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Encore Presentation: Interview with Jane Fonda

Aired April 23, 2006 - 20:59   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, a rare hour with a legend, Jane Fonda, actress, activist, icon, from her Christian faith to her search for a soulmate to being a tabloid target and more. We're going to cover it all with my friend, the one and only Jane Fonda, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's a great pleasure. It's been just about a year, a little over a year, to welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, Jane Fonda, the Oscar- winning actress, activist. Her number one "New York Times" best seller the memoir "My Life So Far" is now out in trade paperback. There you see its cover. Included with the paperback is a companion DVD, a conversation with Jane Fonda.

Who came up with that idea?

JANE FONDA: Me and my editor.

KING: Because?

FONDA: Well because, you know, she edits Tom Brokaw's books and he's the first one that had a DVD that came with his book. And she said, well because I have all this archival footage and everything and she said, "Would you put together a DVD?"

So, I asked my daughter to do it with me and Ted's son Rhett and it was a family affair and it's talking about why I wrote the book and what the theme of the book is and what people's reaction have been.

KING: You and Ted remain very close huh?

FONDA: Very, very good friends.

KING: You were just with him in Argentina?

FONDA: Yes, with my grandkids and my daughter, yes.

KING: How do you explain -- usually when people break up they break up.

FONDA: I don't know. I think life's too short and you have to remember why you spent a chunk of life with somebody and why you love them and I don't know. I think I married very interesting men and we've -- we've -- you know I'm friends with Tom and if Vadim weren't dead I'd be friends with him too. I saw him in the hospital right before he died.

KING: Are you surprised at the success of this book? FONDA: Not really. I intuited before I started that if I told my story honestly that in spite of the many differences between me and other people, my fame, my privilege, all that, that underneath there was a truth that could provide a roadmap for other people. The one thing that surprised me was how men have responded to the book. I didn't expect it.

KING: They've -- as many men are buying it as women?

FONDA: Not as many but I would say of the hundreds and hundreds of letters that I've gotten about a third of them are from men. And, first of all, the father issue, you know, there's -- it's so many people. It's why "Golden Pond" was such a success. People have had problems with remote, non-expressive, cold fathers.

And then this issue of good enough is good enough and the disease to please. I didn't really realize that men -- men have suffered from the disease to please. Men, so many men have felt that, you know, that they're not good enough. They're not macho enough, not competitive enough, too emotional, too whatever.

And, you know, how many of us, men and women, spend too much of our lives trying to be what other people want us to be or what we think other people want us to be.

KING: I've known you a long time.


KING: You were never one to run around and do interviews right? You were not someone who had to be in front of the camera to tell...

FONDA: Oh, no. I spent a glorious 15 years completely under the radar with Ted. It was great, yes.

KING: When you were with Ted you didn't -- I remember once I had the two of you on together. He did all the talking.


KING: You were very hesitant. Why have you been so forthcoming on talking about the book?

FONDA: I think that of all the things that I've accomplished in my life it's probably the most -- the most important. I think it's made the most difference to people.

KING: More than Oscars?

FONDA: Oscars are just a mitzvah for me but the book, you know, it's been translated now into 16 languages and it's been a best seller all around the world and the responses that I'm getting from people show me that what I hoped would happen happens.

It really -- people like to feel that they're not alone. I'm not the only one that went through this. I'm not the only one that has grappled with these problems.

And the fact that Jane Fonda, who you know on one level has been always very successful and brave and all these things has shared issues that so many people have had and have worked through them and have laid out in my book really a -- a path for how to become whole and it's been a hard row to hoe that I've done it.

KING: Why do you think, and this could be a guess or maybe you do know, someone as beautiful as you, and you know you're beautiful and as talented as you would have such a need to please?

FONDA: Oh, well...

KING: A desire to be accepted, you?

FONDA: There's a lot of -- I appreciate the compliment, Larry. A lot of, you know, the person who pops in my mind is Marilyn Monroe, the most famous, you know, beautiful iconic woman who, you know, from what I've been told and what I sensed in her would wake up every day thinking this is the day that they'll discover I'm a fraud, you know, and thought of herself as not very much.

It has to do with what happens to us when we're little. And, like a lot of children, I grew up feeling that if I wasn't perfect that I wouldn't be loved, which is not good because nobody is perfect, you know. God is perfect. We're meant to strive for completion not perfection.

But, I always felt I wasn't good enough. And then my father made me feel that I was fat and with women oftentimes the not being good enough attaches itself to our bodies and we begin to hate our bodies and all that. And so, what is objectively true isn't as important as what we feel subjectively about ourselves.

KING: What changed? What changed you?

FONDA: I'm basically a resilient person and I've always been on a search for the core of things, you know, the core of life, the core of me. What am I meant to be? And that's why I kept moving through different kind of, if you will, transformations -- therapy.

Ted had a lot to do with it too because although in a way I have to give up my voice once again for a man, at the same time he gave me a lot of confidence. He didn't put me down. He wasn't frightened of my success. He made me feel worthy and beautiful and he gave me a kind of a nest in which I could heal.

You know unfortunately he didn't heal along with me but -- and you know the other thing. When I was 59 and realized that in a year I'd be 60 and it would be the beginning of my last act, I decided that I needed to know what my first two acts meant in order to know how to live my third act. And, that year that I spent preparing to turn 60, you were there.

KING: Sure was. FONDA: It was the most important thing that I did besides writing my book because it allowed me to see that I'm not a chameleon, as my daughter accused me of, you know, when I asked her to help me make that movie that I showed at my birthday.

She said, "Well, why don't you just" -- about my life she said, "Just get a chameleon and let it crawl across the screen." I discovered I wasn't a chameleon that there is a there there and that helped me own who I was and become a whole person.

KING: Our guest is the wonderful Jane Fonda. The book "My Life So Far" now out in trade paperback, a great read. We'll be right back.




KING: We're back with Jane Fonda, the author of "My Life So Far," now in trade paperback. In an article in "American Heritage" a few years back said of her, "It is possible to trace recent American history just by watching Fonda's persona. She was a libertine in the '60s, radical by the decade's end, progressive in the '70s, entrepreneurial in the '80s, and a corporate grand dame in the '90s," you buy that?

FONDA: Might as well.

KING: You went through so many changes.


KING: What are you now? Author.

FONDA: The important thing that I am now is a full human being. I'm a whole person. I moved back inside myself. I've become an embodied person and I guess the moral is it's never too late if you keep trying. It happened late in life to me.

KING: How do you deal, and you have to deal with it, those people who still look at you as Hanoi Jane?

FONDA: Well, it makes me sad because it means that they haven't healed because, you know, in order to heal you have to forgive and I have apologized for the terrible mistake that I made, that lapse of judgment when I sat on that gun.

KING: And they're saying it was a lapse of judgment to be against the war.

FONDA: No, no, I'm proud that I was against the war. I came to that late and the interesting thing is that I came to my anti-war understanding and feeling because of American soldiers. They are the ones that opened my eyes to the nature of the war. But the right wing has worked very hard to keep the myth of Hanoi Jane alive. Lies have been spread and continue to be spread on the Internet about things that I supposedly did that I never did, vis-a- vis the POWs and everything and they keep the myth alive because it suits their interests you know. KING: Why?

FONDA: Because you go into a new war, Iraq. People speak out "Oh, you don't want to speak out. You'll be like that traitor Jane Fonda." That's the line do you know what I mean?

And, the revisionist view of Vietnam is we lost the war because of the anti-war movement and the liberal media, which is not totally untrue but I am a good symbol. I'm a lightning rod for right wing ideology and it's useful for them.

I don't think most people go along with it but the people who have been deeply hurt by Vietnam, by the experience, they need to get angry at something and I'm easier to get angry with than the men who sent them there.

KING: Does that mean because of all that you're hesitant to speak out about Iraq?

FONDA: I don't want to give the right wing media and the right wing warmongers an ability to distract from the basic issue, which is that most Americans are opposed to the war and want to bring the troops home. Most troops want to come home and want the war to end and I don't want to be a distraction.

KING: You praised Cindy Sheehan though right?


KING: Who lost her son.

FONDA: Yes, I do. She's a very, very brave woman and I applaud her and the other Gold Star mothers and fathers who have spoken out against the war who have children fighting there.

And, the troops that have come back, you know, I think it takes a special courage to go to war to defend your country or at least that's what you think you're doing and then to see that the war was a lie and to come back and speak out against it it's a double layer of courage.

KING: What do you make of these generals and Rumsfeld?

FONDA: Bravo to the generals, you know.

KING: Surprised?

FONDA: No. No, I mean if those of us who follow the war closely, which I do, agree with the generals.

KING: A Georgia State Senator's resolution to honor you for your work in teen pregnancy prevention, which we're going to have a big roast of you, right June 1st?


KING: I'm going to be the emcee. FONDA: Yes.

KING: The roast master.

FONDA: I don't know what I'm getting myself into.

KING: And Ted's going to roast you.


KING: And that's going to support your teen pregnancy group.


KING: That was derailed the resolution by anger over anti-war days.

FONDA: Among a few, among a few former military members of the legislature. However, I've gotten scores of letters from the Georgia legislature, both sides of the aisle, the legislature saying that they are ashamed of that and shocked by it.

KING: What got you involved in teen pregnancy?

FONDA: Ah, well sex and...

KING: I've heard of it.

FONDA: I've been told that you knew about it, yes.

KING: You too I hear.

FONDA: Me too. Boy, we should talk sometime.

KING: We should have -- ah, never mind.

FONDA: Never mind.

KING: What might have been.

FONDA: Ah! It's been such an issue for me, sex, sexuality, gender, lack of self esteem and respect for my body. I want to help young boys and girls not have to wait as long as I did to learn to respect themselves, learn how to say no, learn how to see a future for themselves.

KING: You were not sexually active early?

FONDA: Well, that's all relative right? I was one -- I wasn't sexually active as early as other girls in my all girls boarding school and I was ashamed of the fact that I wasn't. So, when we would pass around these lists of all the things that you can do, you know, French kiss, and this and that and the -- I used to say yes I had done it when I hadn't because I thought there was something wrong with me but you know.

KING: Are you glad you went to an all girls boarding school?

FONDA: I am. I really am.

KING: Because?

FONDA: Well, first of all it's a brilliant, fantastic school Emma Willard.

KING: Where's that in L.A.?

FONDA: No, Emma Willard is in Troy, New York and it's probably one of the great girls' schools in the country and Emma Willard was the first woman in the Hall of Fame.

And I was there for four years and I think I learned to not be afraid of my intelligence there. My father was really smart to send me there. I think if I had been in a situation with boys I would have gotten into a lot of trouble.

KING: Speaking of that, what do you do for teen pregnancy? What is this organization we're helping raise money for on June 1st? What does it do?

FONDA: Well we do many things. We lobby. We advocate for adolescents and their families in the Georgia legislature. But, there's a very famous program that started here in New York, Michael Carrera's Children's Aid Society Program which we're bringing to Atlanta, which takes -- we will take 100 kids from ages eleven through high school and wrap our arms around them in every possible way in terms of tutoring, family life education, bank account, sports, arts, in every way and it really -- it inoculates them against risky behavior including early pregnancy.

We work with girls, very young girls, 12, 13, 14-year-old girls who had babies so they won't have second babies, which is a big problem in Georgia.

We do many different things in different communities. In the Hispanic community we work with a program called Plain Talk. In mostly African American communities we approach it differently.

KING: We're going to roast Jane and the proceeds will go to that organization on June 1st at the Aquarium?

FONDA: At the Atlanta Aquarium, the biggest aquarium in the country. It is an amazing place.

KING: So we're going to roasting you with fish?

FONDA: The group of people include...

KING: Is there going to be fish around us?

FONDA: Yes, there's going to be beluga whales watching us.

KING: I'm big with (INAUDIBLE). FONDA: Big Boy is going to roast me in rap. Big Boy is, you know, one half of the group Outkast, Rosie O'Donnell, President Carter, Debbie Reynolds, Wanda Sikes.

KING: Maybe we can get the whale.

FONDA: It's a very eclectic group.

KING: We'll be right back with Jane Fonda, "My Life So Far," now in trade paperback. Don't go away.




KING: We're back with Jane Fonda, "My Life So Far," out in trade paperback, number one on "The New York Times." You had a great response from this show last year right?

FONDA: Oh, amazing. Thank you.

KING: Are you aware that in the gay community your movie about the three girls who take over the company...

FONDA: "9 to 5"?

KING: "9 to 5" is big. Are you aware that you're a cult hero in the gay community?

FONDA: Well, I'm told that it's kind of like the "Rocky Horror Picture Show." People go to "9 to 5." They know all the -- you know they talk. They wear Dolly's wigs. They talk to the screen. It's a thrill. It's wonderful. We just had a reunion, Dolly, Lilly, and myself for the launch of the DVD of "9 to 5."

KING: Do you think it's because of women showing power?

FONDA: I think because everybody has had a lousy boss that they'd like to stick it to.


FONDA: So they identify. Everybody would like to get their boss hooked up to an electric door closer and swung through the air.

KING: Gay or straight.

FONDA: Gay or straight. But you know Dolly. I mean Dolly you just want to be Dolly right if you're a guy? KING: It's a great movie. They were going to do a follow-up to it right?

FONDA: Well, things are being talked about.

KING: Still? FONDA: Yes.

KING: That would be great.

FONDA: It wouldn't be a remake. It would, you know, 30 years later.

KING: You're in-law movie was hysterical.

FONDA: Wasn't it funny? I know.

KING: Funny.

FONDA: I'm the only person that had a number one book and number one movie at the same time.

KING: That was hysterical.

FONDA: Yes, I had such a good time.

KING: And you had resisted acting for a long time.

FONDA: Yes, yes.

KING: What brought you back the script?

FONDA: No, the fact that I'm a different person. I was finishing my book and I was thinking, you know something, I quit not because of Ted, as you might think but because I was really a sort of shriveled up person inside and you can't be creative when you're shriveled up. This is our instrument. It's not like we have a violin separately. You know we have to be in a fertile place creatively and I wasn't and it scared me too much.

But, you know, two years ago I thought well I'm very different now and maybe I could find joy again in it. And then this character came along and it reminded me of Ted a little bit. I based it -- I kind of -- I got my character ideas from Ted and Mae West.

KING: Did you like being a witch?

FONDA: Yes, certainly. They're always the best parts, the witch part, the bitch parts, the over-the-top, but she was also a lot of fun, you know. When I say that Ted partly inspired me it's because I learned from my ten years with Ted what up close outrageous looks like, over-the-top looks like, and how lovable it can be you know.

KING: Yes. Ted is lovable.

FONDA: Yes and totally outrageous.

KING: Henry Fonda.

FONDA: Oh, him.

KING: I had the honor of interviewing him. FONDA: Oh.

KING: And he told me once something that surprised me. He said, "You know, I couldn't wait to be Mister Roberts at eight o'clock each night," never missed a performance he said.

FONDA: Never.

KING: "Because I was so no him at three o'clock in the afternoon. I was nothing like him. I was nothing like my image." Does that surprise you?

FONDA: I think that there was a lot of Mister Roberts in my father, at least there was a huge part of him that yearned to be.

KING: To be him, he said "I can't wait to be him."

FONDA: Right. But yearned as a human being, not just to act him but as to be that kind of person and there was, you know, Mister Roberts was someone who stood up for the underdog, who stood up against the tyrant and there was a lot of that in my father.

And look at the -- not just "Mister Roberts" but Tom Joad, Clarence Darrow, "Young Mr. Lincoln," "The Wrong Man," "12 Angry Men," I mean these were all...

KING: "The Ox-Bow Incident."

FONDA: "The Ox-Bow Incident," people who stood up against injustice and there was a dialectic between those roles and my father.

KING: But everyone -- he only was once evil right?

FONDA: Twice, "Fort Apache" and "Once Upon a Time in the West."

KING: Right. And no one believed he could be evil. You never thought of Henry Fonda as being...

FONDA: Never.

KING: ...anything but (INAUDIBLE).

FONDA: No and that's why it was so brilliant to cast him in those roles.

KING: Was he -- how would you describe him as a father?

FONDA: I'm so grateful that he was my father, you know. For all the fascination of Katherine Hepburn and everything that I learned from her on the film "On Golden Pond," at the end of the day I had to ask myself do I wish that I was part of her gene pool and I realized no, no.

My father he was what he was. He did the best he could. He never tried to fascinate. He never made demands. He was just there, hardworking, decent, a man of tremendous integrity. You know while I was writing my book I had a phone call from Yolanda King, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s daughter, one of his daughters. And I told her I was writing and that, you know, I asked her about her father. I said, "Was your father, Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who would take you on his knees and communicate his values to you?" And she said, "No, no he never did that."

And I realized something and I said, you know, "My father never did that either but you had your father's sermons and I had my father's films and those were our lessons."

KING: We'll be right back with Jane Fonda. The book is "My Life So Far," out in trade paperback. Don't go away.




FONDA: He's seen me mean, he's seen me hoary, and it doesn't seem to matter and he seems to accept me and I guess having sex with somebody and feeling those sort of feelings towards them is very new to me, and I -- I wish I didn't keep wanting to destroy it.


KING: We're back with incredible Jane Fonda, no other way to describe her. Activist, actress, best selling memoir, "My Life So Far" now out in paperback, and included with the paperback is a companion DVD. Did winning Oscars improve your attitude, personality?

FONDA: I thought you were going to say your sex life.

KING: Your sex life never need improving. Did you ever have low points in your sex life?

FONDA: Yes. There's been a six-year drought.

KING: You have gone six years?

FONDA: I know you haven't. You know what Ted always said, if you don't use it, it grows over. Secondary virginity.

KING: Are you in a six-year period now?

FONDA: Um-hm.

KING: By your choice? FONDA: Uh-huh.

KING: Why?

FONDA: I haven't met anybody I wanted to break the fast with.

KING: Really? You don't have that kind of need.

FONDA: I'm not talking about need. That's a whole other issue. There's other ways.

KING: We're getting really --

FONDA: Should we really get into it?

KING: But if you met Mr. Right --

FONDA: When you're 68 years old, the idea of getting in bed with a new man is scary. If I ever -- people say, you should remake "Barefoot in the Park," it would be called Barefoot in the Dark. I would be backing out of the bedroom in the dark.

KING: Back on Broadway now.

I heard. Love Redford.

KING: Did winning Oscars help you in your own self-esteem?

FONDA: Yes, absolutely. It's the top award from your peers, a tremendous validation. God knows I've been bad enough in a lot of not very good movies. The fact I've done good enough to win two, when times get dark, which they haven't for a long time, I can always say, I won two Oscars

KING: What is that moment like, when they open that envelope?

FONDA: I've been up there three times. The third time, I went up there to get my Dad's Oscar for him, because he was too sick to go. You go numb, you better be prepared, no matter what, you always have to be prepared.

KING: To lose and to win?

FONDA: No. You have to be prepared to win and know what you're going to say, because you're completely brain dead when you go up there. And look out at the sea of faces. It's always the most famous people in the first few rows. You look out there and see all or heroes and heroines sitting in the front rows. It's terrifying.

The most interesting time was the first time was with "Klute," because it was 1971. People were scared, everybody thought I was going to win and I thought I was going to win and everybody was afraid if I won, I was going to make a tirade about the war, I was going to politicize the event.

I thought a lot about it before hand, is it irresponsible for me not to talk about the war? So I asked my dad. Dad, what should I do? He said, you should say there's a lot to be said but tonight isn't the night. And I will never forget standing up there and saying, thank you, there's a lot to be said but tonight isn't the night.

You could hear this, oh, thank God, this wave of relief and tremendous applause. I remember walking offstage and I walked into a corner and just sobbed. You know why I sobbed? I sobbed because it didn't seem right that I had won an Oscar before my dad, you know what I mean? With all of his great performances. KING: I didn't think of that. That's true. Did you expect to win the second one?

FONDA: No. I didn't. That was a surprise. I was prepared and I actually accepted it in sign language. Oh, well.

KING: Why?

FONDA: Because I found out there were 17 million deaf people in the United States and the Academy Awards were not closed-captioned. I tried to get them to close caption and they wouldn't do it. So I decided to do my thing in sign language.

KING: By the way, now that you did a movie again, will you do another?

FONDA: Uh-huh.

KING: Got one already?

FONDA: Maybe. Can't announce it yet, but yes.

KING: Comedy?

FONDA: No. But there is another thing being worked on that's comedy. I just love to do comedy and the more physical the better. Now that I have a new hip --

KING: You liked putting your head down in --

FONDA: I liked rolling around in bed with her and slap --

KING: Tell me about the hip.

FONDA: I got one and it's bionic and I beep when I go through security.

KING: Right side or left side?

FONDA: Right side.

KING: How long did it take to get over it after the surgery?

FONDA: A couple of months pretty good. Now, I've been horseback riding again. It's pretty -- I'm pain-free.

KING: It's amazing surgery, isn't it?

FONDA: Aren't we lucky to be alive when they can change the parts? I feel like a Jalopy.

KING: We'll be right back with Jane Fonda. "My Life So Far" is in trade paperback. Don't go away..


FONDA: He's not going to like the fact I've changed. I have changed. I've never been on my own before.



KING: Back with Jane Fonda. You recently were quotes as encouraging women to say no to plastic surgery.

FONDA: Um-hum.

KING: Why, if they want to look better.

FONDA: Wanting to look better is fine but everybody ends up looking the same. I just traveled around the world for my book. Sitting at book signings and looking at the faces of people in other parts of the world in Europe and Finland, Sweden, Australia, they own their faces. They are who they are. Then I think about in this country, you know, it's like anybody who can afford it starts to get, talk about Jalopies, new noses and chins and cheeks and Botox and everybody ends up not looking like who they are.

KING: But you've had it?

FONDA: A long time ago but I'm not going to do it again. It's really scary.

KING: The lines around your eyes are your lines.

FONDA: I didn't add them.

KING: I bet someone would say, I could take that away.

FONDA: No. I want to own my face. It's scary when you're in movies, it really is, but I don't care, I'm not going to do it. I had my breast implants taken out. I wanted to keep them and have them bronzed and put them on my mantle on either side of the Oscars but they were considered biohazards so I couldn't.

KING: Would you like a new relationship?

FONDA: Yes. I would like to fall in love again because my issues have always been with men. That's where I would silence my voice, in my relationships with men. I can't be 100 percent sure that I'm over that living with a dog. The dog doesn't cause me to silence myself. KING: You haven't met anyone where you could say, boy, this could be--

FONDA: I have a few times, but they're married.

KING: A lot of pressures on young actresses today?

FONDA: Terrible.

KING: Worse than when you were young?

FONDA: Far worse, far, far worse. Because of this thing about being perfect. Everybody's redoing the way they looked. I didn't get breast implant until I was halfway to 50, you know, like 45 years old. Now, they're doing it at 16 and 17 years old.

KING: Really?

FONDA: Yes, getting it for birthday presents from their parents. It's like, I know what the pressure is, it's like, well, other people are doing it, if I don't do it, I'm talking about movie stars, if I don't do it, I won't be able to compete and it's really hard. I haven't spent that much time in New York, nor in Hollywood, for that matter. When I was there and I went shopping at Neiman Marcus, everybody looked alike. It was disturbing.

KING: Why do you live in Atlanta?

FONDA: I live in Atlanta because it's real. Because it's more like the rest of the country. It's not an elite enclave. And as a social activist, which is what I am at heart, it forces me to listen differently, to have patience, to have compassion, to --

KING: It's a red state.

FONDA: Yes, yes. If I can accomplish something there, I can do it anywhere. If we can help families and young kids there in an issue that is very controversial, sexuality, gender, it can be done anywhere. We are trying to create models that can be replicated. Also the food is good.

KING: Yes.

FONDA: People are very friendly.

KING: Was doing this book cathartic?

FONDA: The catharsis happened before I wrote the book, which is why I wrote it in the first place. The biggie for me in the course of the actual writing was finding out about my mother's early sexual abuse.

KING: How did you find out?

FONDA: I got her medical records, with the help of lawyers from the institution in which she killed herself. In those records, in the middle of all the doctors and nurses' reports, unbeknownst to me, I had no idea it was her history, that she wrote about her life. What a blessing for a child to find that years later and she revealed she had been sexually abused.

KING: Wasn't it hard to write about her suicide?

FONDA: No. It was hard to live through it but not to write about it.

KING: We'll be right back with Jane Fonda, one of my favorite people. The book is "My Life So Far." Don't go away.


FONDA: What do you do with yourself after work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go to the movies.

FONDA: Alone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I take a bag of popcorn.

FONDA: You don't mix much, do you?


FONDA: You got something that's catching?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm bad at small talc.

FONDA: I didn't stick my thumb out, Mr. Cox, you offered to give me a ride. This is it right here.



KING: We're back with Jane Fonda. You lost your mother horrifically, right.

FONDA: Suicide.

KING: How did you find out?

FONDA: When it happened, my dad told me she had a heart attack. A year later in school, I was passed a movie magazine in study hall and in the movie magazine, it said she had cut her throat.

KING: What did that do to you?

FONDA: It didn't surprise me, oddly enough. I didn't get mad that I hadn't been told.

KING: You didn't get mad at your dad?

FONDA: No. I think I sensed that he probably thought at my age, I couldn't have taken the truth, my brother and I. It's not, you know, if you have a parent that suffers from mental illness, in my mother's case, it was severe bipolar, the suicide is horrible, because you always blame yourself as a child.

It's the illness itself and all that time leading up to it that really has deprived you of a parent. That's even harder than the suicide itself, is the fact that she was never there. You always think that it's your fault. It takes a lot of work and time to realize that it's not your fault. It's -- one of the things I try to show in my book is the plans of understanding your parents.

We should all try to write the biography of our parents. Really dig like an archaeologist and sift through the sands of who they were and why they were that way, and what their parents were like. Then we can understand why they were the way they were, why they did or didn't do what they needed to do, and it had nothing to do with us. It was their fault, you know, it was their issue, it was their problems. And I think that my children have my book now, so that they can see that my failings as a parent didn't have anything to do with them.

KING: How good a mother are you?

FONDA: I'm a great mother now. I was not a good mother, especially for my firstborn, my wonderful daughter, Vanessa. I didn't know how to be. One of the things that surprises me so much, is that people say, how could you have admitted that you weren't a good parent? Apparently, that's like a no-no. You're not supposed to -- of course, my daughter never would have allowed me to get away with pretending that it was any different. But we have grown together.

KING: How do you think your father would have taken to Ted?

FONDA: Oh, God, what a question to ask. I think about it all the time. I found out that my father, when Ted was first starting CNN, said to somebody, "I am fascinated with this man." My father was a news junky. "I hope some day I could meet him."

My father would have adored Ted. He would have been so happy that I had been married to Ted. First of all, they both loved to fish. Secondly, my father didn't talk and was very shy; Ted never stops. So they would have been a perfect match, and they even sometimes sound alike.

KING: Yeah. Both liberal?

FONDA: Yes, yes. Yes. That's one of my regrets, that during the months and weeks that Ted and I would spend fishing on his many rivers, and where the fish were trained to bite when we fished, because he owned them -- just kidding.

KING: Did Ted often talk to you about how he would have liked to have known your father?

FONDA: Not often.


KING: Because he was such a movie buff, Ted. He must have seen all of his films.

FONDA: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, yes.

KING: When you watched your father, did you see all his movies -- I guess you saw all his movies. What was it like for a daughter to see a father, that much talent, on the big screen?

FONDA: Different movies. I just watched the Fritz Lang movie he did with Sylvia Sidney called "You Only Live Once." And all I could think of was how much my son Troy looked like him -- looks like him, and how much I look like him.

KING: What was it like to work with him?

FONDA: Probably the most -- the greatest blessing that I had was the ability to work with my dad before it was too late. And it was so wonderful to watch the way he worked. His sort of just dogged, quiet, no-nonsense, no demands, especially next to Kate Hepburn, who was, you know, as she said to someone on the set once, it's the star's responsibility to fascinate. So she was always fascinating, and my dad was just there.

KING: Just there?

FONDA: Yeah.

KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments with Jane Fonda. Don't go away.


FONDA: Oh, I'm so happy for you. Congratulations.

JENNIFER LOPEZ, ACTRESS: Thank you. I can't believe this.

FONDA: Congratulations. I'm so pleased that you're going to be my daughter-in-law!

Oh, congratulations.

LOPEZ: Thank you. I can't believe this.

FONDA: I'm so happy for you.



KING: The book is "My Life So Far." Our remaining moments with Jane Fonda.

When did you become a Christian? FONDA: While I was married to Ted. It was a lousy thing to do to him. I didn't tell him. We weren't on the same team at that time. It was -- the marriage was faltering.

KING: He told me. He said, you're not going to believe this. She's religions. What brought it to you?

FONDA: It was almost a somatic experience that I began to have -- around the time that I met Ted, I began to feel myself filling up with light, I don't know, like a sense of reverence. I felt led. I felt guided. And living in Georgia, where even though Ted is an atheist, most of his friends are very deeply religions, like the Carters and many others. And I've spent a lot of time talking to them and wondering if what they were drawn to is the same thing that I felt drawn to. And so I became a Christian. And...

KING: Go to church? FONDA: I did. And when Ted and I split up, I went to Bible study class. And then I thought, uh-oh, I've made a terrible mistake -- as a feminist, I don't know if this is right. And the more I studied, the more I felt, yeah, yeah, it is. There's no contradictions between the two. And I'm now -- I'm in theology school.

KING: Did you see "The Last Temptation of Christ?"

FONDA: I did.

KING: Like it?

FONDA: It was too violent. It was -- it was too violent for me. But being raised an atheist, I have a lot of catching up to do. So I'm studying...

KING: Your father was an atheist?

FONDA: ... theology. Yes.

KING: Is Peter an atheist?

FONDA: I think he's an agnostic.

KING: You were bulimic?

FONDA: Twenty-five years.

KING: You mean you were throwing up food?

FONDA: Or I would go through years of being anorexic.

KING: How did you just stay healthy?

FONDA: I didn't. That's why I stopped. It was hard to stop. I knew that I had to -- it was a choice between life and death, you know, moving towards the light or moving towards the darkness. And I had a very interesting life, and I couldn't continue doing life with this disease.

KING: Did you think you would be fat?

FONDA: I thought that I wouldn't be good enough. It's this old, you have to be perfect to be loved. I have to control everything or I won't be good.

KING: But you -- you work out, you...?

FONDA: Oh, no, I'd stopped before the workout. The workout was one of the things that allowed me to get back inside my body. It's kind of like, I don't know, my transformation began in my muscles, if you like.

KING: How's your health now?

FONDA: Except for my joints, perfect, wonderful. And you? You look really good.

KING: Joints? I feel great.

FONDA: My joints are my Achilles heel, pardon the pun.

KING: Well, you got the right one, you're going to need the left one?

FONDA: Probably. And a couple of knees.

KING: Knees too?

FONDA: Maybe.

KING: Jane the wreck.

FONDA: I'd rather have it be a joint issue than other things.

KING: You're not kidding.

FONDA: Yeah.

KING: Great seeing you, darling.

FONDA: Love you. Love you, Larry.

KING: See you June 1st in Atlanta.

FONDA: Yes, my dear.

KING: We're going to roast...

FONDA: Looking forward.

KING: ... Jane Fonda.

The book is "My Life So Far," now out in trade paperback. What an hour.


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