“To drink or not to drink?” That is one of the many questions that Jane Fonda poses in her new documentary. Lounging around, getting her hair done, the Oscar-winning actress starts to dish about her beverage of choice. “They only serve wine,” she laughs. “I don’t drink champagne. I don’t drink wine. I drink vodka. I’ll have to bribe somebody.”
“Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” which premieres on Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, is an intimate portrait of a movie star and activist. Director Susan Lacy (“Spielberg,” “American Masters”) interviewed Fonda a dozen times. She planned trips with Fonda to revisit moments from her past, and conducted secondary interviews with her pal Robert Redford, her ex-husbands and her kids.
Fonda spoke to Variety about the movie, which airs on HBO later this year.
Why did you agree to do a documentary?
I had written a book already and so I was used to talking about my life. I knew Susan [Lacy] from “American Masters.” I didn’t realize that she was a director and I saw the documentary she did on David Geffen. It was so good.
Were you nervous about visiting any of the places from your past?
Well, the more meaningful place we went to where I had never been was my mother’s grave in Ogdensburg, New York. And that was a very emotional experience for me. I had issues with my mother and it took me a long time to get over that and to kind of reconcile myself with my mother and come to love her and forgive her. She killed herself when I was 12.
What did it feel like to finally see her grave?
[She starts to tear up.] Sad, that she died so young without my ever really knowing her. Grateful, that I had come to a place where I could love her and forgive her. Complicated.
One of my favorite parts of the movie is when you visit your ex-husband Ted Turner’s ranch.
I go there from time to time. It was an escrow when I started dating him. He had another ranch, a 60,000 acre ranch. He said “Do you want to see a ranch I’m going to maybe buy that’s 180,000 acres?” And we drove through and he said ‘’Should I buy it?” And I said, “No.” It just didn’t seem right that someone would own that much property. Then I got to know him and I realized well he protects it. I built the house that we were in. And planted the trees. He sends me the apples from the apple tree. It’s a little weird to go back. He’s there with other women now and things have changed a little, but not much.
He says in the movie that he wishes he could still be with you. Were you surprised?
We are very, very close. It’s complicated. We talk about it all the time. He taught me a lot.
Did you base your media mogul character in “The Newsroom” on him?
No. He inspired the performance that I gave in “Monster-in-Law,” because 10 years with Ted, you know he’s so flamboyant and he has such a great sense of humor. And he’s not afraid of being over-the-top. What my decade with Ted brought to me for “The Newsroom” was feeling comfortable in that kind of environment.
What was it like watching your documentary?
It was really hard. And it will be really hard [at the premiere] when I see it again. I hope I don’t cry. It’s one thing to write about yourself. Susan didn’t shy away from talking about things that are very difficult for me on a lot different levels. And then your children are talking about you and it’s a kind of white-knuckle experience.
There’s a lot in the movie about your political evolution as an activist, starting with the Vietnam War.
I’m glad about that because I think it shows that people aren’t born politically brave. People aren’t necessarily born feminists.
What is your biggest fear about the Trump administration?
The most immediate fear is what’s happening to our planet because that’s not reversible and it’s very dire. Secondly, I fear that our democracy is being taken from us. However, the good part is, as Jerry Brown recently said, “He’s totally negative energy.” Except maybe when he’s with a porn star! Isn’t that terrible to be able to say that about your president? He’s total negative energy and he moves in the world, and it releases positive energy from other people. That’s why so many people are rising up and being active that never were before; running for office when they never considered doing it before. It’s not just because he set the bar so low. It’s because, “Help!” I’ve got to be a part of saving this country and everything we stand for. So there’s a good side to it.
Do you think he’ll be impeached?
I have no idea. Every day there’s some outrageous thing that’s happened. Then there’s discussion of the trauma and impeachment. We have to be careful not to let ourselves get distracted, because while we are paying attention to that, our country is being stolen behind our backs.
Do you think you’ll see a female president in your lifetime?
I intend to live long enough to do that.
Do you think Oprah should run for president?
I think she’s a very powerful persona. I think her values are totally, 100 percent fabulous. I don’t think she’s going to run. If she did, I would support her, because I think she would surround herself with the best people.
Earlier this week at the Sundance press conference, Robert Redford talked about how we’re at a tipping point as a result of the #MeToo movement.
Rob Redford said that? Yay!
Do you feel like what’s happening right now is creating real change in Hollywood?
Hollywood is the least of it. The Time’s Up movement is very different than the #MeToo movement. The Time’s Up movement is about taking action to create change. One of the wonderful things that I love about the Time’s Up movement is that they understand the importance of intersectionality, of reaching out to other sectors where women aren’t famous and aren’t white and are terribly vulnerable. They face terrible sexual harassment. Domestic workers, farmer workers, restaurant works, and so forth. Time’s Up is putting its arms around all those sectors. That’s why I think it’s a very profound movement that will be around for long, long time. I do think it’s a tipping point. We’re not going back.
When did you first become aware that you weren’t being paid as much as your male counterparts?
Last year. See, this is going to strike you as weird. But I never paid any attention. Well, of course Rob Redford’s going to be paid more money. I’m just me. He’s him. So I just assumed that that was the way it was and I took it for granted. It wasn’t until a lot of the younger people in my industry began to speak out about it and I began to pay attention. Now I’m old so it doesn’t matter that much.
Do you negotiate differently now?
I don’t negotiate anything. My agents negotiate for me. I think I goosed them a little more than I used to.
You bcame a meme after an interview with Megyn Kelly went viral. Would you ever go on her show again?
So you weren’t upset that she asked you about plastic surgery?
No. It wasn’t like I was upset. I was stunned. It was so inappropriate. It showed that she’s not that good an interviewer. But if she comes around and learns her stuff, sure.