It’s been five years since since Jane Fonda last appeared on screen (in Lindsay Lohan’s would-be comeback Georgia Rule). But the Hollywood legend and two-time Oscar winner is returning to the spotlight with a vengeance, in a trio of provocative new projects. First, she stars as Catherine Keener’s pot-smoking, bed-hopping hippie mom in the indie dramedy Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (out June 8). Then, on HBO’s Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom (debuting June 24), she’ll play a media mogul who bears a striking similarity to Fonda’s ex-husband Ted Turner and spars with a cranky cable news anchor (Jeff Daniels). And in July, Fonda, 74, will begin filming a cameo as Nancy Reagan in director Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the true-life story of a White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who worked for eight different presidents. Playing the Republican grande dame may seem like a major departure for the former Vietnam protester, but Fonda insists, ”I can look like her! I can!” Here are nine other things that may surprise you.
1. She had to educate herself to play a hippie.
Despite her reputation as a counterculture figure, Fonda says that during the late ’60s she was living a decidedly glamorous life in Paris with her then husband, director Roger Vadim. ”I was never a hippie myself, so I thought it would be fun to play one,” says Fonda, who prepped for her role as a longtime activist in Woodstock, N.Y., in Peace, Love & Misunderstanding by digging into Woodstock documentaries and period songs (many suggested by costar Keener). ”I looooved wearing those clothes,” says Fonda. ”There’s a lot of different ways to look like a hippie — I wanted to be a hippie queen.”
2. She modeled her Newsroom character on Rupert Murdoch as much as Ted Turner.
”Rupert is the most charming person when he wants to charm somebody,” says Fonda, who met the Fox News mogul (above left) during a skiing weekend at Turner’s Montana ranch. ”And I think my character can be very charming when she wants to be.” While Fonda is still on friendly terms with Turner (above right), she didn’t seek out her ex’s advice on how to play the boss of a cable news network. ”I didn’t need to — I lived with him for 10 years!” she says, laughing. In what ways is her character similar to Turner? ”She has humor, so that’s like Ted. She may not be as nice as Ted. She’s tough. Not that Ted’s not tough, but he’s not tough in the same way.”
3. She still works out … just a bit more slowly.
”I do elliptical and I lift weights. They’re just lighter. I don’t run — I walk. I don’t downhill-ski — I snowshoe,” says the former fitness guru, who released 23 best-selling workout videos in the 1980s and ’90s. ”There’s always something you can do, even if it’s standing up and sitting down in a chair a bunch of times.”
4. She has a girl crush on Jennifer Lopez.
”I like American Idol, and a lot of why I like it is because I like looking at Jennifer Lopez, if you really wanna know. How’s she gonna look this week? I mean, I have my favorite looks,” says Fonda, who met Lopez while shooting 2005’s Monster-in-Law. ”In one scene we were sitting across from each other at a table and I said, ‘I just have to tell you something: It’s like looking at a perfect piece of Mayan sculpture,”’ recalls Fonda. ”She is really, seriously beautiful.”
5. Although she watched Dancing with the Stars, don’t expect to see her doing the paso doble on the ABC show.
”Never! Never! Never!” she says. ”Not for $2 million!”
6. She has considered writing a dirty book.
”I thought about writing a porn novel,” says Fonda, who even read E L James’ steamy new best-seller. ”But when I read Fifty Shades of Grey and realized this is the kind that works here, I don’t think it would work. I’ve read real porn. I’ve read real erotica, including in French. I understand why that’s number one. I think it’s great for women to be turned on.”
7. She found her current boyfriend thanks to Princess Leia.
Though Fonda and music producer Richard Perry met four decades ago in L.A., the two reconnected at a dinner party thrown by mutual friend Carrie Fisher in 2009. Fonda was in Paris when she got Fisher’s invite but had been planning a trip to L.A. for medical reasons. ”I came to get a new knee and ended up with a new lover,” she says. ”I moved in [with Perry] when I was still on crutches.”
8. She’s now sleeping in Ronald Reagan’s old bedroom.
”I’m living in a house that Reagan built when he was married to Jane Wyman,” says Fonda of the L.A. home she shares with Perry. As for her controversial casting as Nancy Reagan in The Butler, the actress promises, ”I will be very respectful. It’s not political.”
9. She has more in common with Sarah Palin than you’d think.
After she returns from a L’Oréal promotional tour in Cannes, she plans to go to her New Mexico ranch for 10 days. ”There I do my hobbies, which include fly-fishing and riding and hiking.” No word on whether she can field-dress a moose.