It only seems appropriate that, when the Hollywood elite celebrated Jane Fonda’s activism as much as her screen work at the 42nd AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday night, the organization’s president/CEO Bob Gazzale would remind the audience that Fonda and Shirley MacLaine once protested the Institute’s lack of women in its conservatory — which led to its directing workshop for women.
That was 40 years ago.
In a town where throwing one’s support behind causes usually amounts to open wallets and hashtagging on Twitter at the least and a PSA at the most, Fonda’s front-lines engagement is clearly a standard to which most in the room could only aspire. In fact, one filmed tribute to the Oscar-winning actress had the look and feel of a PSA, with Robert De Niro, Annette Bening and Vanessa Redgrave paying respectful tribute. Also, in one of the more emotional moments of the night, Vietnam vet Ron Kovic took to the stage to speak about “Coming Home” (a film he inspired) and the importance of Fonda being both a movie star and an activist.
But there were some laughs.
Jeff Daniels, who stars in HBO’s “The Newsroom” with Fonda, paid tribute to the honoree’s fitness regiment. But instead of speaking, the actor opted for an acoustic musical performance that centered around “Abs, Buns and Thighs,” while some of her workout tapes played on a screen behind him. Sandra Bullock also asked for advice on how to make her derriere more like Fonda’s.
Others saluting Fonda included past AFI honorees Mel Brooks, Michael Douglas and Meryl Streep, who recalled meeting Fonda on her first film, “Julia,” and described her elder’s “almost feral alertness to everything around her that made me feel lumpy and from New Jersey, which I am.”
Wanda Sykes, Cameron Diaz and Fonda’s brother Peter Fonda also spoke. Sykes appeared in the arms of a blind angel, a spoof on Fonda’s “Barbarella” sci-fi film, which Roger Vadim directed in 1968. They spoke about her years in Paris and her activism.
“It’s much more to be interested than interesting,” Fonda herself said as her parting words to her adoring crowd that night — lines she has uttered earlier upon reflecting on the honor.