Jane Fonda has successfully combined Oscar-winning Hollywood celebrity and firebrand political activism with a fitness video empire.
So it’s no surprise to learn that she came to this year’s Cannes Film Festival wearing more than one hat.
Her first job was to promote Jane Fonda in Five Acts, an HBO documentary about her life that played in the festival’s Cannes Classics section.
Her second is her role as a L’Oreal brand ambassador. Here is what the 80-year-old star of 9 to 5, Netflix sitcom Grace and Frankie and upcoming release Book Club had to say when we met earlier this week.
Why choose to make a documentary now?
Because [director] Susan Lacy asked me to! She’s a great documentary film-maker whom I both knew and respected. For a number of years many people have asked to do a documentary about me, but I wanted to work with her and with HBO.
Did she always know how to present your life?
Not in the beginning, no. I said to her at the beginning that my life is not just about being a movie actor and a celebrity – activism is equally important to me. One of the things that’s unusual is she didn’t interview many other people. She interviewed some of my children and my best friend, but I do most of the talking.
How did the film’s five-act structure come about?
Susan decided how to structure it after doing the interviews and understanding from me what my life has been about. For a long time I was defined by men – my father [Henry Fonda] and my three husbands [Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner].
It was not until I was in my sixties that it was me that defined my life. That’s what guided her and the structure of the film.
Grace and Frankie has had four seasons on Netflix. What’s the secret of its success?
I think it’s popular because it’s funny, it’s not anxious and it’s easy on the eye. We all need to laugh a little and not be so anxious these days. Lily Tomlin and I love each other in real life and it comes across on screen – people like our back and forth and our playing off each other vey much.
We did not expect this – we thought it would be a show for older women, maybe older men, but it turns out it’s popular across all ages, genders and nationalities. I feel very lucky.
More from Cannes:
- Solo film brings Star Wars to Cannes
- ‘Torturous’ Cannes film sparks outrage
- Spike Lee tells the world to ‘wake up’
- Kristen Stewart goes barefoot at Cannes
This year’s festival has been dominated by Time’s Up and #MeToo. Why are they striking such a chord?
I think they’re very important. I don’t think a lot of people, especially men, have realised how epidemic sexual mistreatment of women is. And it’s not just in the workplace, though that is where we’re focusing at the moment.
Up until now women were not believed. Men made up excuses – they want money, they want attention, they want to destroy that man.
It’s unfortunate to say that one of the reasons it has caught fire this time is because the first women of the #MeToo movement were famous and white. African-American women have been talking about this for a long long time, and no-one listened.
So where do we go from here?
We have to begin to differentiate between the real aggressors, the criminals and [pause] bad dates! It’s not all equal. A lot of men say, “I’m so scared now, I don’t know how to behave.” Come on! Any man with half a brain knows when he’s treating another person with respect.
It doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humour or tell a woman she’s pretty. It’s when you cross a line, and every man knows where that line is – or at least they do now.
Why be an ambassador for a cosmetics company?
I’m 80 and I want to show that a woman can look good despite of her age. I want to show that it’s OK – you don’t have to be frightened of getting old.
Jane Fonda In Five Acts will air in the US and UK later this year. Book Club is out in the UK on 1 June. The 71st Cannes Film Festival continues until 19 May.
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