We are now 13 years into Jane Fonda’s return to movies. In 2005, she co-starred with Jennifer Lopez in Monster in Law, a movie that’s remarkable in the sense that, until then, Fonda had not been in a film since 1990’s Stanley & Iris. There’s probably a version of this story in which Fonda never returned to films. But, instead, now several movies into her comeback (not to mention her television work like Grace and Frankie and her recurring role on The Newsroom), Fonda finds herself front and center as a leader in the Time’s Up/#MeToo movement.
As Fonda puts it, she would have never imagined a world in which she’d be 80 years old — an age Fonda proudly proclaims — and starring in a film about four women reading Fifty Shades of Grey and having Don Johnson playing her love interest. (And Fonda specifically requested that Don Johnson be in Book Club to play her love interest.)
In Book Club Fonda plays Vivian, a successful hotel owner who has maintained a book club with three life-long friends, played by Diane Keaton, Candice Bergan, and Mary Steenburgen. To spice things up, Vivian wants to read Fifty Shades of Grey, which is balked at by the rest of the group, but over the course of the film each of their lives change as a result of this experience.
Fonda is also heavily involved in the reboot of 9 to 5, based on the 1980 hit (it was the second highest grossing film of that year) that she produced, a project that would bring back Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton to their respective roles. Ahead, Fonda discusses her new film, fills us in on the latest with the reboot project (Rashida Jones and Patricia Resnick have been tapped to write the script) and explains why she thinks the current women’s movements will not be going away.
With all the bad things going on in the world, this is the kind of movie where I just felt delighted for 100 minutes.
Right? Yes, totally. We need movies like this. We need to be able to laugh now and enjoy ourselves and not be made to feel anxious. It’s very good.
Anxious is a good word. These kind of movies don’t get made a lot, but the anxiety went away.
Oh I am so glad you felt that way. I very much agree. And we had a very good time making it.
Having you and Diane Keaton finally together on-screen is kind of like my Pacino and De Niro Heat moment. It’s crazy that it’s never happened before.
None of us had ever worked together before. And one of the reasons we wanted to do the movie – you know, we weren’t sure it was going to work; it was a first time director and writer – but we all wanted to get to know each other and work together. And it’s very nice the way it turned out, I think it’s going to be a successful movie. The director was fabulous and we’ve all become friends and we will remain friends.
Who signed on first?
Diane Keaton was the first. And to tell you the truth, I agreed to do it at the time even though I was a little nervous because of it being a first time director. But I wanted to work with her. It was first her, then me, then Candice and Mary. And then the guys.
Did you four have any say on who the guys would be?
That’s fantastic. What were those discussions like?
I’ve known Don Johnson since the ‘70s, through all his marriages, I’ve always known him. But I hadn’t seen him on the screen for awhile and I saw a small movie that my friend Chris Messina made and he blew me away…
Oh I saw that movie, Alex of Venice…
And Don was wonderful in that movie. He had depth and he created a real character and he looked great. So I said that I really wanted Don Johnson to be my love interest. And Diane Keaton fought for Andy Garcia and it all turned out well.
Did it come up that his daughter (Dakota Johnson) plays the lead character in the movie version of the book your characters are reading?
No. Everybody asked him that but it was just a funny coincidence. He never talked to her about it and she never commented on it. It’s just a coincidence.
I’m happy this all stems from Alex of Venice. He really is great in that.
Isn’t he? Okay! Yeah! I’m surprised there is someone else who has seen it and feels that way.
So if the cameras just kept rolling between takes, I would pay good money to watch all the conversations the four of you had on set.
It would have been worth your money!
Yeah, it was pretty fun. The green room was the garage of the home we were shooting in and, ohhhh, we exchanged a lot of stories.
Are there any you can share?
If you could talk to the 1960s version of yourself and tell her that in 2018 you’d be making this movie, I bet your younger self would be delighted.
I said to Don Johnson today that if someone had come up to us at one of those anti-war meetings in the ‘70s and said to me, “When you’re 80, you’re going to make a movie with these women and Don Johnson will play your love interest,” I would have said you’re out of your mind. I would have wished that it would have happened, but I never ever would have believed it. It’s a dream come true.
So is the 9 to 5 reboot actually happening this time? I know this has been talked about in the past.
We’re working on it. Pat Resnick and Rashida Jones are writing it.
I hope this happens.
We are working on it. Dolly, Lily and I would be a part of it at Fox, so it’s all good.
It just seems the perfect movie for everything going on right now with the Time’s Up movement.
Two of the first movies I ever saw in a theater were The Empire Strikes Back and 9 to 5. So my first cinematic experiences with men in positions of power were Darth Vader and Franklin Hart, which I think shaped my worldview a bit.
[Laughs] That’s very funny. I love that.
I kind of wish they’d put the original back in theaters. People who haven’t seen it should see it.
Yeah. Well, a lot of people have seen it. It was a very popular movie.
Second most popular of 1980.
What was the first?
The Empire Strikes Back.
Oh that’s right, yeah.
Do you think you’ll get to be in the new movie a lot?
I have no idea. The script hasn’t been written. Pat and Rashida are just in discussions now about what the arc of the story will be. Obviously, there are younger women that will hopefully be at least three younger stars – and we will be brought back into it to help.
In the credits of the original movie it says Judy marries a Xerox salesman.
And Franklin Hart was kidnapped and disappeared in the jungle forever.
[Laughs] I know…
Well, he deserves it!
You’ve been back doing movies for 13 years now after not doing movies for a good amount of time, but I know a lot of people, including myself, are happy you are back and are a voice in the fight Time’s Up/#MeToo movement.
Well, thank you. I appreciate it.
How important is it for you to be a voice in that?
Very important. I’m glad I came back. I’m glad in my late 60s I was able to recreate a career. And I’m glad I’m in the business and alive at the Me Too/Time’s Up moment. In fact, it’s not a moment. It’s a real movement and I don’t think it’s going to go away and I think it’s going to make a real difference.
Why are you optimistic that it won’t go away?
Well, I’m part of the Time’s Up movement which is working on structural change and policy change. We are meeting with janitors and domestic workers and office workers and farm workers and discussing how we can have each other’s backs. And as you know, we’ve raised a nice multi-million dollar fund to help pay for women in those industries for when they need legal advocacy for their cases. So, I don’t think this is going away and it’s becoming embedded in institutions.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.