She’s been to outer space in leather boots (in the 1968 movie Barbarella), to Vietnam in civilian clothing (her eternally controversial 1972 visit to Hanoi), and to the altar three times (with three very different men: Roger Vadim in 1965, Tom Hayden in 1973, and Ted Turner in 1991). Recently Jane Fonda sat down with Entertainment Weekly to talk about these journeys and more, all chronicled in her new memoir My Life So Far. Here’s an online-only continuation of our conversation with the actress, regarding her life, her family, and her career.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me a little bit about the decision to do the book — how it went from a possibility to a commitment.
JANE FONDA People have always said, Why don’t you write your story? [But] it was always a scary prospect until I turned 60. In preparation for my 60th birthday, I made a little 20-minute video of my life. That was when I got the notion of dividing my life into three acts, and that when I turned 60, the curtain went up on my third act. That allowed me to see my life in a way that could be written. But I was still married to Ted Turner, so I couldn’t do it.
Why did that mean you couldn’t do it?
Writing a book like this takes a descent into your inner self that occupies 100 percent of your soul space. And I couldn’t do that when I was married to a man like Ted Turner, who requires a hundred percent of your soul space. So, when we separated two years later, I was ready. I knew what my story was.
Are you a morning writer, afternoon, what?
I’m a morning writer — which is what caused me to give up drinking. I haven’t had a drink in 15 months, because I noticed that if I had a couple of glasses of wine the night before, my mornings were not a hundred percent. And I’m 67. I don’t have that many mornings left. [Laughs] If you’re just kind of doing life, you don’t really notice. But when you’re sitting down in front of a laptop writing and you’re not a hundred percent, you notice.
You write that you studied Method acting in New York — a technique your father, Henry, disliked very much.
I didn’t understand, at the time, all the reasons that my father so hated the Method and was disparaging of it — and of me, because I was studying it. It has to do with his dislike of self-exploration. He was not unique of his generation in not wanting to do that. It’s a form of therapy, in a way, the Method, because you have to go deep inside yourself and unlock a lot of doors. He didn’t like that idea. He was scared of it.
Why, do you think?
[Pause] He couldn’t deal with feelings. He couldn’t deal with emotions. It’s funny, for such a good actor! I think — he often said, I like to act because it gives me a mask… And then behind the mask it allows me, he would say, to be things that I can’t be otherwise. But he could never engage in self-exploration, self-analysis, which is, you know, a lot of what the Method is.