ACTING

Excerpted from Jane Fonda’s NYTimes #1 Bestseller “My Life So Far”

As I write this I realize that I’ve done a good deal of thinking about acting in the fifteen-year hiatus I have taken, and I’d like to try to give you a sense of what it’s like, at least for me.

In most films there is a scene when the main character is going through a critical transition or defining event. Whether or not the story works often depends on the success of that scene. Sometimes the director will want to shoot it in one long take, with the camera following you as you move from place to place, hitting your marks, all the while making the emotional transitions. This delicate balance between technical and emotional demands is the hallmark of movie acting.

I would usually wake up the morning of the critical scene feeling quesy, with a knot in my belly. I’d arrive at the studio for makeup and hair, and at some point I’d be asked to stop what I was doing and come to the set for rehearsal. Should I give it my all? There is the risk that if I do, I won’t have anything left when the real time comes (as was the case in my big scene in On Golden Pond). On the other hand, the purpose of rehearsal is to discover what my moves will be so that the lights can be set and the camera will know where to follow me; and if I don’t dip fairly deep into the emotional waters during rehearsal, how will I know where I’m apt to go? So I rehearse and pray that I’ve given just enough, but not too much.

Rehearsal now over, I go back to my trailer to finish hair and makeup and then wait while the crew lights the set and practices camera moves with my stand-in. It can be a thirty-minute wait or an hour or, if it’s a complicated setup, three hours. What do do? Do I read a book or get into a conversation that might risk taking me too far away from where my emotions are meant to be? Do I just sit here and think about the scene and risk getting too much into my head? The challenge is knowing myself well enough to calibrate correctly the balance between physical relaxation and emotional alertness that will most benefit me during the one- to three-hour wait. But it’s hard not to feel like a balloon from which air is slowly leaking.

Then the moment comes. The knock on the door: “We’re ready, Miss Fonda.” Truthfully some small part of me (which I would try to ignore) has hoped that the sound stage would catch fire or the director would have a breakdown so that this moment could be postponed—for a year, maybe. But, no, there’s the knock. No going back now. So I step out of my trailer and begin the endless walk to where everyone is waiting, all one hundred people who work on a film on any given day. As I run the gauntlet, the issue of my salary comes to mind. Why didn’t I agree to do the damn thing for free? I know there are people on the set who are just waiting to see if I’m worth all that dough, like that guy over there on the ladder reading the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. I remember being told that shooting on an average Hollywood film costs in the neighborhood of $100,000 a day. If this goes badly, maybe I can offer to deduct it from my salary; otherwise I may never get hired again. Please let me stay relaxed, help me stay in my truth, tell my muse to be with me now. I arrive on the set that just a short while ago during rehearsal was a place of forgiving shadows. Now it’s a pitiless glare of light under which my possible disintegration will be exposed for all to see. Breathe deeply, Jane. Get out of your head and into your body . . . quiet the demon voice that is trying to tell you that today is the day you’ll be exposed as an overpaid fraud.

This is the part of film acting that I was only too happy to leave behind, the part that became more agonizing as time went on. Yet you have to go through those terrifying times if you are ever to have the magic ones, the times when it all works—and to be truthful, those I have missed. There were perhaps only eight or nine of them out of forty-five films, but they were the times when I stepped into my light and my muse was with me, all my channels were open, the creative flow coursed through my body, and I became. Whether the scene was sad or funny, tragic or triumphant, never mattered. When it worked it was like being enveloped in love and light, as I danced the intricate dance between technique and emotion, fully inside the scene while simultaneously a separate part of me observed and enjoyed the unfolding.

Ah. but just because it has happened once doesn’t mean it will again! Each time is starting new, raw; its a crapshoot—you just never know. Which is why this profession is so great for the heart—and so hard on the nerves.

I always assumed that the more you did something the easier it would get, but in the case of my career I found the opposite to be true. Every year the work seemed to get harder and my fear more paralyzing. Once, on the set of Old Gringo, I watched Gregory Peck late in his career doing a long, very difficult scene over and over again all day long. I saw that he too was scared. I went up to him afterward and hugged him and told him how beautiful and transparent he had been.

“But, Greg,” I asked, “why do we do this to ourselves? Especially you. You’ve had a long and incredible career. You could easily retire. Why are you still willing to be scared?”

Greg sat for a moment, rubbing his chin. Then he said, “Well, Jane, maybe it’s like my friend Walter Matthau says. His biggest thrill in life is to be gambling and losing a bit more than he can afford and then have one chance to win it all back. That’s what you life for—that moment. The crapshoot. If it’s easy, what’s the point?

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61 Comments
  1. You bio is the best I have ever read. I laughed,cried and have had similar dealings with men and relationships.Got so much out of it. You are one neat lady and ever evolving.:)

  2. Thanks Jane for sharing that,

    I read something about Brando having lunch with a frined actor during a shoot. The friend tell how the called Brando the set , and said he was sorry and would be right back, Brando went over to the sent and played his scene and was great,came back the table to finish his lunch with the friend as if nothing happened in between. That seems a high make to set. It was interesting to hear about it from you, having written that screen play with you in mind , so I was giving you the lines and was seeing and hearing your as I wrote the part. I was feeling the emotional transitions of person.

    with love and care

  3. Interesting outlook.

  4. WOW… I did not know you had a blog until tonight! I’ve been sitting here reading over the past 2 hours. Incredible.This one really hit me because I spend a lot of time reading biographies (or watching them on the Bio channel)because my whole life people have been saying to me “You are going to be a star” and because I’m really smart as well as talented, sometimes I feel that way. However, when I listen to people’s stories, such as yours, I often question if that’s something I even want.

    I love entertaining people and I love helping people and I want the means to be able to do so, but I don’t like American pop culture and the way the media/internet treats celebrities. I’m 26 but my favorite films are from the 30s-70s and I adored people such as yourself, Ingrid Bergman, Julie Christie, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, etc. but even some of them felt what the way you feel in this excerpt. I’ve never been out of the country, so I’m not sure if it’s any different overseas. I share a birthday with Oprah and I’m as strong-minded and I have the sense of humor of Ellen DeGeneres, but I wonder if even that would be enough to still enjoy “the life” if it ever really does happen.

    I’m so glad that people such as yourself can admit that you are still human and you have the same emotions as other people, you just get paid to manipulate yours. Being a human being is tough all by itself, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to endure life under the microscope and judgment of people who don’t even know you. Ms. Fonda, I am so happy that you have survived and that your spirit is so filled with grace and goodness! Je vous adore et merci beaucoup pour votre histoire! (I’ve been teaching myself French, and I read that you speak it).

  5. That is very insightful, thank you. You make acting look so effortless, which is why those paychecks are as they are, for sure. I recently re-watched “Klute”, and, again, I was blown away. I make, as a “Camera Dude”, very low budget films, and I find it so very frustrating to not be working on projects that are able to afford skilled actors. With the advances in technology, especially digital HD cameras, we are able to make images that can compete with many mainstream films, are able to finagle locations, props and other art department elements that are up to the professional level and have scripts that, sometimes, are not bad, BUT, when it comes down where the real “Rubber meets the road”, that is, in the acting, we usually come up very short. This is not a “Dis” to the folks that we hire as actors, as they are really trying their best. It is just that acting, good film acting, requires a level of skill that is so very, very rare. Then I watch your films, and, am so amazed, and the idea of the actor’s rare skill is reinforced, to almost the nth degree. To think that you have to work through such fear, as noted above, and are still able to perform to the level that you do, …..Well, all I can say is, “WOW”!. Thank you for the great performances.

  6. Hi Jane,

    Beautiful piece about performing– it really resonated!

    I was just in Bonn a week ago, where I finally had a chance to get Dr. Ladenburger’s personal tour of the Beethoven archives, as you did last year. It was such a thrilling experience, I just had to write about it, so Dick gave me a guest spot on his blog (about our trip around the world) to do so:

    http://youreonlyoldonce.blogspot.com/

    Hope you enjoy reading it…

    Diane xox

    • DIANE!!!!! What a treat to ‘hear’ from you. I am so glad you had the ‘Ladenburger’ experience. Isnt it amazing to stand in Beethovan’s birth room, and see the instruments he created? I miss you! Thanks for this. Love, jane

  7. What a wonderful article!

    As an actress I can totally relate to the fear that can become overwhelming right before you “go out there.” This fear kept me from moving from the theater to any other media. Believe it or not I felt safer on stage performing live every night (no retakes there) and just the idea of having to learn all the techniques and technical terms that go along with film and television was just too intimidating for me.

    Then I too went on hiatus for more than 27 years and have finally gone back to the theater.

    Your article has inspired me so much and I definitely want to read more of your blog and of course your your books.

    I have always admired your work. My favorite film of all time is Julia.

  8. This is one of the best accounting of the challenges of acting that I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for writing it.

    In the end we train so long and work so hard to learn to act — which is essential for success — but then we also ask (or at least I do) for something more: a guarantee that we’ll be great, perfect, each and every time.

    I don’t know why there’s no guarantee, but I’m starting to accept that there’s not.

    Perhaps the universe is trying to give us something else, teach us something else, something having to do with a greater trust and self-acceptance. When I think about that, then I’m not so scared, and maybe that’s what leads to the real work, what we’re really meant to do out there, on the stage, under the lights.

    I love the heart of Jane’s technique: prayer.

    Denzel Washington gives an amazing recounting of the preparation he did for the whipping scene in Glory (1989). Anyone interested can go to his IMDB bio page to read it. His main technique too was prayer.

    So I resolve to still “train so long and work so hard” but my goal won’t be perfection, won’t be to “become” that pre-defined image of what I think I should be, but instead I’ll work towards trust, and then just step into the light.

  9. Hi Ms. Fonda

    I recently stumbled upon your Actor Studio interview on YouTube and it reminded me how much I enjoyed reading your book a few years back. For personal and professional reasons. A female colleague recommended that I read it being my wife and I just had a daughter. I appreciated your insight and useful information on fathers and daughters relationships and how it will ultimately shape her life. It has helped me so much to be present and encouraging. I’ve been wanting to thank you for that ever since and happy to have found your blog to tell you personally.

    Your book also helped me professionally as well, I am an actor for many years and I’m in my “second act” and had some success. I also teach and often refer to your chapter describing the definition of acting. I’ve read many of books from great teachers and your chapter was so clear, honest and simple. My students all refer to it. I’ve been a huge fan of your work since I’m a teen. I was 15 when “On Golden Pond” was released and remember being so moved watching the work in the film from Kate and your father and especially the “scene” “I want to be friends “with your dad. Still gets me every time. Your emotional life is unprecedented.

    My wife (also an actress) and I saw you on Broadway recently-Bravo! Beautiful work Ms. Fonda. Thanks for the years of inspiration. Much thanks.
    I look forward to your next book.

    -Respectfully

    Anthony

  10. merci Jane pour ce que vous êtes;j’ai suivi votre parcours depuis le début et depuis 1 an j’ai découvert votre blog et votre générosité ( pr ns faire partager un peu de votre vie en toute simplicité)Cet après midi je suis allée voir votre dernier film français “si on vivait tous ensemble” de Stéphane Robelin superbe comédie,j’ai adoré surtout que je suis une sénior également de 65 ans un sujet grave la vieillesse mais tourné avec beaucoup d’humour,de dérision .Je puis te dire Jane que la salle était bien remplie et qu’il y a eu beaucoup déclats de rire donc pr moi le film démarre bien,je vais inviter toutes mes copines à le voir Bises de France -Ness

    • Hooray and merci mille fois for this info. Makes me so happy. What did you think of my french?

  11. I think Martha Graham put it best in a letter to Agnes DeMille encouraging her to follow her own expression:

    There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
    that is translated through you into action,
    and because there is only one of you in all time,
    this expression is unique.

    If you block it,
    it will never exist through any other medium
    and be lost.
    The world will not have it.
    It is not your business to determine how good it is;
    nor how valuable it is;
    nor how it compares with other expressions.
    It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly,
    to keep the channel open.

    You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
    You have to keep open and aware directly
    of the urges that motivate you.

    Keep the channel open.
    No artist is pleased.
    There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
    There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;
    a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
    and makes us more alive than the others.

    • Totally beautiful, Gavin. Thank you for sharing

  12. What an amazing account of the inner life an actor goes through before the big scene. I dare say not every actor, just the good ones. As a writer, I always wonder what an actor is thinking. The characters have lived in my head for months and I see them a certian way. A great actor gives them more life than I could ever imagine.

  13. Wow! You are such an amazing actress! I just watched Monster-in-law and you are absolutely fantastic! It is so cool that you get nervous before a scene. I wouldn’t have imagined! As great an actress as you are.. I guess that goes to show that everyone gets nervous.. My dream is to be an actor! Do you have any advice for a 14 year old?

  14. hi jane

    first off i wanted to say that you are totally my favorite actress of all time ( i know that you are probally sick of hearing that)you were and definately still are beautiful, and that you inspire me so much because my dream is to become an actress. i have been watching on golden pond so much lately. i love you and your father in that movie( by the way he was such a handsome man). your big scene on on golden pond makes me want to cry every time. i dont know what it is. i can see how hard it was for you to say that to him just by the look of your face. i also wanted to ask you a question. how do you like being a celebrity? you obviously are still human and normal but not many people treat celebrities that way? that is what i am afraid of. that if i ever become an actress that im just going to want my normal life back. do you ever wish that? ohh and also i am reading your book and i absolutley love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Jane , I watched you craft your life as well as your proformances , from Barefoot in the part to the present , I have always enjoyed your work , the only films that I would tend to shy away from were ones with nude scenes there were only a few , the only person who should see a woman naked is her husband , the scene that caught me off guard was in Old Gringo , where you were in a love scene with stints , BOY if sensuality were heat you would be nuclear , I’m a pretty decent writer I wrote a book called (Man , Greed and the Economy ) I would very much like to send you a copy , but with all the fan mail you must get it may get lost , where can I send the book to it has poetry in it , I want to give back to you because your varied proformances that have always held me spell bound ,

    • Joseph, I am moved by your words and by your desire to send me your book. Two problems: I cannot give out my address on here and, second, I am sooooo busy with my own writing and work that I am very far behind in the books that I am supposed to read–I mean a BIG STACK of need-to-be-read-now books so I would never get to yours. I hope you understand and forgive me. xx Jane

  16. Jane the reason that I say this is because what’s in the book is about to happen , it starts out talking about where greed comes from during the time of Adam and Eve and it brings it up to date the book is only 53 pages , if you have nook or kindle it’s $8.00 , I will buy something from your site equal to double the cost of the book or I will send it to your agent , Jane you have been proven right in protesting the Vietnam war now by Ron Paul’s support of Vet’s and I know you sense because of your faith that the world is getting worse , the film you made I bought it for my library even though it’s course it’s has a moral to the story and it belies the morality of the Nation , the film is Georgia Rules , I have all your films in my library , it seems that in quite a few of your films you are a news related character ringing the bell to warn the people , your a female Biblical watchwoman for society , you will enjoy the poetry , I know your tender side , it comes from your father , I have seen the similarities on screen ,

  17. Hi Jane. Im 22 years old and just about to graduate University and start life! I saw your Master Class session with Oprah, and it was just incredible, exactly what I needed to hear as I enter the real world. You have lived such an amazing, packed life – the people you knew, the experiences you’ve had, the mistakes, the success, its been a full life – I wish that for myself. As i set upon my journey Im going to try to keep you’re advice in mind – Be Whole, not perfect and try to fill up my life to the top. So thank you.

    p.s Have to ask, Julia is a masterpiece of a film, not only were you wonderful, I was blown away by Vanessa. What is it with her? can you explain what makes her acting so entrancing, mysterious and yet deeply truthful? She’s something really special.

    J

  18. Miss Fonda
    Having followed your career most of my adult life, (being the same age as you), may I say how much I have admired your work.

    Reading your column in the Daily Mail ‘Weekend’ magazine, 9 June, 2012, “Five things you didn’t know about me”, I was amazed and delighted that you mentioned ‘The Dollmaker’.

    This film has been a favourite of mine and my daughter for many years. We must have seen it on TV originally and then I bought a copy of the VHS recording. I have never understood why it received so little recognition, I have always considered it the best performance you have ever done and have watched it over and over again. I have also loaned the VHS tape to friends, over the years, so yes! some people have seen it.

    Thank you for the pleasure it has given me.

    Kind regards

  19. Watched you last night on Kathy Griffin’s show on Bravo and you were fantastic. I would have loved to see just the 2 of you chatting it up. You radiate love and passion Jane…
    Daniel

  20. Hello, Ms. Fonda:

    I just wanted to tell you that I admire you so much as a person, an actress, and someone who has evolved through life. Best actress ever!

    I am only fourteen, so I guess I am behind? 😉 The other night, I watched China Syndrome. I was moved and stunned. I love “historical” movies and films that speak to the world for something that it true–a voice to be caught in time.
    My favorite movies of yours are “The Morning After” and “On Golden Pond”, and they are also in my top five favorite films ever. I have also read your book. It was very amazing!

    My wish is that sometime you and Sissy Spacek would make a movie together. I hope you never stop making movies ever again because I will continue to enjoy them! One last thing, I loved your dress at the Golden Globes this year–it was gorgeous!

    Thanks! Best wishes,
    S.

  21. Hi Jane,

    Is it true that you were offered the part of Nurse Ratched in the film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

  22. What an amazing journey it’s been for me reading your memoirs, and what a gift. It is almost magical how someone I don’t even know has influenced my life in the last few months. And that is of course you. Speaking out your truth and opening your heart up it’s been very helpful for me. Specially as a young actor, and after a long period of doubts about my acting vocation, reading your book and listening to your interviews has given me strengh and courage. You are not only a wonderful artist or an extremely beautiful woman, but also a bright and luminous human being. And without you knowing, a guardian angel for me. Thank you Jane from the bottom of my heart…

  23. Jane: I don’t have heroes, but you are my one exception to that informal rule. It just turns out to be you for all kinds of reasons. I’m busy putting finishing touches on a book I’m writing about the life of my great aunt. I have a deadline. The TV was on and as I approached the set to turn it off I saw a very young Jane Fonda. So I sat down for just a minute to watch, but was suckered in and watched the whole thing. To be cliche, it was like watching a train wreck in that I couldn’t stop. You were so young; the movie so good in its own unique way….not to mention JoAnne Woodward! The two of you in a Period of Adjustment! Now I’m taking a break again and had to search around to find the right place to leave the post. Just wanted you to know that I honor you not only for your talent, but for the example you set for so many women, young and old, to live their best lives with what they have, movie star or lonely housewife. I’m about to leave my husband and it was your words about how the limo pulled up in front of your daughter’s modest condo where you didn’t have a closet in the guest room that have cheered me on. Thank you for all of it. That movie was great.
    ~Camille

    • Camille, thanks for sharing. This is beautiful. xx

  24. Thanks, Jane. Best of luck with all your current ventures.

  25. I will always have a crush on you Jane. You are beautiful.

  26. I have concluded that you must be the most beautiful actress in the world because it has been sustained throughout your entire life. Others have been stunning, too, but only for a period of time. Brava!

  27. Ms. Fonda, I hope you are doing well. I wrote to you last week with a question regarding Coming Home. I am a screenwriter, and for me cinema does not end with just watching a film. It is entertaining and a joy, certainly; but there is resides, for me, also the elements of instruction and vocation.

    I have an undated draft of Coming Home, the title page of which offers no draft date and lists the authors as Waldo Salt and Bob Jones. As I’m sure you’re aware, the screenplay is quite different from the finished film. Not only in terms of character (Sally is more demonstrative and feisty on the page), but in terms of ending (Bob takes hostages at a vegetable stand; Sally and Luke attempt to intervene and help him).

    Today, after years of searching, I finally found what I thought to be a later draft than the one I already have. This later draft was quite expensive, but Coming Home is one of my favorite films. When Mr. Salt wrote something, we serious screenwriters take notice.

    Anyway, I bought the draft, which was sent to me as a pdf file. When I opened the file, I realized I had just bought the same draft (undated) as the draft I already have. Arrgh!

    As you stated in your autobiography, there was a fair amount work done on the film in post-production, as the feeling was that the original rough cut was not entirely successful (as per Mr. Hayden’s opinion). You even made mention of this in your acceptance speech (partially signed, which was wonderful of you to do!), referring to Mr. Ashby’s talents not only as a director, but with his ability with “the scissors” (editing).

    I feel as if I were on a snipe hunt. Please, if you will, let me know if there is a later draft of Coming Home that resembles more closely the finished film. I understand (from personal experience, ha ha!) that screenplays go through myriad revisions. But now and then one strikes gold (as happened with my search for Klute’s screenplay).

    So, should I maintain hope that a draft is out there, or chalk it up to searching for, in this screenwriter’s mind, the Ark of the Covenant?

    I apologize for troubling you about this, but I figured if anyone had such knowledge, it would be you, without whose ideas one night while lying bed this story would never have been, nor the classic film that is its result.

    Thank you.

    Warm regards,

    John

    • Dear John, Frankly, I don’t know how you can get the final script of Coming Home. Truth be told, 3 writers won the Oscar for screenplay but much of it was improvised with Bob Jones recording the improvs which we’d often do on the set with Hal Ashby on weekends and shaping them into script form for us for the next day’s shoot.

      • Thank you for the information, Ms. Fonda. It was very kind of you to respond. You’re truly a mensch, ma’am… as I knew you would be. When in high school, I remember a teacher telling me of how a friend of hers worked for a charity for the elderly. This friend wrote to you and asked if there was anything you’d care to donate, and you sent her your On Golden Pond screenplay. How kind of you!

        As for Coming Home, as I understand it, Nancy Dowd wrote the original script, the title of which was, I believe Buffalo Ghost (which I’m sure would be impossible to find). Then Mr. Hellman came aboard, bringing with him Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Salt, the latter of whom took the story in his own direction. Then Mr. Schlesinger bowed out (the next he did was, I believe, Yanks). Then Mr. Robert C. Jones, who you have just written recorded the improvs. Perhaps that’s what you meant in your touching acceptance speech when thanked Mr. Jones for “helping out in a pinch.”

        If I may ask, who changed the name “Hayne” to “Hyde”? And why? I’m guessing given Sally’s transformation in the film, it might have been the more symbolic name to use?

        On a better note, I finally located a later draft of The China Syndrome. I had an earlier draft, which was titled Eyewitness, written by James Bridges, Mike Gray, and T.S. Cook. The later draft is the “As-Shot” screenplay. The way in which the dialogue is written (using “–” as punctuation) gives it a nice, naturalistic flow. And I had to smile when, on page five, I got to Kimberly’s line about “selfish-sufficiency” (ahem, you know the rest of the line, and I don’t wish to write an expletive in polite deference to those who read this blog and might be offended). Anyway, I had to smile because I could just hear you, as Kimberly, flubbing the line. (May I say you’re beautiful in every film you do — spiritually as well as physically; to me, beauty is more than just visual appeal — but as a redhead: Wow!)

        It’s a wonderful script. Talk about economy of words! Studying it has already helped me to tighten a screenplay on which I’m currently working — which is based in part on the life of Miguel de Cervantes and juggles three different stories and timelines — which is quite ambitious. I was nervous about it at first, which is always a good indicator that I’ll do something. From what I’ve read about actors, it’s something they and we writers have in common: “If you fear it, do it.” But the producer has trust in me and has told me that he is quite pleased with what I’ve written thus far. Which certainly is encouraging, especially during those wee hours when I’m the only one awake in the house, holed away in my writing room, staring at a blank screen whose cursor seems to be goading: “Go ahead. Try it. I DARE you.” Given my tenacity, I tell that blank space, “All right then. You ASKED for it!” (Ha-ha.) At such moments in life, I remember a line from another great screenplay — Missing (1982) by Costa Gavras, Donald Stewart, and John Nichols: “Charlie says guilt is like fear; it’s given to us for purposes of survival, not destruction.” Rather apt, no?

        Recently, I also got the script for The Morning After. In the great and formidable gallery of characters you’ve created, Alexandra Sternbergen is one of my favorites. Your performance is admirable for its humanity, vulnerability, strength, resourcefulness — I’ll stop, as there are a plethora of adjectives I could use yet.

        Interesting thing, though. As I understand it, James Hicks wrote the screenplay. As did James Cresson (a pseudonym, I believe, Mr. Hicks used). However, the draft I have is by a man named David Rayfiel. What gives? Is he another of Mr. Hicks’s pseudonyms, or an entirely different person?

        Such an interesting film, and a very intense character study. And hey! Lots of great artists whose work one may admire while watching it. Not only Mr. Lumet (whose films I adore), but also the incomparable Ann Roth. Easily one of the best costume designers working in film. That she wasn’t recognized with at least a nomination for her lovely work on Sweet Dreams is shameful. Of course you know what Ms. Roth said to Brenda Vaccaro while making Midnight Cowboy? It’s quite hilarious.

        Anyway, thank you so much for providing me with information about Coming Home. I thought the third act was improvised, and now I know for sure. As for finding the final shooting script… I’m gonna keep hopin’. Maybe one day… as the saying is.

        After all, what is life without dreaming?

        Warm regards,

        John

  28. Hi Ms. Fonda. Hope all is well. Our daughter Alexendria will be graduating from Wesleyan University in 2015. (Yes the Wesleyan.) If you were officially asked by the university, to be the commencement speaker, would you/could you accept at this time?

  29. Hi jane

    This is a huge long shot in the dark, with a blindfold on, but I was a semifinalist in last years Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship. I have a deeply spiritual script, entitled Javelins of Light, that I would like to get to you, that neither my manager nor myself can get past the guard dogs at CAA. Is there a way to get the script to your agent or manager, if you gave the go ahead? Sorry, to post this here, but as you know, most really good dramatic scripts never see the light of day!

    Best

    Gavin

    • send to Steven Bennett at 1470 W Peachtree St, NW, Atlanta 30309

  30. Will do….thank you so much!

  31. Watched Oprah last night. As a coach, I am always inspired by others that overcome adversity and by those that help them along the way. Your response about how your daughter teaches you more lessons than you teach her is so humble. Our Carl Junction High School Volleyball team will hear about your daughter wanting to go to the Antarctic to face her fear of cold tomorrow morning at our open gym. And how cool is it (and I’m paraphrasing) that you said you didn’t fear cancer, but that you just joined a club(even how horrible it is) of other inspiring women. Your family just inspired me to be a better person and coach! How about a shout out for the Bulldogs!

  32. Hi Jane,

    I was wondering what happened in Vietnam with the POW’s. What was going through your mind? What feelings did you have? There’s a lot of publicity going around that you were awful to the prisoners of war?… If this is true, I know at the end of this life, you’re going to have to pay for that. Life isn’t just about getting people to like you Jane. Because in the end, those people are just looking for other people to like them… it gets you no where. Anyways, I was wondering about the remarks given by this man in particular…

    RONALD D. SAMPSON, CMSgt,
    USAF 716 Maintenance Squadron,
    Chief of Maintenance DSN: 875-6431 COMM: 883-6343

    I you could clear this up that would be nice.

    Carissa

    • Carissa, None of the stories about my being responsible for torture and death of any POWs are true. Please check my blog from two years ago about my trip to North Vietnam. I don’t fully understand why the lies continue to circulate. The head of the national MIA/POW organization back in the 1970s said himself the stories were false.

  33. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and self doubt on set. I am a woman in my mid 20’s working in a technical field where my coworkers are all men (women in my field are rare). At most companies, the boys club still exists in my field. I often struggle with similar issues at work. Your composure and honesty inspire me, thank you.

  34. hello Jane
    I’m isabelle from France. I just discover your blog. I follow you in youtube from extract of fitness.
    that’s so pleasure to be there and learn more about fitness, spirit health and food
    have a nice evening

  35. Hello Jane,
    I’m a longtime fan and was delighted to see you return to the big screen in Monster-in-Law. I was there on opening day, circa summer 2005, and was not disappointed.

    Monster-in-Law was on TV tonight (TBS-of course) which got me thinking and I found your wonderful website. I’d like to comment on your acting technique, and then ask a question about fitness. One of my friends asked me why I was so glad to see you back in film. I said I’ll show you, so I got a DVD of The China Syndrome and searched for the three way scene among you, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas. It’s when the three of you realize that the unthinkable almost happened. First, the camera stays on Jack with no cuts–he delivers a full range of emotions including, pain, fear and anger. He feels a certain responsibility. Then you’re on for a minute–and we know without words that this experience has changed your universe and you’re going to be a much better journalist. I told my friend that what you and Jack are projecting is not written in the script. Your acting delivers the punch, but we are not aware that you are acting. You are not Jane Fonda. You have created a real person, and both of you are very, very interesting. The excerpt from your bio is great in that is offers insight in behind the scenes preparation and how this all came about.

    Your work in Monster-in-law was also superb because you had the sympathy and affection of the audience, despite doing all of the nasty things you did to keep your son closer to you.

    Now here’s my fitness question and your answer is important. I am going to make it my mantra. I was very fit until the last few years. There’s been much sadness to deal with, and I’ve gained a lot of weight and I know that I have to get back in a routine to maintain my health and well being. What do you say to motivate yourself when you know you need to exercise but don’t because there’s always some distraction, or you are just plain tired. Your answer will go in my billfold, be taped on the bathroom mirror and the TV remote. And it will probably work because if you say so, it’s so. Thanks! Hope to see you soon again in the theatre.

    Kindly,
    Nathan from North Carolina

    • Nathan, my mantra is this: Just do it. It may be hard, may be awful but when you’re through, you’ll feel so much better about yourself. It’s that ‘after’ feeling of satisfaction and pride that becomes the motivation to do what you dread doing. As you do this more, you look forward to the ‘after’ feeling which can, if you push yurself hard enough, include the euphoria that is induced by the release of endorphins.

  36. I must say if love you comedic acting in Cat Ballou and Barefoot in the Park and you along with Monster-in-Law. That gift to make your audience laugh, you should do a one woman show base on that kind of humor. Is a comedy movie any easy to act than l serious movie or is it just the same with different lines.

    Brendan

  37. Your recent work in the “Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding”, “The Butler” films and “The Newsroom” series reminds me of the activism that made me admire you for so many years. As an activist musician, your choices as an artist inspire me.

    As the father of a lovely, “young, gifted and black” actor and recent Spelman College Graduate, I would welcome any advice or words of wisdom that your father may have shared with you that have helped you to navigate your path in the film industry.

    My youngest daughter Hope Alexandria Harris (iMDb) moved out to Burbank this year to pursue her passion for acting after being cast as a teen in a few films and Cable series that were produced out here in the Land of Enchantment.

    I try not to worry about her or give any reason to think that I am not absolutely certain that she will continue to be successful in her creative pursuits. She has a commercial agent and landed 4 national commercials (including Nintendo, KIA, Google) that will air this fall during the holidays. Finding an agent for her film acting and writing objectives has proven more of a challenge.

    Hope diligently studies her craft (Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute) and has interned at the Festival de Cannes for the past few years under Creative Minds organization.As you can see, I believe in my daughter and this shameless introduction and thinly veiled request for mentor assistance is born out of my inability to assist Hope further.

    Antway, your blog is truely wonderful and I hope all is well with you and yours.

    Much Continued Successful!

    gdh

  38. hi there
    a little excited about speaking to THE jane fonda. I am trying to express in an amateurish way my admiration for the tenacity that you shown as you have have gone through, jane, your whole life and seem to come up against so much nasty and SELFISH people who just don t know how to love and cherish others. I thank you for your warmth and cherish your humanity, you honest mistakes of the past and your positive outlook for the future. I am also surprised to read of your conversion to Christianity, which makes me a doubly happy. I am a Jehovahs witness and encourage you to continue with your meditating on God;s will. I close with the words of 2 cor 1: 3, 4
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those in any sort of tribulation through the comfort with which we ourselves are being comforted by God

    keep on searching, never give up , keep the faith-
    a friend from London, UK
    phil hatzantonis (forgive the long, greek name)
    I am enjoying old gringo as I write this note and your gutsy persona is enchanting. enough of my shallowness.
    love
    phil

  39. Hi Jane,

    I am a student (in my ’30s, but better late than never) learning French and I have watched all of your movies that are French language (except All Together – I plan to see it soon). I absolutely love La curée. Vous parlez vraiment français magnifiquement. I know you were married to Roger Vadim and lived in France for several years so of course you would know how to speak French, but I also wondered if you received formal instruction growing up?

    Also, just want to say what a positive impact you have had on my life. Your strength is very inspiring and I admire it. My grandparents and I watch your movies often, and you are a topic that we love to talk about because you are consistently making good films or advocating for a meaningful cause. Thank you for being you.

    Greg

    • Greg, I studied French all yhrough school…so knew a sort of academic French but really learned “au lit.”

  40. When I watched the entry “Acting” the first film that came to my mind is your acting “On Golden Pond” because I always thought this is your best acting moment of your career.
    And now I have read this page and I´ve found you wrote about “On Golden Pond” like a very seriuos and difficult moment as actress. And as person and daughter I must say.
    So, you were so pretty and sweet with the great and hard Henry Fonda.
    As filmmaker I got my own technique to direct actors. It´s very dangerous to perform a scene with personal connotations, because you can play sincerely but that´s not enough. You got to make beautifulness. And sometimes you need to take distance from personal feelings.
    It is great how you pass the test on that wonderful movie.
    And rehearsal. I got doubts. There are actors who need rehearse and others prefer to keep all the energy till the real moment. A good director should know when the rehearse is enough and not destroy the spark of freshness and spontaneity. In fact I don´t like shooting the actors telling their lines perfectly. I prefer shooting them without knowing which is their next word to tell. Like in real life.

  41. I absolutely adored you, Jane, in Monster-in-Law. I thought it was the most relaxed,fun movie I had ever seen of yours. What a great sense of humor you have! To come back after so long and get a pie in the face! Hilarious! It is now one of my all-time favorites. You are truly an over-comer in real life and on screen.

  42. I seriously never knew Tall Story (1960) was your film debut. Interesting.

  43. Cool , it is cool , channeling , cool , like as in pretending , it is exactly like life , channeling and hmmm that life like life of wonderment , wondering we all experience hmmm wonderful wondering , thinking the what , where , whens , thinking about it all , is it part of life , is it living , breathing , cool, yeah , channeling,ing,ing it takes mucho concentration , I try it , I do it , it is super fun , channeling , characterisation hmm characterization , stepping into anothers shoes , another who about which one only knows what bits and tids one knows , channeling , I love it , it can be like ” scarey ” for sure , hands down , it can scare me and nobody is watching I , nobody is reviewing I , i do it for myself , , , I say this Jane , when I become self conscious in devolving ways … whence I am a playing others for myself for fun , I say what the oopah loopah doopahdee doo all it is it is all nothing yet it is all of the everything , all rolled into one big messy jelly roll of this , that , and , fun , fun , scary ness , work , sweat , fun , , if I channel anothers shod life to any hmmm acceptable to myself degree , my daily degree of ” success ” varies , but oooofah loopah I shall , I will , I will look too my I am happy in my happy self self spot spot and say tomorrow is tomorrow and perhaps I will tomorrow I will , hmmm , tomorrow , How jane , how about stage work , , , that , stage work has to be just electrifying hmm elec tri fi ing … Oh excuse hallo Jane I am I , jef…f…. How are you , I am fine …

  44. Dear Jane:
    It is an honor and pleasure to finally subscribe (having been a fan of yours from the 1960s when I was in my teens & early twenties). You are an amazing lady: – classy, sophisticated, talented, successful, beautiful, fit, wise, erudite. I have seen numerous of your great movies but notice you have not included the academy award winning Cat Ballou (Lee Marvin played both the good guy and the bad guy; How did you find him to work with? Was he similar in real life as in the movies?).
    In retrospect, you were correct (though vilified at the time) in opposing the brutal bombing in Viet Nam. That required much motivation, humanity, bravery, sacrifice by you. Perhaps your technique or methods might have been better (?), but you were much younger and inexperienced then.
    I should get your new book “My Life So Far”; fascinating excerpt. I also have “Jane Fonda: Heroine For Our Time”, and “Fonda: Her Life In Pictures”, which I must read again.
    Yours Truly,
    Brian Vollmer

  45. Jane, maybe I’m finally getting how these blog threads go. This seems to be an appropriate place to say that I have tried to see you as a person, not as a written character with scripted words. Your first book just was so open, so giving and so courageous that you opened that door wide, but I want to comment on three interviews you did and where I think I saw YOU. The first was on the Tavis Smiley Show with your adopted daughter being interviewed about her newly released book. What I saw from you was a proud, supportive, unconditional love. As an excellent actress you know how NOT to steal a scene. You said your piece, then sat back, didn’t insert yourself or even move. Instead you gave her your attention and support as she did her interview. It made me cry. I love seeing that kind of giving. Beautiful as a sunset. The second interview was with Lily. You were seated on these very highs chairs. You were answering the interviewer and Lily was rocking back and forth on her non-rockable chair making an effort to get closer to you. She asked her what she was doing? She told you she was trying to get closer. You got off your chair and moved it over to touch against hers, then climbed back up all the while continuing to respond to the questions. I loved that. I didn’t cry, but I loved that you were so responsive and caring in such a lovely small way. Third, interview was also with Lily. Again you were sitting closer, on a small couch, to the interviewer and answering a question. The young woman with a notebook of questions in her lap, probably didn’t have a lot of experience in interviewing and was nervous. At one point you laid your whole upper body, reaching out with a hand across the large end table to try to touch her. You asked if your answer was what she wanted. She had a script and really didn’t know how to reach back or respond. But again, I loved that moment where you showed how important it was to you to please and to communicate clearly. At the beginning of this blog you shared what you felt as an actress when you reach inside and everything is there and clicks for you to be able to give what you have to a BIG SCENE. You said that your energy had been siphoned way before you did your big scene in ON GOLDEN POND. Your inner point of view is always right for you. But I want to share my feeling and reaction to that scene. I don’t know how any actress including yourself could have shown more raw openness, more vulnerability or sold those moments to a viewer better than you did. That is THE SCENE that makes me cry every time I see it. Not the Hepburn scenes, (and she was an icon to me); not your father’s scenes, (though I greatly admired all of his work and it hurt to see him, knowing we would all lose him). It was you at the water’s edge talking to him, saying what Chelsea needed from him that always tears my heart to pieces. So, again, I close with that admission using that awkward, but needed to be reclaimed word, you are my shero. Dona

  46. Hi Jane,

    I hope you see this but I don’t know if you will since these posts are all from 2011. I stumbled across this finding your website to try to write a fan message. Funny it’s relevant. I just watched season 4 the episode (I believe 2) where Grace is testing Nick to see if he really wants to be with her….. talk about a big scene for a character.

    Thank you for giving this one your all… I actually teared up and clapped and said atta girl! To actually wipe your make up off in the middle of the scene. oh my god. This is so powerful for sooo many reasons -I’m sure you know.

    For woman feeling insecure of our appearance to men is prevalent at all ages, even me at 29. To watch you, someone admired by so many for strength and beauty (especially now), take off your make up on an episode for millions to see…. is the most beautiful thing. Watching Grace over come this was very moving. Showing men who we really are, and being bold enough to is one thing of course… but look at the example you just set for woman of all ages, Jane Fonda? To be so comfortable in yourself, to know the image the world sees you as and be willing to show the real you is the best example you could have ever made. Even Jane Fonda wears fake eye lashes, no matter what age of her you are talking about that statement is big. I’ve never seen a celebrity do this and not put nude make up on pretending they have none one. You are an inspiration to all.

    I can actually say that this episode and this whole series has made me feel okay with getting older, I’m not worried. Can’t wait to watch more Grace and Frankie.

    PS – I love how inclusive the show is, even having a deaf person cameo. This show is amazing. You are amazing and so is Lily Tomlin, and the whole cast!!!

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