Catching Up With Jane Fonda
So I'm on the phone talking with Jane Fonda and everything is going swimmingly. We're officially chatting to discuss a charity event, but she's already gone into her thoughts on Lindsay Lohan at great length and hinted about a book in the works. So why not slip in a question about the "Today Show" incident? Though I've been asked to avoid the subject, surely she'll have something to say.
No dice. Jane isn't discussing it -- at least not with me. But, as hinted above, she opens up in a big way about "Georgia Rule" co-star Lindsay Lohan and her Marilyn-esque New York magazine cover shoot.
"The issues are more than a layout in a magazine," says Fonda. "That's a temporary blip. The issues go really deep."
Fonda's work to prevent teen pregnancy in Georgia over the last decade or so may make her uniquely qualified to understand the mindset of young women -- whether it is women who are at risk on the edge of poverty or those struggling with superstardom.
In May, Fonda will be joined by brother Peter, niece Bridget and a handful of other family members to take part in Three Generations of Fonda Filmmaking. The evening, hosted by TCM's Robert Osborne, will benefit the Fonda-founded Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP). Attendees can expect a Q&A session with the Fonda family about acting and a tribute to late patriarch Henry Fonda.
Fonda has been a passionate advocate of pregnancy prevention since learning that Georgia led the nation in unwanted teen pregnancies over a decade ago. And, although rates have gone down, Fonda says the fight is far from over. As funding has dropped over the past year, she says, rates are on the rise again.
Read on to get Jane's thoughts on teen pregnancy, the presidential race, her reaction to the birth of Jennifer Lopez's twins, her own new book and, of course, Lindsay Lohan.
Liz Kelly: Has the family ever gathered to talk about the three generations of Fonda filmmaking before?
Jane Fonda: We were given an award at an AFI luncheon a number of years ago.
Liz: So tell me what people can expect from the evening.
Jane: It will begin with Robert Osborne introducing the evening and introducing a montage of all of our work and then he's going to bring us onstage and do a Q and A about our work, how we feel about acting, our profession. How we feel about doing love scenes, nude scenes, stunts, have we studied? -- all the things relevant to acting. Then there will be another montage showing love scenes and stunts and comedy and, you know, the sort of more specific things about acting as opposed to an overview of careers. Then, after that middle montage, we'll concentrate on my father.
Of course my brother has acted with him and directed him; I worked with him in "On Golden Pond;" Bridget has very strong feelings about him and his work so we'll talk about him. What it was like to work with him, what we think of him as an actor, memories. And then the final montage will be focused on him. We want to also talk about the fact that he was not only an actor, but a painter. And he also composed a few songs.
In the gift bag people will get will be a CD with a painting of his on the cover and two of his songs on the CD. And the last montage will start with showing paintings with the songs playing over that, then a retrospective of his great parts. And it will end up -- I cry every time...we'll all be in tears by the end of the night -- with him winning the Oscar and my accepting it on his behalf.
Liz: Readers may not know that your kids are in the film industry. Your daughter's a documentary filmmaker?
Jane: Right. And Peter's son Justin, Bridget's brother, is a camera operator.
Liz: So they'll be active parts of the conversation as well?
Jane: Well, we're not sure yet. They'll be there. Whether or not they'll actually be on stage isn't yet clear.
Liz: Since TCM's Robert Osborne will be hosting, should we expect to eventually see this on cable?
Jane: It's a one-time only, not aired event. I talked to Robert about it and he thinks that when you're trying to film for airing on television at a later date it changes the dynamic. Certain kinds of production things have to be in place that affect the zeitgeist of the evening. We very much want to keep it spontaneous and make it as simple as possible technically so we decided it will not be recorded. We'll record it for our archives, but it will not be televised. So if people are interested, this will be the only chance.
Liz: Tell me a little bit more about G-CAPP. This is an organization you founded, right?
Jane: Thirteen years ago when Georgia had the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation. We've dropped to seventh. It's still way too high, but we have made a difference. Unfortunately, because nationwide there are so many cutbacks because the situation with the economy the budgets are shrinking. That, combined with this administration's approach to sex education -- so kids are not being taught how to use contraception and not being given comprehensive sexuality education. Which would begin with a stress on abstinence. We think abstinence is a critical thing -- especially for younger kids. But especially among fragile populations you have to provide more information and that's not happening, so we've seen in the past year that rates are beginning to go back up. Next week I'm having dinner with some of the Republican legislators in Georgia to try to stress the importance of putting money into prevention.
Two years ago there was a huge drop in pregnancies, but there was also an increase in funding of $13 million. And as a result of the drop the state was saved $277 million. You know it costs the state -- I think it's $120 million a year -- adolescents having babies -- $120 million. Imagine what that money could be used for if we didn't have kids having babies. It's not just kids having babies. They drop out of school, they don't go to college, they're not equipped to be productive working citizens because they can't take advantage of opportunities that come along.
Most of the young people who get pregnant and have babies as youngsters are poor. The reason we believe that is so is because they see no future for themselves. You know, they've not grown up in an environment where people strive to make something for the future, so why not have babies? It puts them into an adult status and gives them someone to take care of, someone who loves them.
You know, there's a lot of reasons why poor young kids will have babies. But they get stuck in the cycle of poverty, despair and hopelessness which is why our focus as an organization for 13 years has been less between their legs and more between their ears. Hope is the best contraceptive.
Our programs strive to make them see a future -- a home, a job, a bank account and an ATM card -- and feel that they deserve that and will be motivated to strive for that. And the kids that we work with, we see that happening.
Liz: Now I imagine G-CAPP, along with the rest of the teen pregnancy prevention community is tracking the presidential race closely. Is there anyone that you, in particular, are leaning to in regards to this issue?
Jane: I'm a lifelong Democrat. I mean, both Obama and Hillary are really good candidates who discuss this issue. I've been with Hillary in Beijing and other places abroad where I've heard her speak about this issue. And it was while Bill Clinton was in the White House that they launched the national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy and I was present at the birthing of that organization. So I know that she gets it and also because of her work with Marian Wright Edelman she understands the causes and fallout of teen pregnancy. And I think Obama probably does, too.
Liz: So are you endorsing anyone?
Jane: Not gonna talk about that.
Liz: Speaking of pregnancies -- and this one was planned -- your "Monster-in-Law" co-star Jennifer Lopez gave birth to twins.
Jane: Well that's great -- I think she really wanted children and I think this will make her very happy. I'm happy for her.
Liz: She had a boy and a girl.
Jane: Great! When we were making a movie together I watched her with Marc Anthony's daughter and she seemed to really be good with kids, so I'm sure she'll be a wonderful mother.
Liz: Let's talk about Lindsay Lohan. Her New York magazine cover spread made waves last week. What's your take on that? You were a young actress once and you knew how to harness your sexuality and use it to your advantage. I'm thinking of movies like "Barbarella."
Now, is Lindsay Lohan doing the same thing or is this something different?
Jane: I think on a personal level there's a huge difference. I had a family. I had a father who I didn't want to disappoint and who instilled strong values in me. And I was a trained actress. I took the profession seriously.
And then added to that the fact that the paparazzi didn't exist in this country when I was coming up. That was something you ran into if you went to Italy. There weren't all these magazines. There were the movie magazines that were rather staid things and young people read them, but they weren't what they are today.
It blew my mind when I was working with Lindsay Lohan -- what it felt like when I was with her to have these people hanging off of trees and under cars and behind bushes. The papararazzi make a lot of money. And kids get addicted to celebrity. And celebrity becomes as important -- if not more -- than craft. And, you know, so the focus gets skewed. If you become addicted to having your picture in celebrity magazines and you keep having to ratchet behavior up to get those pictures in, then suddenly it begins to nudge aside what you should be focusing on -- which is acting.
Lindsay Lohan is a very talented young person. I wish that she was in acting school developing her craft, deepening her craft and it makes me very sad that she's not. But she doesn't have -- nor does Paris Hilton or any of these other young kids that seem so out of kilter -- the sort of family structure and values that a young person needs.
Liz: Which does go back to the work you do with G-CAPP. It's just a different environment or stratosphere.
Jane: It's right to bring it back to G-CAPP because, again, what we're trying to model is what middle class families do for their children. If the families can't do it, then coaches, mentors and non-profit organizations have to put in place the structure, the love, the attention, capacity building functions that families do.
But if you're famous and you're the breadwinner, you're not going to turn toward that kind of nurturing and mentoring. You've got it made and no one is going to talk up to you and put you in your place because you're the breadwinner. So, I feel empathy for these kids. They're caught between a rock and a hard place in a way. There's so much they need but no one is willing to give it to them because they are providing everybody's support.
Liz: When you worked with Lindsay on "Georgia Rule" did you try to talk to her at all about where she was going?
Jane: You can't talk to a young person if they don't want to listen. I said to her, "I'm here for you. I care about you. I'm here for you if you need me." But it was very clear to me that she didn't want to hear what she knew I was going to say to her.
And the main thing that I would want to say is: "Honey, this is not a dress rehearsal, this is your life. And if you blow it, you blow it. And you have to really look at what's happening. You're not going to get another chance."
But I don't think she wanted to hear and you can't force it.
Liz: If you had to look into a crystal ball and prognosticate what effect the New York magazine spread will have on her career, what would it be? Some people are saying that this could be her "Drew Barrymore moment" and it will turn everything around and people will look at her different. Others say it's one step away from Playboy.
Jane: It doesn't happen that way. The issues are more than a layout in a magazine. That's a temporary blip. The issues go really deep. And if you grow up with no sense of what normal life feels like, smells like, tastes like -- you don't know what to work for. You don't know what you're missing because you've never experienced it. People who grow up in total familial chaos yearn for chaos and feel extremely uncomfortable in calm, normal situations. They steer away from calm and normal. It's creepy for them. So the amount of work it takes to get a person to understand that what they think is normal is neither normal nor healthy -- and a magazine layout doesn't do that -- takes a lot of time and work and money.
G-CAPP tries to do that organizationally. Our staff is chosen carefully to work directly with young people. Because basically it comes down to love. It's as simple as that. All we need is love. If the kids feel that there is an adult who cares for them, will go home and find out why they didn't come to school today, who is really paying attention to them -- that is what turns a young life around. So if you don't have it in your family, then we try to provide it with our staff and it looks like it's working. We've changed the lives of a lot of young people.
Liz: So, will you be attending the Oscars this year? (We spoke last Friday.)
Jane: No, I'm writing a book. I'm at my ranch in New Mexico working. I go if I have a reason to be there. Otherwise, it's funner to watch it on television. It's exciting if you have a stake in it, but you don't want to go just to go. At least I don't!
Liz: Tell me a little bit about your book...
Jane: Random House asked me to write a book about aging. It's called "The Third Act: Entering Primetime" and that's about all I'll say.
| February 27, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
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