THE YIN AND YANG OF IT ALL

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(What this blog is about happened 2 weeks ago. I was going to post it when I left Switzerland but I left my MacBook Pro lap top in my hotel room and only now have returned to Switzerland–Davos this time– and been reunited with it. Since I wrote this I feel as if several lifetimes have passed, the most dramatic and formidable part of which was receiving an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award. I will be blogging about that next but I did want to post this, albeit belatedly, because I spent so much time on it and because my website community lets me know they like to know what I’m doing and where I’m doing it. So here it is!)

What a life I live, swinging between extremes, trying to maintain a balance within the tensions of opposing realities. Within the last 10 days there’s been a first trip to Cannes to work for L’Oreal which has meant walking the red carpet in a gorgeous red Ellie Saab gown; shooting a commercial with four other L’Oreal actor/ambassadors, Blake Lively, Zoe Saldana and Laetitia Casta. Again this year, the photographer was the brilliant Norman Jean Roy who will, when it is all done, combine different shoots so that a dozen or more women, all dressed in white, will be together in one film, wearing vivid red lipstick— because we’re worth it.

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I have never considered myself glamorous nor been considered glamorous until my seventies when, because I look pretty good for my age–76–and am paying more attention to what I wear in public, my perception has changed and while walking red carpets isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do, I pretend I’m playing a character, try to copy some of Gwen Stefani’s moves and enjoy the company of the other L’Oreal Ambassadors. We tend to laugh a lot together. In fact L’Oreal Paris is an unusually great company to work for in no small part because the president, Cyril Chapuy, hires talented, nice people and enjoys a good time himself. Plus, the products are good!

The 2nd night in Cannes, I attended the big party held by the jewelers, Chopard, whose gems I wear. For this evening I wore a shining, golden beaded ombre Gucci gown. Here I am in the dress with “The Glam Team,” left to right: Juan Carlo who did my hair, me, Michael Angel who styles all the L’Oreal women (& is a real angel!), Charlotte Willer who did my makeup and her assistant, Sonya. Great people all!

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At the Chopard party I ran into pals Cate Blanchett and Penelope Cruz but it was too crowded to take pictures. Then I attended a fundraiser for FinancePlanet, an organization that provides micro finance loans to women in developing countries and managed to get to bed before 1am because early the next morning I flew to Zurich, Switzerland and was driven 2 hours to the little town of Flims, nestled in the beautiful Swiss Alps. Talk about a study in contrasts!

Two weeks earlier, Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian writer/director who won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film for “The Great Beauty,” had begun shooting his new movie, “Youth,” starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Paul Dano. I play a terrific character unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Paolo is keeping things close to the chest (no press allowed) and i don’t think he’d be happy if I revealed what my character looks like, but it’ll be a shock–a very wonderful shock I feel. I hope. This marks the 5th woman I’ve played in a little over a year, all of them very different–two of them have already appeared publicly–Nancy Reagan in “The Butler” and Leona Lansing in “The Newsroom.” (Last week I shot a scene for Newsroom’s 3rd season. It was another kick ass Sorkin gem)

When I arrived on a Saturday at the Hotel Waldhaus in Flims, the hotel had not yet officially opened and there was no room service, almost no hotel staff and it was hard to find my way around. Fortunately two resourceful production assistants, Anna and Rebecca, managed to find me the right plugs to charge my iPhone and computer and directed me to the gym. With all the flying, red carpets and pressure to be on top of my game, my body was crying out for sweat and endorphins.

The place appeared virtually empty despite the fact that the entire cast and crew of the film is living and working here. Everyone must have been hold up in their rooms and it all felt spooky, rather like the hotel in “The Shining.” The next day, Michael Caine and his wife, Shakira, took me to lunch at a beautiful restaurant on a golf course in Flims, (the only one open anywhere it being Sunday). He said that he found this location the strangest of his career which, given the number of films he’s made, is truly saying something. In 1966, I made a movie with Michael, “Hurry Sundown” (not very good, I’m afraid) and it was fun to reconnect with him low these many decades later. He remains tall, trim, funny and a true gentleman and Shakira is an elegant, beautiful woman.

I want to try to describe this 5-star hotel which is 138 years old and famous throughout Switzerland and beyond. There are several different buildings, all with their own personalities, connected by eerie underground tunnels (for the winter months, I presume). Here’s the entrance to one of the tunnels.

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Here’s what it looked like once you’re inside the tunnel:

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The tunnels span out in all directions and it’s easy to get lost in them. Above ground, one walks from one building to the other under these metal roofs:

This is the main hotel:

This is another building, also 125 years old.

There are a number of lovely, gnarled, moss-covered trees like this one (below) in the hotel garden.

Below is the Pavilion which houses the lunch and dinner restaurants and ballrooms and beneath it is the fantastic spa and gym. Far in the distance, you can barely see the mountain which has one of Switzerland’s largest, most popular ski resorts and I was told that because of this, winter is the hotel’s most crowded season. I shot my main scene with Harvey in a ballroom in the Pavilion. Like so much of Sorrentino’s work, the ambiance in the huge empty ballroom with just the two of us seated in elaborate, high-backed leather armchairs having an intense conversation, had a decidedly surreal quality about it.

Here we are, Harvey and I, getting ready to run lines together in the Pavilion. I like how the landscape is reflected in the mirrored post between us. What a sweet, interesting face he has. I like and admire him so much! My boyfriend, Richard, has known Harvey’s talented writer/director wide, Daphna Kastner, for many years and is godfather to their son, Roman.

I ran into Rachel Weisz one evening when I went to watch some night shooting. She plays Michael Caine’s daughter. A wonderful role for a very talented actor. Her husband is Daniel Craig. I don’t know how many of you saw my scene in the 2nd season of “The Newsroom,” (quite a scene it was!!) when my character goes on and on, drunk and stoned, about how mad she is that she went to a fundraiser in order to meet Daniel Craig and he never showed and she berates Jeff Daniel’s character for not looking like Craig. “Everybody should look like Daniel Craig,” she shouts. I want to try and send a DVD of the scene to Rachel and Daniel who should get quite a kick out of it.

I love glass elevators and the Waldhaus has a very nice one.

Here is my bedroom. Spare and clean, like most hotels in this part of the world. I especially like their beds with the duvets folded on top rather than tucked in like we do in the U.S.

My living room.

Views from my window:

This is the breakfast dining room which wasn’t open my first time there.

This first trip to Flims, lasting 3 days, was taken up with makeup, costume and wig fittings. I wear 3 different wigs in this film and while I can’t show you a photo of me in full character, I can’t resist these pictures of me when the makeup and hair stylists are preparing me for one of my wigs. (I had to first be made bald!)

Below Is Aldo Signoretti, working on my wig. He and makeup artist (next to him), Maurizio Silvi, are renowned in their fields, working with the best of the best such as Bertolucci, Visconti, Fellini, Baz Luhrmann and, of course, Sorrentino. It is fascinating to watch them work. For instance, I play an 80-year-old diva of the old school. In that capacity, Maurizio has me wearing bright red lipstick and, much to my surprise, he lines my lips in black, “The way they used to do,” he says. Who knew? Aldo is so focused on detail that he makes me bald so that when the blond wig comes off in a scuffle (in a scene I will shoot in Rome in July!), my gray hair beneath (another wig) is revealed and, beneath that one can see my scalp because the hair is so thin. It’s a process that takes 3 hours!

On my day off I went for a 3 hour hike with a local yoga teacher, Carmen Clavadetscher (below). We started walking through the town of Flims.

The forest is a combination of deciduous and pine trees. This is Cauma See lake. It has a Romanish name because in this one region of the world there is a Roman language only spoken by very few people. Some say it is a bit of a combination of Latin, Italian and Portuguese. The Swiss government is taking pains to not lose the language which is taught in schools in this region.

The remarkable color of the lake, Carmen told me, is the result of the minerals leeching into it from the mountains. Beautiful, huh?

We looked down onto a tributary of the famous River Rhine. You can see a landslide on the far bank.

Here is more evidence of the frequent landslides experienced here:

Here’s a town of mostly vacation homes. Given the risk of landslides I wouldn’t want to risk building in such a place. Carmen told me that the rock mountains are filled with water.

Here’s another lake, Cresta See Lake. Also a gorgeous blue-green.

During the trip, I was reading the great novel, “The Snow Leopard” by the late writer/field biologist Peter Matthiessen, and it seemed the perfect accompaniment to being in the alps as it tells of his arduous trek into the Himalayas in search of the rare snow leopard and blue sheep. The book is both a description of his journey but also a profound Zen treatise/life lesson that took me deep into a soulful place that I cherish but, no sooner had I begun to relax into it and into the beauty of the mountains, than I was required to return to Cannes for another day of interviews (They were not uninteresting since 2 of the interviewers were Irish and Israeli) and then into another gown and red carpet for the annual AMFAR benefit in the fight against AIDS.

It wasn’t exactly a hardship as the gown was a drop dead rose-lavender beaded gem by Versace. Here I am with stylist Michael Angel who sat at Cyril Chapuy’s table with me. I have to say that no one does bead work like Versace. On this dress, it was actually 3-dimentional. Never saw anything like it. Gianni Versace was my friend and he gave me some spectacular beaded tops when he was still alive and told me how his mother beaded. I’m glad that Donatella and I are friends as well.

There was a long outdoor reception and there I met Kylie Minogue. What a perfect little bundle of beauty!

Inside, the auction raised $38 million!!!! It was quite a show. (When I got back to the US several days later, I watched “The Normal Heart” on HBO, a true and beautifully made story about the beginnings of the fight against AIDS. There I learned that at the very first fundraiser organized back in the day when the powers that be refused to take it seriously as an epidemic that affected everyone, they raised $13,000)

I left the event early because I was afraid I’d caught a chill outside and I had to fly back to Switzerland early the next morning and film my scene for Sorrentino the following evening. Whew!

So, anyway, I filmed the 5-page scene with Harvey which was a trippy (in a good way) experience. I had a fun time but Paolo had us do the scene many different ways so I have no idea what he will create out the potpourri we gave him. At the very end of the evening after doing it over many times with 3 different cameras, Sorrentino put his camera waaaaay down at the very opposite end of the cavernous ballroom so that Harvey and I were little more than specks and had us do the entire scene from start to finish—and we did without missing one line!!

We Finished around 1am, I was driven back to Zurich the next morning and flew home.

I am now back in Switzerland to shoot another scene–Davos, this time–having received the AFI Award.

Stay tuned for the AFI blog. One of the most memorable events of my life.

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30 Comments
  1. Love the pictures. And you looked absolutely stunning in that Elie Saab dress. I love his dresses, they’re so beautiful.
    You’re so busy these days, I hope you have time to relax and take it easy once in a while. I love your spirit though, you’re always doing something.

  2. Thank you so much for that awesome recap! You are so generous to share the details – large and small – with your fans. The pics you took are amazing…it’s like you took us along with you! 🙂

  3. As always, love your travel blogs and this was worth the wait.
    Although you may not exactly love the red carpet, it loves you. Most celebs should take serious notes from you on the right way to do it!
    Thanks again for sharing, just love seeing the real view from the inside and places we all don’t get to visit.

    Steve C.

  4. I only skimmed through this. Yes, you have been considered glamouris before now. And, for the first time in my life, I wished for one second that I was a yoga teacher named Carmen.

  5. Jane Fonda looking good has never had anything to do with her age.

  6. Fascinating. Stunning picture of you bald. I immensely enjoy your photos of the various hotels you visit. My goal is to continue climbing the chain within the Marriott organization, so that, one day I may serve as a general manager of what they deem a level 8 (resort) property. I love studying various details, like the folded on top duvet. What a whirlwind of activity and relaxation. “The Snow Leopard” sounds like a great read.

  7. I know you are so incredibly busy, so thank you for always taking the time to write these blog entries. I enjoy them so much. I get to see the world through your eyes, seeing and learning about things I will never be able to experience myself. (I follow your Lulu/Mary on Twitter and enjoy her journeys through her eyes and pictures too.)
    The pictures of Switzerland are breathtaking! The outside of the hotel looks absolutely amazing! And you have my attention on the movie. I love the actors you list and might even have a bit of a crush on Paul Dano. 🙂 Oh, and that picture of how they made you look bald is incredible! They sure are talented!
    Thank you for attending the AMFAR benefit in the fight against AIDS. My brother lost his battle to AIDS and I am always grateful when I see people raising money for the cause. There is a documentary about the AIDS Quilt, “The Last One”, trying to make ground. It was shown at some of the film festivals. My brother’s name is listed at the end with many others in memory of.
    I am looking forward to reading about your greatly deserved AFI Life Achievement Award. I know it is on television on Saturday, but I won’t be able to see it that night. (I will be at a Detroit Symphony Orchestra performance where they will play some of Steven Spielberg/John Williams movie music and both gentleman will be there. What an awesome combo!) I hope that they will play the AFI Awards again later. I have read some of the very moving speeches about you.

  8. Jane, may I add how much I enjoyed this post. You have a great sense of welcoming the reader into your world. A talent that not all bloggers have. Thank you for sharing-A small part of me felt that it was me who was experiencing all that you wrote about! Thank you. Oh-and I love the photos that help capture everything so perfectly.

  9. Dear Jane, You make me smile as I sit here, with my 66th birthday tomorrow, wondering if I want to retire yet. You haven’t heard of that word have you? What a marvelous attitude you have about work, love, aging, life…. A few years ago – okay, many – I attended a workout program you did in Dallas, TX. I loved it and have been a loyal fan ever since. My husband and I so enjoy you on Network. (We love Jeff Daniels, too.) You might get a kick out of my upcoming book, co-written with 30 women: “What We Talk About When We’re Over 60.” You are an inspiration to us all!

  10. If you want to show Rachel and Daniel a clip of your scene in newsroom, just tell them to go on youtube and write…jane fonda newsroom, the scene is there….always available to watch!

  11. Congradulations on your AFI award!!!! You look fabulous in the diffrent dressess, they are beautiful. Love your pictures of the outdoors the colors are so vivid. Looks like awesome places to visit. When does your movie come out and where?

  12. Bonjour Jane
    J’espère que votre sĂ©jour dans les Grisons/Suisse a Ă©tĂ© agrĂ©able ?
    J’habite la Suisse dans le canton du Valais, une autre belle rĂ©gion.
    Amitiés
    Rachel

  13. All I had to do was read your blog, and I am out of breath. I cannot imagine the life you live. All I had to do was get up, feed the cats, need to make an errand run to Calais (Maine!) pronounced Cal-ass here. lol Instead of a jet my mate of 24 years is grabbing a ride to her grandkids via a guy in a mini-van; he is renovating a home he bought nearby my tiny house. He’s a psychologist whose hobby is to fix up old houses. Interesting! Always repairing something. When I am alone for the next two weeks I will sit and write, as you do. But I will not let go of that image of you in that wispy hair wig… I look forward to the film, “Youth.” My fav pic of you is with your yoga-hiker. All the others are lovely and fetching for what they stand for in life. Harvey is astounding… so are the tunnels (makes me think of WWII and castles), the vistas, the links in your story, and did you mention Cate Blanchett…. . I just fell over.

  14. That scene from The Newsroom you mention is one of my favorites of yours. So hilarious! I really enjoyed this blog entry. I feel like I’m living vicariously through you in all your travels! I envy you and your three hour hike. It looked very peaceful and serene…such beautiful landscape. I also recently watched The Normal Heart and all I have to say about it is WOW. I don’t remember ever being so moved by a film. What brilliant performances all the way around! So glad they finally got that story to the screen. And congrats on your award! Well deserved! Take care and safe travels. I look forward to your next blog post.

  15. LOVED looking at all the fantastic photos and reading about your adventures… What a life you live is right… Keep up the good work & good fight!
    Daniel
    Atlanta

  16. Thank you for taking the time to share the wonderful experiences of your life.
    Your blogs are very interesting and informative.

  17. Jane, you look gorgeous bald! And I know what you mean about those duvet covers in US hotels – I’m always yanking them out of the mattresses before hopping in the bed.

    Congratulations on the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award and thank you for your awesome blog!

  18. Merci pour le reportage étonnant ; c`est super! Bien sûr, une femme d’un certain âge, néanmoins, comme tout le monde sache sans aucun doute, la Signorina Fonda n’est q’une merveille de la jeunesse impérissable. Vive la Reine du Bal Théâtral.

  19. Hello Jane
    Just sending greetings from Finland! I just want to say what an inspiration you are, because you are beautiful, active and intelligent actress who doesn’t seem to go along with all of today’s celebrity nonsense. You are interested in political issues which is a quality missing from today’s people, unfortunately and I just love the message you are sending to the world! And I wanted to ask you how was it to work with Marlon Brando? Just yesterday I was thinking what a career you have had – the people you have met – it’s impressive =) btw I have seen you in The Golden Pond, California Suite and Monster-in-law and in The Butler and loved you in all of them xD And again btw I’m looking forward to your blogpost of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award (I didn’t know you knew Diane Lane as well, at least she was at the event, but anyhow sorry if this comment is too long but I hope you continue to blog…

  20. Hello Jane, I can see that you were, or still are in les Grisons in Switzerland, I am sure that you enjoyed this part of the country, as Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, and many famous artists did in the past. I think you were in Davos, right? The hotel Schatzhalp, on the hillside, is a former sanatorium, which inspired the subject of The Magic Mountain to Thomas Mann. It is a wonderful place which I like very much. The mountains are spiritually inspiring, if I may say. I am sure that after Cannes, it was the right place to be… Best. Christian

  21. Jane, the book “The Widows Adventures” by Charles Dickinson would be a great movie for you and Vanessa. Also Sally Field, Susan Saradon, Meryl Streep…..great story – got everything – comedy, love, forgiveness and even some drunkeness!! A family story.

    • I will read it, David. Thnk yo. Interesting, but I’m currently reading “The Tale of Two Cities.” Whew! Gorgeous!

  22. I would really like to meet Jane Fonda. Is there ever an opportunity to do so?

  23. I seem to have about as much in common with you Jane as I don’t have (LOL). Anyway I live in Atlanta.

  24. Tale of Two Cities is good but my favorite of Charles Dickens is Great Expectations – the foreshadowing in the graveyard part (not to spoil it if you have not read it) is fantastic.

  25. I remembered you mentioned “The Normal Heart” in this blog entry. I just finished watching it. Excellent. I hope it takes home several Emmy Awards. It so deserves it with such an important story. During one of your next trips to Atlanta, I highly recommend you visit where they store the AIDS Memorial Quilt (Names Project). The panels of the quilt are very moving and very powerful. (You can even request to see my brother’s panel, Stephen Korzetz.)

  26. I had to laugh when I saw that revealing and wonderful photo of yours in the bald hair cap — is that what it’s called? — and those eyelashes and wow-intense make-up: “Yep…that’s drag!”

    Make-believe is such fun.

  27. Whoa! So they packed all of your hair under that bald cap?!

    Ps- you are on FIRE! Soo stunning- rock on! Xx

    Erika

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