Jane Fonda on her new movie, “Book Club”, Senior Sex and the Brown Palace Hotel – The Know
Jane Fonda still knows how to drop a provocative quote.
The 80-year film career is splashed with it, of course. And some quarters of our culture – especially the oldest and most conservative – have never forgotten or forgiven her protests against the Vietnam War, nearly half a century after she first recorded them. .
But although she’s been famous for at least that long, Fonda isn’t always credited for her sense of speech, which serves her just as well in press conferences as her ongoing feminist and anti-war activism.
When asked, for example, where she took inspiration from her strong character Vivian in the new movie “Book Club,” an ensemble drama about the rediscovery of love (and sex) later in life, she does not hesitate in her response.
“I just pretended to be a man,” she said on the phone from Los Angeles, before the film opens on May 18. “Vivian has a lot of lovers and she doesn’t care about any of them. She works hard. It is all business. She needs to be in control and she doesn’t want to be vulnerable. She is sort of emotionally illiterate.
Like men, you mean?
“No, it was in the writing and then I created a story for her that made me understand why she is the way she is,” she added. “So in my head it all made sense. It wouldn’t have worked if all the other women were like this.
Indeed, Fonda’s character is the reflective surface on which esteemed co-stars Candace Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen play. As the story of the film goes, the quartet of friends have met for decades at their treasured book club, which is as much a wine-centric social group as it is an intellectual or emotional exercise to unbox whatever they want. read.
Diane (Keaton) mourns the loss of her husband after decades of marriage as her children try to force her to retire. Carol (Steenburgen) tries to spice up her marriage to a seemingly lobotomized husband. Sharon (Bergen) grapples with insecurity as her ex-husband becomes engaged to a younger blonde Barbie-doll.
But Viviane? She’s a multi-millionaire hotel owner who doesn’t want and need anything. At least until Arthur (Don Johnson) surfaced in his life.
Along with all of this, the ladies begin to read the erotic bestseller “Fifty Shades of Gray,” and the trade-off between what goes in the book and their lives provides the spark for the rest of the film.
Here’s what Fonda had to say about it – and other topics.
Q: You shot the movie “Our souls at night” in Colorado in 2016. Were there any highlights of the experience?
A: It was so much fun. We shot at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver and the Plains. It was great to be there with Bob (co-star Robert Redford). And I even went to Pikes Peak, where I had never been, and loved it.
Q: Your character in “Book Club” is the lightning rod in the movie. Was it difficult to play it?
A: My character is the least easy to identify. I think most people know these other characters better. My character is a little more confused. She is not very sympathetic.
Q: Does she remind you of someone you’ve been to a real book club with?
A: I have never been in a book club, but I have spoken in book clubs when they read my books. Book clubs are what advocacy groups were in the 1960s and 1970s. It is a way for women to come together, and the purpose is the book. But they usually end up talking about themselves, their lives, their issues, and what’s going on in the world.
Q: Have you read “Fifty Shades of Gray” before that?
A: When it first came out, I read it because I just wanted to get the hang of it. I have read great erotic novels – I am thinking in particular of the history of the French, of course – so I have been there before. But I liked the fact that it was romantic. This is really why he was so popular in this country. As someone says in the movie, “Even Christian Gray fell in love.”
Q: I love that this movie shamelessly tackles sex at 70. It is an implicitly anti-ageist theme, and one which seems genuinely subversive.
A: Absolutely. Totally. That’s why the four of us wanted so much to be in it! It’s like my (Netflix) series “Grace and Frankie” (with co-star Lily Tomlin). We want to show older women in all their complexity. We need close-ups there. Some people need a little nudge to get back into the saddle, and some never get off. The saddle, I mean.
Q: There are few things more stereotypically traumatic for young people than thinking about their parents or grandparents having sex.
A: Kids don’t see their parents as sexual beings, but I think between “Grace and Frankie” and hopefully “Book Club” they might start to do it more. And older women are more optimistic because of these cultural experiences. The film also recalls the importance of female friendships. As you get older, in particular, women’s friendships sort of become what keeps you awake, keeps you upright (and) puts starch in your spine.
Q: There is a scene in the movie where Candace Bergen slaps you hard. Was this a one-shot situation?
A: We did a lot of takes and she didn’t slap me in all of them. We would go to the point of the slap. It was hard to convince her to really slap me. I kept saying, “Candace, really give it to me!” And it was hard for her to do it. But I was important.
Q: It sounds painful. Does it hurt?
A: No. I think they improved the sound.
Q: How many of these other people have you worked with in the past?
A: I had worked with Craig T. Nelson and Ed Begley, who were on “Grace and Frankie”. But I hadn’t worked with anyone else. I barely knew them.
Q: This is not what I expected, given your long film career.
A: You would be surprised. When we were filming “On Golden Pond,” my father (Henry Fonda, who won an Oscar for his role) and Katherine Hepburn had never worked together. They had never met. People travel in their own circles. I mean, I had met all of these women at parties or events, but I never really got to talk to them. And I wanted it. That was one of the reasons I made the movie: I wanted to get to know them. And we are committed to becoming friends.
Q: Life imitating art, maybe?
A: Well, we’re not starting a book club. But we all went to dinner at the other’s house. Marie cooks her own food. She is a good cook. In fact, when we went to dinner at Candy’s… she had a teenage crush on Tab Hunter. He was the big idol in the early ’60s. He was huge. He was magnificent. So she invited him to dinner and asked us all to come. And that’s how the two single women – me and Diane – came. Mary brought Ted (Danson) and Candy got Tab Hunter. It was so much fun. We knew he would be there, but what came as a surprise was how alive and beautiful he still was. Really nice.