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Jane Fonda is an American Original

Jean Nayar | September 18, 2018 | People National

A new documentary on the life of American actress Jane Fonda offers an intimate and touching portrait of a full and complex life.

Fonda posing for her The Jane Fonda Workout Book (1981)

Movie star. Activist. Fitness guru. Feminist. Writer. Producer. Philanthropist. The labels used to describe Jane Fonda are as myriad and diverse as the varied phases of the iconic American actress’ life. And the story of her fascinating journey has been powerfully captured in a new documentary titled Jane Fonda in Five Acts.

Directed by renowned filmmaker Susan Lacy, the film touches on Fonda’s illustrious film career, which spans six decades and began with sex-symbol roles in films like Walk on the Wild Side and Barbarella; evolved with critically acclaimed performances in movies like Klute, Coming Home and The China Syndrome; and has been burnished with roles in later films like On Golden Pond and Our Souls at Night. But the most compelling parts of the documentary dwell on the more intimate aspects of the Academy Award-winning actress’ life, explored through extensive interviews with Fonda, who speaks candidly about her personal challenges, private demons and public missteps, and offers insight on the pain of her mother’s suicide, her father’s emotional unavailability, years of bulimia, three marriages to highly visible men and the estrangement with one of her children.

The official documentary poster

“Her life story is not a happy, Hollywood royalty saga of wealth and privilege—and the five-act structure of the documentary was a logical outcome of her story,” Lacy explains. “In Act 1, she admits to living under the shadow of her father—Henry Fonda—well into her 20s.” The periods of her life with three very different husbands—French film director Roger Vadim; activist, author and politician Tom Hayden; and Atlanta-born media mogul Ted Turner—comprise the next three acts. And Act 5 is a portrait of her today—“happily single, a full-time activist, a grandmother, growing older, coming to terms with her past, especially her mother’s suicide, and continuing her search for self-esteem, but ultimately the need for self-acceptance,” says the director. Enriched with interviews with Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, producer Paula Weinstein and former spouses, as well as rare home movies and verité footage of the 80-year-old actress’ busy life today, the film takes viewers to what she herself describes “the beginning of my last act.” Debuting to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the documentary will air Sept. 24 on HBO.


Photography by: workout photo by Steve Schapiro Courtesy of HBO; rally photo by Everett Collection Courtesy of HBO; movie poster courtesy of hbo