Even after living through decades in the entertainment industry and enough real-life twists to fill several biographies beyond her own, Jane Fonda has still found herself surprised by the force of the #MeToo reckoning that has rocked Hollywood to its core.
“I never thought I would live to see this happen,” Fonda marveled at an event in New York City for “Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” the HBO documentary detailing her storied life that premieres Sept. 24 on HBO. But in order for the movement to affect real change, she maintained, it has to include survivors of abuse outside Hollywood, center intersectionality, and prioritize pay equity in order to empower women from the start.
As for the perpetrators, Fonda had little sympathy. “Guys are trying to make a comeback and they haven’t done the work,” she said, citing Charlie Rose’s efforts to get back on television as an example. “It doesn’t matter how much time [they’ve been out of work],” she insisted. “If they haven’t done the work, then why should they come back?” Still, Fonda maintained that she has “tremendous compassion for boys and men,” but that “we just have to fix them, or at least show them the way.”
“Men are trained not to be empathic, not to be emotional. So it’s not easy what they’re trying to do,” Fonda said of men who make an actual effort to better themselves. “But they have to try to do it! So it doesn’t matter if it’s been two weeks or two years. It just matters what kind of changes they’ve gone through.” In fact, Fonda said, “Why not do what the guys who lose their union jobs in Pennsylvania do? Work at Starbucks, f— it!”
“‘Oh, poor top-paid executives who can’t get his job back,'” Fonda added, voice thick with sarcasm. “F— it! Sweep the floor at Starbucks until you learn! If you can’t learn, you don’t belong in the boardroom. And there are plenty of women who do belong in the boardroom,” she added to applause from the room, including Fonda’s friend and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.
For the most part, however, the event focused on Fonda and how “American Masters” director Susan Lacy set about bringing her life to vivid detail in the documentary. “I told [Lacy] I didn’t want it to be a documentary about a movie star,” Fonda told Variety. “I wanted it to really reflect all of who I am.” Fonda and Lacy recovered decades of archival footage and material, including recordings of Richard Nixon disparaging Fonda’s activism in an experience that Fonda called “transformative.”
Then again, as she told Variety, “it’s not easy to look at how vacuous I was as a young girl. But it’s good, because it shows that you don’t have to get stuck. You can evolve, if you stay curious and keep working at it.”
And Fonda intends to keep evolving. “Now I think I’ll live longer than 90, because if Gloria [Steinem] is going to do it, I’m going to do it,” she wisecracked later, though there was a serious undercurrent to the joke. “Now that I’m almost 81 and I feel pretty good, I do want to last. I’ll be right there, nipping at your heels.”