been leaning in that direction since her early 50s. Whatever the reason, she said she eventually felt like acting again.
“Even though I don’t need acting, I’d like it to be part of the mix,” she said.
She said she would like to make between four and six more movies “before I die,” and would like at least one of them to be a sexy movie.
“Some people assume that after a certain age, there is no more eroticism. I’d like to make a movie that addresses that.”
In Georgia Rule, Fonda plays a demanding woman with a lot of unbending rules who lives alone in a small town in Idaho. She has a dysfunctional relationship with her sophisticated but alcoholic daughter (Felicity Huffman), who drops off her obnoxious and spoiled daughter (Lindsay Lohan) to live with her grandmother for the summer.
“At my age, it is hard to develop a strategy or to be choosy because you are at the whims of Hollywood, but I still turn down some roles. But I couldn’t turn down this one. It’s a character-driven story with subjects that interest me, such as family dysfunction and healing in the face of that dysfunction.”
Fonda’s own dysfunctional relationship with her father has been well-documented, and was pretty much played out in the 1981 film “On Golden Pond,” for which Henry Fonda won his only Oscar.
His daughter says that film remains one of her favorites.
“I am proud that I produced it, I am proud that I got to work with my father in it and I am proud that he finally won an Oscar.”
As for reports that she channels her father in Georgia Rule, particularly in the disapproving way her character looks at her daughter and granddaughter, Fonda shrugs her shoulders and smiles.
“I’ve heard that from two different people already, but I swear that I never consciously thought about it. But, who knows? Maybe there was a bit of Henry in there.”