Jane Fonda is talking about her new film, Youth, the new drama from acclaimed Italian director Paolo Sorrentino.
“Wait ’til you see the way I look in this movie!” she says gleefully. “I play an 81-year-old Hollywood diva – it’s a fun and crazy role and it was a wonderful experience to play this person!”
Jane’s appearance in the film is little more than a cameo – the leading players being Michael Caine as an ageing composer, Rachel Weisz as his daughter and Harvey Keitel as Michael’s best friend – but what a cameo it is. She postures, demands, even at one point causes a full-on physical brawl on an aeroplane... and throughout is relentlessly, hilariously funny.
“I am very funny!” she agrees cheerfully when we meet. “You know who taught me that? My former husband, Ted Turner.
He’s hysterical. I took some time off a while back, and the first movie I made after 15 years away was Monster-in-law. It was a silly movie, but it was really popular and I was really funny in it – that’s how I discovered I could do comedy. But I never could have played that part without being married to Ted. I tend to be a bit of an Eeyore in real life, but he taught me that you can be completely outrageous and over-the-top, and still be loveable. And you know something? It’s fun!”
Nobody teaches us when we are young women to look for kindness
Jane’s romantic life has famously been a rollercoaster. Married three times – to film director Roger Vadim from 1965-1973, to politician Tom Hayden from 1973 to 1990, and to media mogul Ted from 1991 to 2001 – she now lives with music producer Richard Perry, who she met six years ago when she visited Los Angeles from her home in New Mexico to have a knee replacement.
“I came for a new knee and got a new boyfriend!” she smiles. They have been together ever since and Jane says that she could not be happier.
“He’s not threatened by me,” she says, with open relief. “He had a really strong mother and so he is not afraid of strong women. Plus, he’s kind; nobody teaches us when we are young women to look for kindness. We look for glamour, for sexiness, for the players. But nobody says that maybe the little quieter ones who aren’t so flashy are the better ones in the long haul. I wish I’d known that earlier.”
Jane – daughter of legendary movie star Henry Fonda – says that, like many women who look for love in all the wrong places, she had a difficult relationship with her father.
“Love is complicated for people who did not grow up with parents who looked into their children’s eyes with love, and whose eyes did not reflect back their child with love. In other words – people who’ve grown up thinking it was their fault that they weren’t loved. Because children always think things are their fault, and if you think you weren’t loved when you were small, you don’t suddenly get over it; you carry it into your adult relationships.”
In her own case, she says it meant that she spent much of her life looking for men who she thought could validate her. “I needed that because I never thought I was good enough on my own. If I’m living in France with Roger Vadim, I must be really something, right? Or, later, if Tom Hayden loves me, I guess I must not be too stupid after all, correct? And then, well, if someone like Ted Turner loves me, I must be valuable, I must be OK. And at last I learned that I’m actually OK on my own, that I don’t need a man to tell me so. And now that I’ve figured that out, I’m with a man who is very different from all those men who went before – I don’t need Richard to validate me, I just need him to love me. I feel very fortunate that I’ve found that kind of love so much later in life. But it took me a long time – and a lot of work –to find it.”
Jane and Richard divide their time between their home in Los Angeles and Forked Lightning ranch, the 2,300 acre spread in New Mexico which she bought soon after her marriage to Ted ended. “It’s my place and I know every inch,” she says. “I cut down trees, I build stone walls, I blaze trails, I raise chickens and eat the eggs, and I get rid of the noxious weeds that grow everywhere – I’m the President of the Noxious Weed Brigade. And I fly fish, which I love – I learned that from Ted Turner, who’s a good ol’ Southern boy. It’s very Zen, is fly fishing – you can’t think about groceries or your next deal or movie role because you have to concentrate on following that fly.”
Still, she admits that at this age – she is 77, Richard 72 – they are both seeing some health challenges. Richard has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, which he is addressing with a mixture of yoga and medication, and she herself suffers from a variety of ailments, including osteoarthritis.
“I look OK, but I’m falling apart,” she jokes. “Osteoarthritis means that little by little, various bits of my body are being replaced, so I’m sort of half-metal, or half-bionic if you want to call it that. And there’s a lot of things I can’t do these days. I can hike but I can’t ride, for instance. But I do what I can and keep on going.” So far, she seems to be doing just fine.
- Youth is out in cinemas now
- There's more celeb chat in every issue of Yours.