NEW YORK, April 4
She is limping. "Hanoi Jane" is in pain, though that moniker may not be fair anymore. She's 67, after all. Those days of rage, of the seemingly nonstop 1960s and '70s Jane Fonda talkfest on every cause at hand, are long past. Even she, in retrospect, is annoyed by it. Watching some old tapes years later, she writes in her new book, she wanted to shout, "Will somebody please tell her to shut up?"
She hoists that bad left hip and size 4 frame onto a red leather stool Monday morning to pose for photos. She is a portrait of the aged star struggling with a fading body even as she is healed of heart after decades of private battle -- with self-loathing and bulimia; with sexual, shall we say, abundance; with husbands and lovers whose identities she absorbed as her own; with her various personae as a woman both burned in effigy and adored.
"Women have to not be afraid of their own strength and to inhabit themselves," the 67-year-old actress and author says.
(Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
As she sits, you forget that limp and instead focus on the head-high posture, the piercing, earnest gaze of a woman who has confronted her demons and has emerged a wiser diva fully in control, especially of her besieged image.
She poses. The photographer frames her.
"Oh, God! Side lighting is not so good for me," she warns.
Adjustments are made. She cocks her head. As if that flat stomach could be flatter still, she smooths the front of her tightly cinched brown slacks.
"Where are you cropping?" she asks in that commanding, clipped voice. She wants to know how she'll look. This shoot, this interview, are part of her reemergence.
"For 15 years, I've been able to go unnoticed in airports," she says. That's how long it's been since her last movie. But now, with the new autobiography, "My Life So Far," coming out Tuesday and the new movie, "Monster-in-Law," with Jennifer Lopez, out next month, Jane Fonda has something to sell.
Off the red stool and heading back to the sofa, she clutches that hip. Replacement surgery comes in June, and not a minute too soon. In the hallway at the Drake Hotel, she stumbles into the elevator. Sometimes the hip just gives way.
"Honey, I'm falling apart," she'd said a few minutes earlier, laughing with a ghoulish play on one of her old movie titles. "They shoot horses, don't they?"
How to reconcile her many faces? Jane Fonda watchers long have wondered just who she was, why she was and how she had so many incarnations -- actress, activist, mismatched spouse, workout queen, born-again Christian, feminist.
Her own daughter, Vanessa Vadim, cuttingly called her a "chameleon," Fonda writes.
That's what we all saw, the changes. And yet we didn't see anything, really -- certainly not the intimate life and deep secrets that she now reveals in this extraordinarily frank book that she wrote herself, running more than 600 pages.