Jane Fonda on Hope, Meditation and Politics


A female force to be reckoned with.

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Jane Fonda playing Brenda Morel in this year’s release, Youth

Sitting on a windswept rooftop in the French Riviera, Jane Fonda is celebrating the release of her latest film. For the doyenne of both aerobics and acting, the aptly titled Youth (in cinemas December 26), has opened up a conversation on age, wisdom and regret.

Here’s what Jane Fonda had to say on…

“I didn’t do it until I was 70. As is usual – it’s my way of doing things – I did it in the most impossibly difficult way. Do you know anything about meditation? I went to a Zen Buddhist monastery. The first 8 days of December, they celebrate the enlightenment of the Buddha – it’s called Rohatsu. You don’t speak. You don’t look at anyone in the eye. You meditate all day. Everything is formal. The way you eat with chopsticks. You never speak. You never look at anyone for eight days. I learned to meditate. It’s called trial by fire. No-one thought I would last. It’s very painful. It’s hard. But I’m my father’s daughter. I would rather be quiet than to talk all the time, so that part wasn’t difficult.”

“I am still politically active – for the rights of women. [It’s] very important in the US. We have no equal rights amendment in the constitution. Women earn less than men doing exactly the same job. Very few movies are directed by women. Most central roles are not women.”

“When you’re young, and you’re looking at age from the outside, it’s so scary. But when you’re inside age – and I’m very much inside age, I’m discovering, and this is new – it’s not scary at all. So this is a big discovery for me. My message for women is hope – especially in the US. We’re so focused on youth. We’re so scared of dying.”

“Television is very forgiving for older women. It’s much harder when you’re an older woman to get a major role in a movie. Old women are the fastest-growing demographic in the world and yet you don’t see them in central parts. I wanted to change that.”

The industry
“It’s a very challenging career to be in movies, where there’s so much emphasis, especially for a woman, on how you look. You’re not in control. If I was a painter, I would be in control: my canvas, my brush. For an actor, someone has to want you to be in their movie. And then the director can determine if you’re good or not.

“It’s a profession that’s very good for the heart, because in order to be a good actor, you have to be able to have empathy for other people. You have to enter another person’s reality with an open heart. Good for the heart. Very bad for the nerves.”

“Here’s another thing you learn when you get older – people say, ‘Do you regret?’ There are certain things I wish I had or hadn’t done, but they made me who I am. I could have done many things smarter, better, safer. But they made me what I am. What’s most important is to take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them.”

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