Feminist Jane Fonda once 'saw women as weak'

Jane Fonda is opening up about her cancer treatment. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
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Jane Fonda has been an outspoken feminist for decades, but it wasn't always that way.

"I saw women as weak. From a very early age, I always thought, 'I've got to hitch my wagon to a man,'" Fonda, 85, told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Friday.

She added that, as an adult, after becoming an anti-war activist in the ’60s, she encountered very different kinds of women than she had as a student at exclusive schools. And that made her see things differently.

"By opening myself to feminism and to women's friendships, I've become a much healthier person," the 80 for Brady star said. "It's taught me to not be afraid of vulnerability, not be afraid to ask for help, even though it's hard for me to do that."

Jane Fonda protests to call attention to climate change on Jan. 10, 2020 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
Jane Fonda protests to call attention to climate change on Jan. 10, 2020 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Fonda, whose earliest acting credits date back to the 1960s, also assessed the #MeToo movement to call out and end sexual violence that has brought down Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill Cosby and other once powerful men in the entertainment industry. She lamented that no one listened to the Black women who'd pointed out the abuse for years, and that it "took movie stars" to give the movement legs.

"A lot of people in the beginning thought [#MeToo] went too far, canceling and all that kind of thing," she said. "All movements do in the beginning. They can't be perfect out of the box. But it has emboldened women to speak. I honestly don't know if it's caused men to think twice. I really don't."

Fonda, for one, is not giving much thought to another subject: the remake of the 1968 cult classic Barbarella, in which she starred as an astronaut from the future. Multiple publications reported in October that Euphoria's Sydney Sweeney would play the part that Fonda made famous in a new film that's in the works.

"I try not to" Fonda said when she was asked what she thinks about the new project. "Because I worry about what it's going to be. I had an idea of how to do it that [the late producer of the original] Dino De Laurentiis, when he was still alive, wouldn't listen to. But it could have been a truly feminist movie."

Jane Fonda stars in 1968 movie
Jane Fonda stars in 1968 movie Barbarella. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Though Fonda's performance in the original wasn't a win with all the critics, she was soon after embraced by the acting world. The daughter of late, decorated actor Henry Fonda earned her first Oscar nomination in 1970, for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, and won a statuette for her lead role in Klute two years later. She's since earned four more nominations and another win, in 1979, for Coming Home. (Fonda's mother was the late Frances Ford Seymour, who died by suicide in 1950.)

While Fonda has nothing left to prove when it comes to her acting expertise, she understands the current conversation around so-called "nepo babies," or the offspring of the famous who often find themselves instant celebrities, too.

"People give you things when you're famous," acknowledged Fonda, whose father appeared in John Ford's acclaimed 1940 adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath and in the Oscar-nominated Young Mr. Lincoln, playing the former president, before his daughter had even started school. "I always had a hard time understanding that. I remember when I was 7, we were given a Studebaker and a TV set. And I thought, 'Why? We could buy them.'"

Besides acting and activism, Fonda has long been known as a fitness buff — a guru, even, to some — through her Jane Fonda's Workout franchise.

She confirmed that she (miraculously) kept up that routine last year while undergoing chemotherapy to treat the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma she had and revealed in September, but, of course, it took a toll.

"It really hit me hard," she said. "Sometimes my energy just gave out. Normally, I can hold a pushup for a couple of minutes. When the chemo was in me, after 30 seconds, I'd collapse."

Fonda said last month, though, that her cancer is in remission. She's been back to protesting in person for a couple of months now.