Still can't believe I got this interview.
Jane Fonda will turn 75 in a few weeks, and this holiday season she has released a new home workout DVD to add to her very long and impressive collection of fitness videos. Click here for JaneFonda.com where you can find all things Jane Fonda, including a shop where you can buy this video.
This woman is going to out-live all of us. She's in great shape, and still acting. She recently completed a film called "The Butler" where she played former 1st Lady Nancy Reagan.
This interview lasted a little more than 20 minutes. Here are a few highlights.
Fonda: Hi Mark.
The Big Mac Blog: Actually, it’s Mac. M-A-C.
Jane Fonda: Oh, OK.
(I could have said I was Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior and she may have had the same response).
Big Mac Blog: When you first entered the home workout video business what was
the genesis for it? And did you have any trepidation about doing it?
Jane Fonda: (laughs) Oh yes. I have always been physically active since the time I was a teenager. I did ballet up until my late teens to my mid 40s. My form of exercise was ballet, which was very rigorous. Then I broke my foot so I had to start doing what became the Jane Fonda workout. Then I wrote a book about it.
Then the sort of father of home videos was Stuart Carl and his wife read my book and said to him you should turn this into a video. He came to me and I said, ‘No way. I’m an actor I’m not going to do that.’ But he kept at me and eventually persuaded me to do it. I didn’t even know anyone who had a video player at the time. I didn’t own one. No one I knew did. It was too expensive.
But I thought, what do I have to lose? I’ll make a little money. I had no idea that my first workout video would spawn the video industry. It was the first product that came out that people, women in particular, wanted to do over and over again. It justified people shelling out the money for the hardware, which at the time was very expensive. The more people bought it the less expensive it became.
It’s why I am the only non-engineer, non-scientist to be inducted into the Video Hall of Fame. I am very proud about that. I had no idea it was going to become so successful. It sold 17 million copies. To date it’s the most successful video of all time.
Big Mac Blog: You have been in front of a camera forever, but were you more
self-conscious about filming for the home workout video than a movie?
Jane Fonda: I didn’t have time to be self conscious. It was so rudimentary. We had one camera. Now it’s become very sophisticated. You can do a lot of them very quickly.
Back then we had one camera and did our own hair and makeup. I wrote the script sitting on the floor of a hotel room. I was busy trying to get it all right then worrying about being self conscious.
Big Mac Blog: When did you become aware that you had made such a pop culture
fashion statement with those leg warmers?
Jane Fonda: Well, I don’t know. When I started back three years ago … in the meantime I had become a blogger, and Facebook and Twitter – so when I told people I was coming back there was this whole thing, ‘Are you going to wear leg warmers?’ I realized it was a fashion statement.
I asked my social media following – what should I wear? And the overwhelming numbers said don’t wear leg warmers, wear yoga pants, don’t be retro. Don’t go back. So I didn’t.
The reason that I had the leg warmers because all of my life I had done ballet. That was my frame of reference – you wore leg warmers to warm yourself up. That’s where it came from.
Big Mac Blog: You took about 15 years off where no one seemed to see you; with
the benefit of hindsight are you glad you did that?
Jane Fonda: Before that time away I had become very unhappy as a woman and I found it very difficult to be creative when I was unhappy. I fell in love with Ted Turner. I spent 10 wonderful years with Ted. He taught me how to laugh. I came from a family where there was not a lot of laughter. He really helped me look at the world differently and not to take it seriously. Ted takes things seriously but to be lighter on the earth and have more a sense of humor.
When we split up and I began to write my memoirs I realized, 'Wow I’m a really different person now. Now I’m ready to get back into acting.' So I don’t regret that time away at all. I learned a huge amounts from Ted. It was an extremely valuable and interesting time of my life and I don’t regret it for a minute. It’s much harder, though, to get back into Hollywood when you are in your late ‘60s and early ‘70s, though. It’s challenging.
Big Mac Blog: If I thought of picking someone from Hollywood to play Nancy
Reagan I can’t think of a person less likely than you given your political
background; because of that were you surprised you were asked to play her for
this new movie?
Jane Fonda: I laughed at the irony of it. I have heard she is very happy that I am playing her, which makes me very happy. She was a formidable first lady.
Her daughter wrote her memoirs and she wrote that Nancy was like a chief of staff. You had to go through Nancy to get to the President. She cared a lot and protected his legacy. She advocated for more diversity around him. She advocated for the summit with the Russians.
She really played a very important role. I encouraged the writers of The Butler to put that into the script, because it wasn’t in there when I first read it. Maybe they will end up cutting it out, I don’t know. I hope so. I wanted to show her how important first of a lady as she was.
Big Mac Blog: Knowing what you know about Hollywood you would suggest a young
woman to pursue a career in acting there?
Jane Fonda: I would say if acting is your true passion go for it. But if you are in it for the celebrity, forget about it. One of the things that has happened in Hollywood is the cult of celebrity. Even if you have accomplished anything you can become a celebrity.
Real acting is a beautiful, wonderful, fulfilling profession. Anyone with that kind of passion and talent I would say go for it. Do it. But realize it’s difficult and competitive. It’s very good for your heart but very hard on your nerves.
Big Mac Blog: Looking back on your career is there a role or a film do you say,
“That’s my favorite”?
Jane Fonda: My film “On Golden Pond” which I produced, I wanted to be in a film with my father before he died. He was ill when we made the movie. That was one of the great experiences of my life. I am so proud that it did so well, and that he won an Oscar and Kate (Hepburn) did, too. That was special.
And I did a film for television that won an Emmy called "The Dollmaker". That character that I played is probably my favorite
Big Mac Blog: The movie “9 to 5” is a little more than 30 years old - why does
that film up so well after all of these years, and why do women love that movie
Jane Fonda: Well, men do too because of Dolly. It’s a feminist film. You have to make a film that even if someone doesn’t buy into the message that the style of it, the story of it, will appeal to them. Even if you don’t have empathy for women office workers and what they have to go through, and aren’t someone who will cheer for the women and what they accomplish, at the end of the movie, it’s still a very, very, very funny movie. No matter what it’s funny. The humor holds up. The joy of seeing Dolly Parton in her first movie. The wonder of Lilly Tomlin. That’s going to hold up.
The fact is women do identify with the struggles of those women in that movie. I produced that movie and it started out being serious. But when (director) Colin Higgins got involved we turned it into a comedy because I also wanted Dolly and Lilly to be in it so it had to be a comedy. But the underpinning is very serious and women glom on to that and appreciate it besides the comedy.
Big Mac Blog: It has been a great pleasure talking to you; thanks for your time.
Jane Fonda: It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
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