Jane Fonda, Award-Winning Actress, Author & Fitness Icon
Jane Fonda shares how she owned her own career and found new energy in her "third act."
JANE FONDA: Curious. Curious is really important. It's much more important to be interested than to be interesting. I stay interested. I really-- I feel like every day I learn things.
I reached my late teens, early 20s without really knowing who I was, what I could do, what I wanted to be. I hadn't a clue.
I was so scared that I actually sat in the back of the class for a month next to Marilyn Monroe, who was also too scared to do anything. But finally I had to do something. And I got on stage and I did my thing. And Lee was quiet, which scared me to death. And I'll never forget it. He said, a lot of people come through here. But I don't see talent like I'm seeing right now.
I felt like the top of my head came off and birds flew out. It was like, whew, my whole life changed and I knew what I wanted to do.
There was this series of movies where I played the good little perfect All-American cheerleader good girl. And I hated the experience so much. People made you look the way they wanted you to. And I was not brave enough to be able to say, I don't like what you're doing to me.
The world was changing. Vietnam was erupting. The Tet Offensive had happened. It was the first time in my life that I was in a movie that spoke to what was happening in the world. I worked on that film differently than I ever had before, and something woke up in me. I began to realize that it was when I had some say so that it was better work than when I was told what to do. I thought, well, the only way I can do it is to make my own movies.
There was a woman, Karen Nussbaum. She began to organize office workers, women who worked in banks, hospitals, insurance companies. And she would tell me stories about what it was like for them. And I thought, I want to make a movie about this. And it started off as a serious movie. But then I met Lily Tomlin. I saw her do her show and I fell in love with her.
Lily and I often reminisce about the morning that Dolly showed up with her long nails. It was so funny watching her try to type. She's saying, I think I've got the song. And then using nails as a washboard, she started singing "Nine to Five". And Lily and I just looked at each other, and we had gooseflesh all over our bodies. And it became the anthem of the movement of women office workers.
[MUSIC - DOLLY PARTON, "NINE TO FIVE"]
It was, I think, the first and may be the only time that a movie grew out of an organized movement and then undergirded it to lift it up even more. And that felt really good.
SISSY SPACEK: And the winner is Henry Fonda, "On Golden Pond".
- Accepting the award is his daughter, Jane Fonda.
JANE FONDA: Oh, Dad, I'm so happy and proud for you. Me and all the grandchildren are coming over with it right away. Thank you.
My second marriage had failed. My self-confidence was rock bottom. I saw no future in my life. I was planning to move to New Mexico and become a full-time environmental activist, and then I met Ted Turner. Ted helped me heal, and he taught me to laugh.
When I turned 60 I thought, oh, goodness. If I divide my life into chunks of 30 years, this is the beginning of my third act. That's what made me decide to write my memoir, so I could figure out where I'd been so I'd know where to go.
And by the time I finished, I was a different person. And so I discovered that I could find joy again in acting, which I didn't think I ever would again.
Our movies are global. Our television is global. And so what we put out there impacts the world and how other people think. You can't really live unless you take risks. But if you know where you're going and why you want to get there and what that will mean for you, then you've got to go for it. And if you fail, you learn. All you can do is learn.