“Why did I marry guys that were controlling? They were also brilliant and they could teach me things, and take me farther than I had ever gone,” Jane Fonda said, when asked, about her choice of husbands and her comments about them in the latest documentary about her: HBO’s Jane Fonda In Five Acts.
“And for me, they weren’t boring….I thought if I was with those kind of men I could be somebody,” Fonda added.
The documentary has five acts, as the name suggests; four of those acts are named for men.
HBO describes Jane Fonda in Five Acts as drawing on 21 hours of interviews with Fonda, discussing such topics as her mother’s suicide, her famous father’s “emotional unavailability,” her eating disorder, her three marriages to powerful, interesting men, including Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, who are seen in the doc talking about Fonda. Other new and archival interviews include Robert Redford, and Lily Tomlin, among others.
Director Susan Lacy said she started pitching a Fonda bio-doc during her 30 years running American Masters at PBS. “It just did not happen there,” Lacy said. But HBO jumped on it immediately, she said. “I love HBO,” Fonda added.
Lacy got asked if PBS had passed due to controversy over Fonda. Lacy deflected, saying she raised most of the money for American Masters “and it was getting harder.”
The Vietnam War was the biggest change in the “acts” of her life Fonda answered immediately when asked. “I would say that prior to my becoming an anti-war activist, had led an interesting life, but meaningless” describing herself as a “pretty girl who made movies” but was “kind of hedonistic.”
“When I decided to throw my lot in with the anti-war movement, everything shifted” she said, including “the people I was drawn to.”
“I’m proud I went to Vietnam when I did,” Fonda insisted. “And proud the bombing of the diked stopped.” But, she continued to say “I”m so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time, and the message that sends to guys who were there at the time and their families. It’s horrible to think about that.”
Opening the documentary with Richard Nixon talking about her was “genius…totally took me by surprise,” Fonda said of Lacy’s decision, which she said made her laugh.
“I wanted to signal it was not about a movie star,” Lacy jumped in to explain. “She’s a great actress but it’s not the heart of the story.”