Hot mama Jane Fonda is unabashed talking about sex

Jane Fonda, who started an aerobics craze in the 1980s and 1990s, cuts a svelte figure on the red carpet at the premiere of This Is Where I Leave You in Hollywood on Monday. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Jane Fonda, who started an aerobics craze in the 1980s and 1990s, cuts a svelte figure on the red carpet at the premiere of This Is Where I Leave You in Hollywood on Monday. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Jane Fonda, who plays a lusty mum in This Is Where I Leave You, often makes her real-life children blush

At 76, Jane Fonda is still as irrepressible as ever. And the actress - who managed to morph from a 1960s screen siren into an award-winning movie star, an antiestablishment figure and even an exercise guru - is not quite done reinventing herself.

Least of all on screen, where she continues to experiment with her career, whether it is taking on her first television role with The Newsroom in 2012, or creating scene-stealing supporting characters in films such as her latest, This Is Where I Leave You.

The black comedy, which opens in Singapore today, casts her as a lusty, silicone-breasted matriarch whose openness about sex and other intimate details is a constant source of blushes for her four grown children (played by Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll).

She is equally unabashed about this sort of thing in person, as Life! and other press learnt when speaking to her in Los Angeles.

Fonda, who has been gleefully telling reporters how much she enjoyed wearing - and occasionally flashing - her prosthetic boobs on set, says it was important to her to portray a woman of a certain age who is still glamorous and sexual.

It is not hard to see how in real life, she sometimes inadvertently mortifies her real children as well - 47-year-old Vanessa Vadim, her daughter with her first husband, the late Barbarella (1968) director Roger Vadim; 41-year-old Troy Garity, her son with activist Tom Hayden; and Mary Williams, 43, the daughter she adopted with Hayden.

"I do have a problem with oversharing," admits Fonda, who had married and divorced Husband No. 3 - CNN founder Ted Turner - by 2001.

"And my children do get upset about it," she says of her brood, whose adolescent memories are also marked, no doubt, by images of their leotard-clad mother in her best-selling aerobics videos, which helped kick-start the personal fitness craze in the 1980s and 1990s. "So I didn't have to look too hard to get into that place."

Fonda says she was also more than willing to draw on her own family squabbles for her atypical, multi-faceted role in the new movie - partly because female characters such as these are few and far between for older actresses, even a double Oscar-winner such as herself (Klute, 1971, and Coming Home, 1978).

"It was much easier when I was young and starting out," says the performer, who comes from a family of respected actors, notably her father Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men, 1957).

"When you get older, it becomes really hard to find a well-developed, well-rounded character," she tells Life!. "I think we're slowly inching our way towards it being easier. But it's very slow. I think the glaciers are melting faster than older women's roles in movies are improving."

What would it take to change this? "Well, every time we make movies with older women in them and they do well at the box office, it helps," says the actress, who has been an outspoken feminist and human-rights campaigner since the 1970s.

That was also when she gained notoriety for her controversial opposition to the Vietnam War and description of the United States government and soldiers as "war criminals", which led to many Americans labelling her a traitor and "Hanoi Jane".

Although she continues to be a bit of a firebrand - weighing in on everything from the Iraq War to the Arab-Israeli conflict in recent years - Fonda is perhaps a little more circumspect nowadays, demurring when a reporter asks her a question about the Obama administration's approach to privacy.

She also bristles when asked about The Trial Of Jane Fonda, a new play based on her real-life encounter with a group of disgruntled Vietnam War veterans in 1988, when they tried to stop her from filming a movie in Connecticut.

Asked how she feels about the play or the idea of it being possibly turned into a film, she says: "Whatever, I don't care. As long as it talks properly about the war and about veterans, and helps people understand better, that's fine with me."

Fonda is more forthcoming when it comes to her passion for cinema, even though she famously quit the business and announced a self-imposed retirement in 1991.

"I left because I was really unhappy. I can't act if I'm really unhappy, so I thought, well, that's it, I'm going to pack it in.

"And then I changed as a person for all kinds of reasons, and I realised I could come back and, if I could get work, I could find joy in it again.

"So I came back when I was 65 with Monster-in-Law," she says, referring to the 2005 comedy starring Jennifer Lopez as the daughter-in-law she clashes with.

"And it's been a gradual increase in the variety of things I'm asked to do, and it's fun, because they're quite different."

One of these new projects has been her recurring role on the award-winning political drama The Newsroom.

Her turn as the sharp-tongued media mogul Leona Lansing - a part she has cheekily described as "Rupert Murdoch marinated in Ted Turner" - earned her yet another accolade this year, an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

She is about to break into yet another new format with Grace And Frankie, a 13-episode series that will debut on the online streaming service Netflix next year.

Starring Fonda and Lily Tomlin as two 70-year-old women whose husbands suddenly reveal they are gay and want to run off with each other, it is "one of those things where the humour comes out of reality and oftentimes out of pain".

"I wanted to tell stories about older women at a certain time of their life when they're not sex objects anymore. They may not even have a job anymore... a lot of things just aren't anymore."

stlife@sph.com.sg

This Is Where I Leave You opens here today.