Sex, hip and knee replacement talk with Jane Fonda
LOS ANGELES—Times sure have changed. A talk with Jane Fonda, who was a big-haired, pouty-lipped sex kitten in the 1960s (when it was common to call some women as “sex kittens”), now covers sex for mature people and, almost in the same breath, hip and knee replacement surgeries.
At 80, the two-time Oscar winner is still her candid, articulate self. The fitness guru, who was known as the Queen of the Exercise Video at the height of the aerobics workout craze, has stayed slim. Her well-known posture was evident as she sat, poised and ramrod straight, in this recent interview at W Westwood Hotel.
But she revealed her health challenges. “This is a fake knee,” Jane said as she pointed at her left knee. “I got a new boyfriend right after I had my new knee.”
“Hip replacements are easy, especially today,” she added. “See, this hip was replaced and they went on the side, which meant they cut through a lot of muscle. That meant for a few months you can’t lean over.
“But I’m having this [other hip] done in November. In a month, I’ll be walking a mile. Much more complicated is the knee replacement.”
“Do I have a lover right now?” the actress repeated aloud a question. The multiple Golden Globe winner’s previous partners or husbands include record producer Richard Perry, media mogul Ted Turner, the late politician Tom Hayden, the late French director Roger Vadim and actor Donald Sutherland. The latter came with her when she showed up at UP Diliman campus in 1971 and joined student activists in protesting the Vietnam War.
“No, I don’t [have a lover], not for a year,” Jane said. “I think I’m done. I’m 80, thank you.”
“Book Club,” which stars Jane, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen (both 72) and Mary Steenburgen, 65, is a refreshing, enjoyable comedy which portrays these talented women as friends and their relationship adventures with men.
On the depiction of mature women in cinema, Jane said, “Older women are the fastest growing demographic group in the world. We live on average five years longer than men. So the marketplace, of which cinema and television are part of, is beginning to realize this is an important market.
“Then there’s the women’s movement, the Time’s Up and the #MeToo movements. There’s a lot going on in the zeitgeist that is encouraging us to think about the fact that women’s narratives have been left out of the equation. We’re going to see more and more of that and it will include older women having sex because a lot of older women do.”
Speaking of sex for seniors, Jane reminded us, “I wrote a book about it.” And that was “Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit.”
“It wasn’t just about sex,” she clarified. “I interviewed people well into their 90s, actually even a couple older than 100…
“When you’re older, sex is different, especially when the man is also older. You lose certain things like spontaneity. It’s not so easy to say, ‘Let’s just jump into the bed’ and do it because there are pills to be taken and shots. There are other things that have to go on first.
“But that can also be made very erotic and sexy. You have to plan things out. But for women, it can be much better because we know our bodies better. We’re not as afraid to ask for what we want. So, sex when you’re older can be better for women.”
Jane obliged on how she first met Don Johnson, who plays Arthur, an old flame who returns to her character Vivian’s life in “Book Club.” “I think in 1971. I started an antiwar organization called Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice. We would meet down on Sunset Boulevard. There’s a place called Crossroads of the World. We had an office there and Don Johnson showed up. We were all like, ‘Whoa, he’s cute (laughs)!’ But it was pretty clear he was there to look for girls.
“By the time he became a star, I was married to Tom Hayden and I wasn’t working that much. But I would see him from time to time. And Melanie Griffith is a friend of mine. But then a few years ago, I saw a movie (‘Alex of Venice’) that the actor Chris Messina directed, that Don was in and I was blown away.
“First of all, I think Don is handsomer now than when he was young but also, he has depth. There was a
depth that I hadn’t known was there. So when this movie ‘Book Club,’ came along, I said to Bill Holderman (director), I’d love to have Don play my love interest.”
“I created a whole backstory for my character Vivian that explained why she was so afraid of being hurt by a man,” she remarked. “And yes, it’s something that I relate to very much. I’ve been married three times.”
As for working with Diane, Candice (“Candy” to friends) and Mary, Jane said their camaraderie onscreen was genuine. “When you go into a movie like this, you worry that there’s going to be one, two or more divas because actors can be very difficult. It was such a joy to discover none of them were. We all were just regular folks. We loved hanging out together.
“I’m sure you’ve heard ad nauseam that when the shots were over, we’d go to the garage. That was our green room. We’d spend time together in the garage. We just learned so much about each other. It was really fun.”
Jane described what a gathering of old and new friends would be like in her own living room. “Everybody’s drinking. Mary is drinking tequila, I’m drinking vodka, Diane is drinking red wine on ice … and Candy is drinking divine white wine, probably. I have other friends who are sober. And depending on who the friends are, we’ll be talking usually about politics, usually activism.
“The women in the movie with me, Candy, Diane and Mary are new friends so we’re still getting to know
“All my friends are younger than me but the ones that I’ve known longer are all activists. We usually talk about what we’re doing, where are we organizing, where are we putting our energy on. But the best part is there’s a particular laughter when women friends get together that comes from really deep. It’s cleansing. You can laugh with men but it’s not the same.”
Definitely, a copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which figures prominently in the movie’s book club conversation, is not on Jane’s living room table. “‘Histoire d’O’ maybe but not ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” she said with a grin.
Of her time spent in France with her first husband, Roger Vadim, she shared, “I did not really understand what it meant to be an American until I lived in another country. I wish every member of the American Congress would be forced to live in another country so they could see reality. It also helps us see how young we are as a country, the value of a culture being old.
“The French people love their older women. That was always nice to see (laughs). I learned a lot about being a woman, love and being an American when I lived there. France is like my second home.”
This octogenarian, still a passionate activist, does not buy the “70 is the new 40” saying. “I wouldn’t want to be 40 again for anything,” Jane declared. “If you’re a woman, you’re probably going through perimenopause and things are pretty miserable. I hated 40.
“But we’re staying healthy longer because we’re knowing more what to do to be healthy. And so we are living longer. As those words come out of my mouth, I’m so aware of the people who are not living longer—poor people, people of color, white working class people … We’re very privileged.
“But I thought it was very important to make this movie that shows older people who are vibrant, still alive … and still with very deep friendships. Friendships are critical. The friendship part of it was the most important part for me.”
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