A Candid Interview With Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda says she has spent her life trying to please men. She was recently officially divorced from her last husband, media tycoon Ted Turner, and says now that she is by herself, she finally feels whole.

As a child she used to "tie herself in pretzels," trying to be what her famous movie actor father wanted. Her first husband, French director Roger Vadim, transformed her into the sexy Barbarella. Then in 1972 she divorced Vadim for political activist Tom Hayden. She was outspoken herself and was by his side at every rally. After Hayden, she surprised everyone by settling down with media mogul Ted Turner.

She says Turner helped her find her own voice and move on. She got involved in public service, and founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, which tries to reduce the high rates of teen pregnancy in the state. Last year Fonda traveled to Nigeria to make a film aimed at stopping the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation.

Fonda sat down with Barbara Walters on 20/20 and talked about her breakup with Turner, how she found her own voice, and her involvement in the benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues.

Last Man

BARBARA WALTERS: You married Ted Turner — a very strong, seemingly macho guy. You, this liberal, activist. Most people were surprised at this marriage. Yet, you say you found your voice in that marriage?

JANE FONDA: In spite of him. [LAUGHTER] Oh, yeah. I did. He he gave me a tremendous amount of support and space. And you know, I am not sure he was too happy that I kind of grew up and healed. And he needed me?

WALTERS: OK. And you have even been quoted as saying, "Wherever Ted goes, I go." And people began to say about you — that Jane — has become "the little woman." Were you?

FONDA: The rap on me, looks awfully true. I have become whatever the man wants me to be. And, to some extent, it's true. But then, there is an internal me that continued to get re-potted so that I continued to grow.

'Being Whole'

WALTERS: You say you have found your voice in spite of Ted. Tell me more … Why was it tough for him?

FONDA: He got used to me being malleable. And he is needy. And when I started to say, "I don't want to be that way anymore," it was hard for him to take. And, um, uh, the end of a relationship is always hard. But, in this instance, I needed to go my own way. What is so wonderful, is that we are very close. And I don't think he still understands why it had to be this way. But it does.

WALTERS: It's tough to walk away, from something that's good, isn't it?

FONDA: Not if what you're walking towards is better.


FONDA: And what can be better than being whole?

Working Out

WALTERS: I am sure people want to know also about exercise. I mean, you look pretty great — to me. But, do you still do a lot of exercise?


WALTERS: Ahhh. [LAUGHTER] Thank heaven.

FONDA: But, you know, I have got good genes and I eat well, and stuff like that. But, no, I don't exercise.

WALTERS: All over the country, women are going, "Whoa."

The Monologues

WALTERS: Now, the reason you are here in New York: on Saturday night, there is a stunning benefit performance at Madison Square Garden, of something that people have heard us talking about for years, The Vagina Monologues.

FONDA: Oh, right. Va, va, va.

WALTERS: Va, va, va, voom.

FONDA: Yeah.

WALTERS: OK, and you're going to be reading a part of it. Oprah is, Calista Flockhart, Glenn Close?

FONDA: And 200 other women. It's a brilliant piece of empowering theater. We are raising the money — the millions of dollars that will be raised — to stop violence, against women all over the world. Now, the piece that I do — which particularly resonates with me — is about birth.

You can't talk about vaginas, and not talk about this remarkable ability that they have, to give birth. It is awesome. If penises could do, what vaginas could do, they'd be on postage stamps. There would be a 12-foot one embronzed at the rotunda in Washington. I mean, vaginas are just absolutely extraordinary. It's the most important part of our lives, [WHISPERING] and no one can say the word. You can't say it. There are so many young girls, grow up only hearing "down there," talked about as nasty, and this, you know? So they think there's no problem giving it away, it's a nasty thing.

We have to honor, and prize that which is so special about ourselves.

WALTERS: This is not going to be the beginning of a new acting career is it?

FONDA: Absolutely not, no. I am so happy and so productive and my mind is free to go into new places. Showing up on a set? I mean no movie part would ever be as interesting as my life. And so why go back?