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Jane Fonda - Biography

"New facts keep coming into one's life, new feelings," Jane Fonda once said. "As long as I'm changing, there's hope for me." The actress who paved the way for every female power player from Meryl Streep to Julia Roberts has been through myriad incarnations: bombshell, revolutionary, film producer, workout queen, billionaire's wife. The former sex kitten obviously has more than nine lives so what's next?

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Jane Seymour Fonda was born on December 21 1937 to legendary actor dad Henry and his second wife, New York socialite Frances Seymour Brokaw, who committed suicide when Jane was 12 years old. Henry continued Jane and her brother Peter's upbringing, and though he was a distant father, co-starred with Jane in her 1954 stage debut in the Omaha Community Theatre. 

Early Career

The wealthy society girl nicknamed Lady Jane launched her adult career as a model. She went on to take the acting world by storm in 1960, making both her film and Broadway debuts and winning a Tony award. Upon leaving New York's Vassar College where, in her own words, she "went wild and got into lots of trouble", Jane's rebellious spirit carried her to Paris, where she found love with French director and future husband Roger Vadim. The two, who married in 1965, collaborated on four projects, including the film that defined Jane's sex kitten image as a space-age buxom blonde 1968's Barbarella. 

Jane was far from typecast, however. In 1969 she won her first Oscar nomination for the Depression-era drama They Shoot Horses Don't They?, and two years later took home a Best Actress gong for Klute. Suddenly, her reputation as an actress matched those of her male contemporaries Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro


In 1972 she made was the transition from on-screen bombshell to off-screen activist when she became involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement. When she posed wearing a helmet alongside an anti-aircraft gun in Vietnamese enemy territory, she earned a new monicker, "Hanoi Jane". The name continues to haunt her, and work on 1989's Stanley And Iris was disrupted by protesters who hadn't forgotten the incident. Though she never excused her participation in the anti-war movement, she publicly admitted she owed Vietnam veterans "an apology". "I will go to my grave regretting the photograph," she said in 2001, three decades after the image was first published.

Troubles with the film industry

Jane's anti-establishment activism grew in 1973 when she left her director husband to marry Sixties radical-turned-politician Tom Hayden. No stranger to controversy, she became active in the civil rights and anti-nuclear movements and named her son, Bandits actor Troy Garrity, after a Vietnamese resistance leader. She and Tom, who also adopted a daughter together, launched the production company IPC (Indo-China Peace Campaign), as Jane "couldn't get a job" in Hollywood. "I can't say I was blacklisted, but I was greylisted," she said later. "I was seriously toying with leaving the business. Instead, I decided to make one last stab." 

IPC-produced films got Jane's political messages across while returning her to the Tinseltown A-list. She earned the Oscar for Best Actress for the Vietnam-era drama Coming Home in 1980, and found commercial success with girl-power predecessor Nine To Five. In 1982, Jane's work reflected her personal life when she healed her complicated relationship with her father Henry while co-starring with him on screen for the first and last time in family drama On Golden Pond. He won his only Oscar for the role, and Jane, with her dad too ill to attend, accepted the gong for him with a tearful speech. He died four months later, aged 77. 

Exercise Videos

In the early-Eighties Jane once again reinvented herself. Gone was the shaggy-haired revolutionary, replaced by a perky workout queen. She launched a fitness company, Workout Inc, and released her first aerobics video, helping usher in the exercise trend. Between 1982 and 1995 she went on to sell a staggering 17 million copies of her various workout routines, kickstarting the home workout craze. In 2010, after fifteen years, she released two new fitness routines on DVD aimed at her same original audience.

All this aside, she hadn't shed her activist roots. Profits from her burgeoning empire were funnelled into her husband's campaigns and related organisations. 

Divorce from Tom Hayden

After 17 years together, Jane divorced Tom in 1989 and withdrew from the spotlight. She made her retirement official in 1992, announcing she was leaving acting to spend more time with her third husband, media mogul Ted Turner, whom she had married the previous year. As the millennium came to a close, however, so did her marriage to the billionaire founder of CNN, and the pair were divorced in 2001. 

Recent dating life

Eight years later, Jane entered a relationship with record producer Richard Perry. Sadly things were not meant to be, with the pair splitting up in 2009. In 2018 she revealed she was off the market and "not dating anymore" to Extra.

Personal interests

Though she's gone through a number of transformations, Jane's activism has been a constant throughout her life. These days her attention is focused on teen pregnancy. In 2001 she established The Jane Fonda Center at Emory University, which advises on adolescent reproductive health. 

The former actress also donated $12 million to Harvard University to study the role of gender in education.

Return to acting

Jane returned to acting in 2005 and hasn't stopped since. She stars in Netflix favourite Grace and Frankie, her streaming platform debut, and even became the subject of HBO documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, which premiered in 2018. She also starred in 2018 romcom Book Club, which was a box office success and grossed $93.4 million.

Accolades and life today

Throughout her career Jane has gone on to receive international acclaim for her various lifelong projects. From picking up the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1981 to receiving an induction into the California Hall of Fame and appearing on the September 2019 issue cover of British Vogue, (edited by guest editor Meghan Markle), she has left quite the legacy behind.

A converted Christian (she took up the religion while married to Ted), Jane was also listed in Ladies Home Journal as one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century. 

Now in her eighties, the Los Angeles resident is still going strong as a political activist. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in October 2019 she revealed plans to move to Washington for four months, with the purpose of getting regularly arrested to raise awareness around global warming. She was inspired by Greta Thunberg's passion for the environment and, true to her word, was arrested five times by the end of the year, aged 82.

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