Jane Fonda: Hollywood Royalty Gets AFI Life Achievement Award And Follows In Father Henry's Footsteps

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Jane Fonda's AFI Life Achievement Award

Studio chiefs and top stars turned out to celebrate the two-time Oscar winner's career Thursday. The busy-again actress is the only daughter of a previous AFI honoree to receive the award. Her 'China Syndrome' co-star -- and fellow AFI Award legacy -- Michael Douglas presented it to her. Deadline's Pete Hammond and Dominic Patten discuss the big night.

It didn’t take long to bring up the controversial side of Jane Fonda during AFI‘s Lifetime Achievement Award tributeafilogo1 Thursday night. AFI Board Of Trustees Chairman Howard Stringer addressed the elephant in the room almost immediately upon taking the Dolby Theatre stage: “What not a lot of people know is that Jane Fonda attended the very first AFI tribute in 1973 to director John Ford. She didn’t actually make it into the ballroom AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - Showthat night because she was out front picketing. That’s right, she was there to protest the appearance of one of that night’s presenters, Richard Nixon. Jane, what are we going to do with you?” he said to much knowing laughter and applause. A little while later, AFI CEO and President Bob Gazzale picked up on the theme. “Yes, Jane picketed the AFI Life Achievement Awards. But it wasn’t the first time that she’d marched on AFI,” he said. “Some years earlier outside the gates of the AFI conservatory there was a protest led by Jane and another Life Achievement recipient, Shirley MacLaine. They were there to draw attention to the lack of women in roles in the AFI Conservatory and they were right. Their effort led to the establishment of  the AFI Directing Workshop for women which this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary. And they also helped to ensure women were admitted to the AFI Conservatory where women have flourished over the years.”

2014 AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute - ArrivalsBut as it became abundantly clear this evening was much more than about Fonda’s well-known activism. It was about a film career that has brought her two Oscars from seven nominations — that started in 1960 with Tall Story and is still going strong all the way up to next September’s This Is Where I Leave You. Both are from Warner Bros and both show the remarkable career journey this daughter of a very famous star, Henry Fonda, and sister of another twice-nominated actor/writer/producer Peter Fonda, has taken. Among studio heads that included 20th’s Jim Gianopulos, Sony’s Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton and Disney’s Alan Horn, Warners’ Kevin Tsujihara was also there. As Fonda was introduced and took the traditional march through the crowded room of stars, friends , executives and industryites, she seemed genuinely touched and teared up. Shortly afterward I caught up with her and asked if she was actually crying. “Do I look like I was crying? You bet I was.”  she told me. It made a later clip they showed from her 1965 Western Cat Ballou even more prescient. “You won’t make me cry. You’ll never make me cry,” Cat Ballou says. It clearly didn’t apply to Fonda on Thursday night as she appeared overwhelmed by it all.  And actually a couple of weeks ago in Cannes she told me she burst into tears when she got the phone call saying she received this award. “They asked me to present to Bette Davis and I did. They asked me to present to Barbara Stanwyck (her Walk On The Wild Side co-star), and I did. And of course my father, and I did. But I never dreamed I would be getting this award, ” she told me. Well she did, and in a ceremony that was a rich as any of these has ever been — and I’ve been coming to them since Frank Capra got one in 1982. It was a special night as Fonda became the only daughter of a previous winner to receive the same award. Father and Son Kirk and Michael Douglas and brother and sister Warren Beatty and MacLaine also have made the family connection for AFI in previous years.

6f7e6e6fcda4338c1e1429ada879d41bThe room was decorated with lots of iconic magazine covers featuring Fonda but the most interesting was a Time agazine AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - After-Partycover featuring all the Fondas: Henry, Jane and a silhouetted Peter from his Easy Rider days. “I am not so sure about that cover,” Peter Fonda told me as he stared at the blowup during a break in the proceedings. “I remember that interview very well. They had three different writers interview us separately and then we did one together. I recall the writer told me ‘the little brother with the big mouth might take it all’,”  he said, recalling that he dominated the conversation. But then he added that he was so proud of his sister. “She has achieved so much for so many.”

A few tables away, Sandra Bullock told me she was excited to be there. “She’s the real thing, a good egg,” she said of Fonda. She later presented a tribute from the stage. The first onstage after the dinner break though was Meryl Streep, who made her film debut in Fonda’s 1977 Best Picture nominee Julia, where she had a small role but really bonded with the star, who gave her sage advice about hitting her mark. “If you land on it you’ll be in the light and then you’ll be in the movie,” she recalled that Fonda told her. Cameron Diaz also appeared to talk about 9 To 5, a landmark comedy in which Fonda not only starred but produced. Diaz talked about how it showed inequality for women in the workplace and might have changed things forever.

AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - Pre-Show And DinnerAmong others comedian Wanda Sykes showed up in full Barbarella (a campy 1967 movie that got as much attention at this gala as any Fonda has made) regalia to let loose some zingers, as did Eva Longoria whose only reason for being there she said was that they both worked in a L’Oreal commercial. And Sally Field showed up to talk about their 35-year friendship that started when Fonda barged into her 20th Century Fox office to offer advice on how to be a producer and make meaningful films. She talked about Fonda breaking through in the male-dominated world of producing films and then coming up with Coming Home and 9 To 5 among others.

AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - ShowPerhaps the most emotional moment of the night came when Vietnam war veteran and the inspiration for Tom Cruise’s Born On The Fourth Of July, Ron Kovic, showed up onstage after an emotional clip from Coming Home (another film he inspired) was shown. It was one of two films, including 1971’s Klute, for which Fonda won Oscars. He praised her and the courage she showed in her early activism against the war. Her Newsroom co-star Jeff Daniels also appeared and played guitar and sang a special song written about her, celebrating her “abs, buns and thighs” in a reference to her famous workout tapes. 9 To 5 co-star Lily Tomlin was lovably loopy in detailing her experiences with Fonda. “She transcends her ego, which in my view is worthy alone of receiving a life achievement award,”  she said. Fonda and Tomlin begin a new Netflix comedy series shooting in August. I am hearing talk of Martin Sheen and Alan Alda as possible co-stars but that’s still to be determined.

Fonda spoke throughout the tribute in pre-recorded clips, many of them very touching and raw.  But among the most interesting tidbits was  her admission that her most calculated career move came when she chose to make a comeback opposite Jennifer Lopez in Monster-In-Law. A hilarious clip was shown where the pair engage in an endless slap-off. Fonda said she suspected fans would come to see Lopez and re-discover Fonda in the process. She was right on the money as that is exactly what happened.

Perhaps best of all was Troy Garrity, her son with activist Tom Hayden. He brought the house down. “So many stars have AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - After-Partyspoken tonight it leads me to believe I only got this gig because I was Jane Fonda’s son,” he said. “But if my mother thinks it was difficult being the daughter of Henry Fonda, you should try being the son of Hanoi Jane. That was a lot of fun. My first 13 birthday parties were fundraisers. We had a different life than other Hollywood families. My mother never hired a nanny to watch out for me. That’s what the FBI was doing. And if they weren’t available, I could always stay with the PLO or the Vagina Liberation Organization.” Then he spoke of his mother’s real challenge, “a journey that began when she lost her own mother at a young age and was left believing that she had to fight for her father’s affection.”

Michael Douglas, who received this award in 2009  and who is also the offspring of a major star, presented the award at Fonda’ s request. They co-starred in The China Syndrome. “You are the rare combination of a movie star and a great actress. You are true film royalty, not through birth but through talent,”  he said in bringing her to the stage to the theme from On Golden Pond, the movie she made with her father and which brought him his first Best Actor Oscar just months before he died. He asked that she accept it, one of the most emotional moments of her life as she AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - Pre-Show And Dinnerexplained.

“I’m so happy to add another woman’s name to the list,”  she said as she became only the eighth woman in 42 years to receive the AFI honor. “In preparing for this experience it required me to do a lot a thinking. What I’ve realized is I’ve been blessed to know many geniuses, real geniuses in our business. I have been blessed to know them and so many are gone now. I had to ask myself, ‘Why didn’t I ask them more questions?’,”  she said, adding that she wished she had indeed queried the likes of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Katherine Hepburn , even Lee Marvin. She said the only person who actually asked her for advice on movie-making was Streep, who was seen laughing in the audience. “And I gave her all my tips. She has me to thank ….  Seriously I just want to leave you with this: When you’re with people who have been at it a long time ask questions. Stay curious, stay interested. It’s much more important to be interested than to be interesting,”  she said.

Like I said, a special night indeed.

  1. Yeah I always loved her in that special role shot in N. Vietnam, the one where she is fraternizing with the enemy, sitting on an anti-aircraft gun that shot down numerous AMERICAN flyers. You’re a crass act Jane, hoping America will forget your treason.

    1. Jane made a mistake in her youth at a volatile political time in our country. She has sincerely expressed her regret for that incident and done incredible work on behalf of veteran causes. Your decades-old comment reflects ignorance and empty-headed knee-jerk rhetoric.

      1. She said she would do it again if she had to do it over again. She’s a traitor to this country and should not be given any awards.

    2. That happened a long long time ago, people need to stop living in the past not in something that happened 50+ years ago. We’re all a lot older now, it’s like McCain bringing up his past. People need to move on.

    3. “Hollywood Royalty” is a laughable marketing term dreamed up by movie studio publicity depts. in the 1940’s to sell their stars and their films to the American Movie-Going Public who were dazzled by royalty in Europe. The term resonates with Hollywood’s narcissists who can’t throw themselves enough Awards Shows. The Progeny of Hollywood Royalty and Washington Politicians rarely saw combat in any of our wars.

  2. When I was growing up and starting to appreciate movies, Jane Fonda was always my favorite screen actress–along with another great Glenda Jackson. All I can say is that Jane SHOULD have gotten this award a long time ago!!

  3. Dear jane, we are so proud of you in South Georgia and all that you have done for our children and teens to lead productive lives while working and succeeding so well in your other roles.
    We love you, sharon

  4. There have been many gifted but mis-guided artists over the years who have strayed into the realm of stupidity. Jane Fonda is one and Elia Kazan is another. Unfortunately, show business seems to breed brilliant creative types who also do moronic things without thinking.

      1. Just ask a soldier who was DRAFTED to serve our country in the 1960s or a filmmaker who was BLACKLISTED n the 1950s. Jag…

    1. In Hollywood Jane Fonda is lionized while the late Kazan continues to be a polarizing figure. Why was one a forgivable betrayal while the other wasn’t?

  5. Dear Jane, you’ve been a shining symbol of enlightenment from the time you yelled at returning prisoners of war, calling them hypocrites and liars for sharing their stories of torture and starvation – to the time you visited North Vietnam and denounced America as a country of war criminals. Your service to this country will never be forgotten.

  6. One of the great things about Jane Fonda today is that she shares many of her interests and chunks of daily life on her official site. It is a little little harder to get in now but is well worth the effort. I would recommend clicking the blog portion. Because I have a nephew in Pittsburgh, I found especially interestig her imporessions of the city while playing Russell Crowe’s agent in “Fathers and Daugthers” (2015)on location this spring.I also was quite touched by her writing on how Parkinson’s Disease has impacted someone very close to her. A few years ago Fonda did a French language film in Paris, sharing the experiences and challenges with her readers.

  7. What??? AFI ignores Adam Sandler? Man, is AFI scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

    I don’t care how good an actress she may have been, I do not forget what she did in North Vietnam. Nor do those who served.

    1. Yes, thank god she spoke out against an illegal war in NORTH VIETNAM, and tried to save lives that you were more than happy to see get wasted. You feral minded moron. Thank God Jane Fonda spoke out like a patriot to save American lives. You might want to try doing the same if you care about your soldiers, you Un-American slug.

      1. Mike….speaking out against the war to save lives in one thing, but she cost men their lives when she was overthere… Dude you really need to read up on what she really did in North Vietnam. You are as Un American as she is if you believe she saved lives by what she did.

        1. By “cost men their lives”, i assume you mean the urban legend that she turned over messages given to her by POWs. It’s a myth, the men she met with, much as they dislike her, have all sworn that story is nonsense. You may be the one who needs to read up.

        1. Yes, the war was wrong but young men were DRAFTED. They had no choice. Uncle Sam said “GO” and they went. And then were spit on by protestors upon returning. Very different than today except we still treat our Vets like shit after they come home.

  8. Good for you Miss Jane Fonda. You deserve it. I am a big fan. Congrats on the AFI honor. I remember you hosted the year AFI gave the award to Miss Barabara Stanwyck. Now she was a legend. You deserve it Miss Fonda. I like your TV work as well (The Doll Maker).

  9. I think we can all agree Jane Fonda’s role in “Monster-in-Law” put her over the top and guaranteed her the Life Achievement Award. Otherwise, it must be for a few okay movies from the sixties and seventies and a couple of cheesy exercise videos?

    Or, maybe they feel sorry for her and are giving it to her just for hanging around all this time.

  10. Jane Fonda is a free human being who walks this earth as we all
    do. She can express what she thinks and feels about what
    ever it is that is before her, again, as we all can. (Famous or not.) One of the things that makes me proud to be an American is that I have the ability (and right) to express it if I see something going on that I disagree with or think is wrong. To me, the
    deportation and treason talk is distinctly Un-American and is
    riddled with thoughtlessness and (very old) knee-jerk fear. I adore Jane Fonda the actress and I think she is richly deserving of the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement award.

  11. I am thrilled that Miss Fonda finally got this award. She has done many wonderful things, not just on film, but outside of it. I have met many Vietnam Vets who understand and many who actually agree with her. She has done a lot for America, and for women all over the world. She has been a wonderful mentor and she has fought the big fight and made sacrifices for it. Well done, and don’t let the turkeys get you down.

  12. Jane Fonda is a piece of sh! $! When our soldiers gave her their ss#’s, thinking she would let the right people know, so they could get word to their families to let them know they were still alive, that bi!ch reported them to the Vietnamese guards. One of our soldiers died from the subsequent beatings. Anyone who supports her is just as bad as she is. She is a traitor. That is not a mistake!

    1. If you want to hate her for true reasons associated with her time in North Vietnam, fine, do so. But your story about her turning over messages from POWs to the North Vietnamese is an ancient urban legend, long since proven false. Check out Snopes or any of the other countless websites that have looked into this. That incident never happened, the men “named” in the endless stories about it have said it is fiction.

  13. In her youth???? She was in her 30’s.
    And for all her defenders its her ilk that is running the country now. Look at the results. I rest my case.

  14. I always admired Jane Fonda for her commitment to her craft, her work ethic, her drive, her intelligence and for admitting mistakes she made when she was young. My first “Jane Fonda” movie was “The China Syndrome.” I was a junior in high school. That’s when I started liking movies. She made in laugh in “Barefoot in the Park.” I could watch that one over and over again. This award from the AFI is long overdue. I like her advice that it’s much more important to be interested than to be interesting. We don’t have stars of Jane Fonda’s caliber anymore. Congratulations, Miss Fonda!

  15. She is not sorry for what she did in North Viet Nam — she still wears a T shirt with her sitting on her infamous cannon. Search the internet.
    You all can praise her — I will NEVER forgive her.

  16. Many of us were protesting the Vietnam War; the only difference was that Jane Fonda was well-known. She had as much right to her opinion as anyone else did, and for someone to say that they will never forgive her is adolescent. She didn’t hurt anyone, she didn’t give up top-secret military strategy, she didn’t turn any American soldiers over to the enemy – she simply voiced her opinions, just like many of you here are doing. For God’s sake, that was almost 60 years ago. Get over it and let it go. My husband, who is a Vietnam vet, said “Anyone who is still holding that against her needs therapy.” I think that I agree with him.

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