“The studios are run by men and they have the bottom line to meet and they give jobs to people like them,” two-time Oscar-winning actress and producer Jane Fonda told the Women at Sundance brunch today as part of the Sundance Film Festival. Fonda was joined onstage at the packed panel by her 9 To 5 and Netflix’s Grace & Frankie co-star Lily Tomlin, who has the Paul Weitz-directed Grandma at the fest.
“It’s a matter of gender, not that we don’t have the experience,” Fonda added, noting that men with few credits get handed tentpoles.
“We have to shame the studios for being so gender-biased,” the On Golden Pond actress and longtime activist said. Fonda also told the crowd — which included Selma director Ava DuVernay, Sundance Productions chief Laura Michalchyshyn and Transparent creator Jill Soloway — that “we have to prove we can be commercial.”
“We have to fight real hard to get women in positions of power and remember there are no set rules,” Fonda said Monday to cheers. “Kathryn Bigelow made a guys’ film,” she noted of the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, “while her ex-husband James Cameron made a feminist film in Avatar.”
Said Tomlin: “You have to make yourself good at something. You have to make yourself usable.” She also noted that building a skill in Hollywood is a way to gain confidence to go on to greater things.
Also looking over the Tinseltown landscape, Fonda told the audience at Park City’s The Shop it was much “easier” in the 1970s to make serious dramas – even for Hollywood royalty like herself. “I made movies about things I passionately care about,” she said. “Some of them really hit big, some didn’t.”
Not that Fonda didn’t include the earlier part of her career in the discussion. “I like being someone who caused a generation of men to have their first erection,” the Barbarella star joked about her scantily-clad 1968 title role.