Jane Fonda’s first onscreen role was in the 1960 film Tall Story. In the years and decades since, she has had a legendary career, both on- and offscreen, one that includes winning two Oscars, becoming a fitness guru, and dedicating herself to activism. At 80, the Hollywood icon is not slowing down, and her newest film Book Club, (which co-stars Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen) is out Friday.
The film’s story revolves around the four female leads, lifelong friends going through moments of growth in life and love, whose book club decides to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Although it might be easy for some to dismiss the book based on the premise alone, there is something undeniably revolutionary about seeing four women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s headline a major Hollywood film. “There are not that many projects that have really fun interesting roles for older women,” Fonda tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This was a really exciting opportunity to do something that is done rarely (if at all) which is robust, sensual, interesting, funny, situations written for women, that show the importance of women’s friendship and of having second chances.”
Fonda plays Vivian, an incredibly accomplished businesswoman who has a steady stream of flings with men, but a deep fear of commitment. “There’s a lot of complication about her. Here’s a woman who has a lot of sex, unlike her friends, but only in the afternoons and only with men she doesn’t care about,” Fonda says of her character. “It’s her friends who kind of force her to face the fact that she thinks she’s liberated but in fact she needs to stop being scared of intimacy.”
Fonda, who also stars in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, is not taking this moment in her career for granted — especially considering she took 15 years away from the camera and returned to the movies in her mid-60s. “I pinch myself a lot, I feel really blessed,” Fonda says. “The fact that I’m 80 and that I still have a career, and I’m still working — I feel personally, and certainly enough people tell me, it’s important to see older women working in a variety of roles. That excites me and motivates me to want to keep going.”
As for what she wants next out of work and life, “I want to try to make a difference, both in my professional work as an actor and in my private life,” Fonda says, highlighting the activism work she’s doing in anticipation of the midterm elections and specifically calling out her grassroots efforts with the organizations One Fair Wage and We the People in Michigan. “We all do what we can, and when you’re famous, what you do has a little more impact, because you’re famous.”
What does a woman so famous and accomplished wish she could redo about her career? “Barbarella” she says, mentioning the iconic sci-fi film in which she starred in 1968. “With a few tweaks, it could be a truly women- empowering movie.”
Book Club is now playing in theaters nationwide.
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