Jane Fonda has two new projects to promote: her memoir Jane Fonda: My Life So Far, out later this month, and her first movie in 15 years, Monster-in-Law, opening in May. But promoting them on TV means making public acts of contrition for her controversial past. Her penitence tour begins Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes, where, in an interview with Lesley Stahl, she apologizes for her notorious Vietnam War photo-op with a North Vietnamese aircraft gun in Hanoi. ”The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda’s daughter…sitting on an enemy aircraft gun was a betrayal…the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine,” Fonda tells Stahl.
Fonda has apologized for the incident before, but she tells Stahl she doesn’t regret other notorious events from her 1972 trip to Hanoi, such as being photographed with American prisoners of war. ”There are hundreds of American delegations that had met with the POWs. Both sides were using the POWs for propaganda,” she says. ”It’s not something that I will apologize for.” She also won’t apologize for the 10 broadcasts she made on Radio Hanoi, urging U.S. pilots not to bomb the North Vietnamese capital. ”Our government was lying to us and men were dying because of it, and I felt I had to do anything that I could to expose the lies and help end the war,” she says.
Digging up another skeleton from her personal closet, Fonda confirms to Stahl what her publicist denied two weeks ago when British papers leaked excerpts from My Life So Far: that her first husband, Barbarella director Roger Vadim, pressured her into having three-way sex, and that she herself recruited call girls to join the couple. ”One night Vadim brought another woman into my bed and I went along with it,” she tells Stahl. ”I’m competitive…I was going to keep up with the Joneses. It was the ’60s and whatever.” As for soliciting the prostitutes herself, she says, ”Hey, if that’s what he wanted, I’d give it to him in spades.” She says she’s not sure that she enjoyed the ménages a trois, but she worried that Vadim would leave her if she refused. ”I know one thing: It really hurt me,” she says, ”and it reinforced my feeling I wasn’t good enough.” (Fonda was married to Vadim from 1965 to 1973. He died in 2000.) At least she was able to take what she learned from the working girls and use it in her Oscar-winning role as a prostitute in 1971’s Klute.