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  • - It wasn't until I was finally single at 62

  • that I began to feel whole,

  • to feel that I was where I was supposed to be.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • I'm Jane Fonda and I'm supposed to explain it all

  • in this interview.

  • I'll do my best.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • I was never confident.

  • I'm still not particularly confident.

  • I never thought I would be a performer.

  • I was very shy.

  • In fact, I didn't know what I wanted to do,

  • which is very common today for young people.

  • It's really hard to be young, and I found it very hard

  • and I floundered around for quite a long time.

  • My dad never came home from his work.

  • He was a movie actor, a star.

  • He never came home carrying joy.

  • I never got a sense that he found joy in his work.

  • So why did I want to be an actor?

  • So I didn't want to be an actor until I knew I was about 18

  • and then I had to move out of my father's house.

  • I didn't know what to do.

  • And I met Lee Strasberg's daughter, who said,

  • "Well, you should study with Lee.

  • "You should study with my dad."

  • And he accepted me into his class.

  • Nobody had ever told me I was particularly good at anything

  • so when Lee Strasberg said,

  • "I see a lot of people come through here

  • "and you have real talent."

  • Oh, I really felt like the top of my head came off

  • and birds flew out and the color of the sky changed.

  • And when I walked down onto Broadway after that class,

  • I felt like I owned the city.

  • It was amazing.

  • I was transformed immediately.

  • They always put me in roles of kind of the girl next door,

  • you know, the ingenue.

  • And you know, I was fairly good and I did many of them,

  • but I never enjoyed it.

  • During my second movie,

  • it was called "Walk on the Wild Side,"

  • I played a vagabond during the Depression,

  • a tough street girl and she became a hooker.

  • And I really liked playing a character like that.

  • I could sink my teeth into it.

  • I just loved it.

  • I just loved doing that.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • When I was living in France, married to a French director,

  • I had just had a baby.

  • I found it very uncomfortable

  • that the French people were attacking the United States

  • for the war in Vietnam.

  • I didn't yet understand that,

  • oh, they've been there already.

  • They tried to colonize the Vietnamese

  • and they were defeated.

  • So they know very well

  • that we're not gonna be able to succeed.

  • And my attitude was sour grapes

  • just cause they didn't win their war.

  • You know, I hadn't looked into it enough.

  • I didn't really understand.

  • And then a group of American soldiers were in Paris

  • who had been in Vietnam, they had fought in Vietnam,

  • and they had left.

  • It's called deserting or resisting.

  • And I met these guys

  • and they started talking to me about the war.

  • And they gave me a book to read by Jonathan Schell

  • called "The Village of Ben Suc."

  • And I read it and my whole life changed.

  • It was like, pew.

  • And I thought to myself, I have to go back home

  • and become part of the anti-war movement.

  • And eventually about a year later I did.

  • Those years of ending the war,

  • that was the beginning for me.

  • I learned a lot.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • I became an activist in 1970.

  • I was 31.

  • And when I was with people,

  • Native Americans on indigenous lands

  • or soldiers on military bases, you know,

  • these are people that I would spend time with

  • because they were dealing with problems

  • that I was working through various movements on.

  • And my celebrity created a distance

  • between me and those people, frontline people,

  • real people on the ground.

  • And so I felt, well if I'm going to do this,

  • meaning be an organizer,

  • I probably shouldn't be a movie star anymore.

  • And I had a friend, a Black lawyer in Michigan

  • named Ken Cockrel, and I said to him,

  • he was like my mentor for a while,

  • and I said, "Ken, I think I'm gonna quit the business.

  • "I don't want to be in Hollywood anymore.

  • "I want to be an organizer."

  • And he sat me down and he said,

  • "Fonda, the movement has countless organizers.

  • "We don't have movie stars.

  • "You not only have to keep on acting,

  • "but you have to take more control of your career.

  • "Have agency on the work that you do."

  • And I was stunned and I began to think about that.

  • And out of that came "Coming Home," and "9 to 5,"

  • and "China Syndrome," and movies that reflected

  • issues that were interesting to me.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • My identity was never, ever being a star, being a celebrity.

  • You know, movies, it's what I did.

  • I had to support myself.

  • You know, people need to be useful.

  • People need, they might not even be conscious of it,

  • but people need to have meaning in their lives,

  • a sense that they know why they're here.

  • And in the absence of that,

  • I think there's a lot of, I feel, anxiety, malaise.

  • And you know, I think as a young person

  • you can get in a lot of trouble if you feel that way.

  • When I was young, I would say like up to 25

  • or something like, you know, I just assumed

  • 'cause I was floating in space

  • and I thought that I would probably die.

  • I'm sure I'm gonna become an alcoholic or a drug addict,

  • and I'm gonna die alone.

  • When I became an activist, the depression lifted.

  • I began to feel I know why I'm here.

  • I'm here to use my platform as a celebrity

  • to make things better.

  • It just took a long time.

  • It wasn't...

  • And then I was always married. (laughs)

  • I mean three times.

  • My dad was married five times.

  • So, you know, I very much didn't want to catch up to him.

  • So I stopped at three realizing

  • that I just wasn't dealt a hand

  • that made me good at relationships.

  • You know, even after I became an activist,

  • I always turned to men to help me find the next step.

  • I'd be going in a particular direction

  • and then I would meet a man

  • who could take me further down that road.

  • And then I would move on.

  • Isn't that a terrible thing to say?

  • It wasn't until I was finally single at 62

  • that I began to feel whole,

  • to feel that I was where I was supposed to be.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • When it comes to relationships with men,

  • you know, the problem is falling in love.

  • What's wrong with that sentence?

  • Not love. Falling.

  • And what happens to a lot of women

  • is two people come together and the woman falls,

  • or at least a lot of women, me, I'll just talk about myself.

  • I would tend to mold myself

  • according to what my then-husband wanted me to be.

  • But there was always a center to myself

  • that they never touched.

  • My friend Eve Ensler, the author of "Vagina Monologues,"

  • you know, she said,

  • "The three things that you have to look for

  • "when you go into a relationship: you want to feel safe,

  • "you want to feel seen, and you want to feel cherished."

  • What I realized now is two people that love each other,

  • whether it's two women, two men,

  • or a man or woman, or whatever,

  • coming together and they stay on their own two feet,

  • two whole people coming together

  • and maintaining their agency, their strength,

  • while at the same time caring for the other,

  • nurturing the other, cherishing the other,

  • but never losing themselves.

  • I think that in there lies the secret

  • to a successful relationship.

  • What I found very often is if the woman shows up fully

  • and she's present and she says to her partner, "Come on.

  • "Meet me here where I am."

  • The man will flee.

  • At least those are the men that I chose. (chuckles)

  • What I've realized in my dotage, my old age,

  • is probably that men showed up for me and said,

  • "Come on, Jane, I'm here. Show up."

  • And I fled.

  • I wonder how many men who were really perfect for me

  • I fled because they would have made me show up.

  • And instead, I chose men

  • who wouldn't know what that even meant

  • so they never asked me to.

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • I mean I can give all kinds of parenting advice.

  • None of it is what I practiced.

  • I have studied parenting to find out, can it be taught?

  • Can it be learned?

  • Because I didn't know what it meant,

  • and I didn't know how to be one.

  • I married men who were good fathers, okay?

  • I was lucky.

  • Two of my three husbands I had children with.

  • A parent is supposed to show up with open eyes,

  • eyes of love, and reflect the child back to themselves

  • with eyes of love, and know how to listen.

  • If because of depression or addiction or whatever

  • you have duct tape over your eyes,

  • it's not gonna work very well.

  • I didn't know how to show up.

  • I was a food addict.

  • I was an addict and it screws around with you.

  • And I apologized to them, but you know,

  • it's hard to make up for what you didn't do.

  • However, you know, I do believe that it's never too late.

  • So, you know, I try as best I can to do a better job now.

  • And I love having grandkids.

  • They're like second chances.

  • You can also give them back

  • at the end of the day. (chuckles)

  • (upbeat instrumental music)

  • My women friends are a big priority for me.

  • I just have never been able

  • to have the kind of relationships with men

  • that I have with my women friends.

  • Most of my women friends are younger than me,

  • and braver than me, and they challenge me,

  • and make better and put starch in my spine.

  • And do you know that there was a study done

  • at Harvard Medical School that showed

  • that not having women friends is more dangerous

  • to your health or as dangerous to your health as smoking?

  • It's our superpower, and men don't have that superpower.

  • Very few men do.

  • I don't know, I think it's evolutionary.

  • They went out hunting with their spears to get meat,

  • and we would stay back having our children,

  • circling with grandmothers and young mothers and children,

  • everybody helping each other.

  • We knew even back in the hunter-gatherer stage

  • of our development about interdependence,

  • interdependence with the natural world and with each other.

  • We would never have survived without grandmothers

  • and without each other helping.

  • You know, it's women who are in book clubs

  • and quilting bees and garden clubs.