The New Jane Fonda Documentary Dives Headfirst Into Her Controversial Activism

Few people have lived lives as marked by reinvention as Jane Fonda, one of the most famous women of the mid-20th Century. And she’ll be talking about it in depth for Jane Fonda in Five Acts, an upcoming HBO documentary.


BuzzFeed News debuted the trailer and also talked to director and producer Susan Lacy, who said, “I think that there are gonna be the die-hard critics of her who will probably think it’s sanitized,” and then added, “I don’t think so.” As for Fonda’s controversial trip to Vietnam, Lacy said, “She went there to help stop the war. She went there to try to save lives. I think that comes across. Whether people who hate will see through that? I have no idea.” So get ready for yet another round of re-litigating Fonda’s activism.

The trailer also hints at frankness about her marriages, her early life, and her Hollywood career. Via Deadline, in July:

HBO describes Jane Fonda in Five Acts as drawing on 21 hours of interviews with Fonda, discussing such topics as her mother’s suicide, her famous father’s “emotional unavailability,” her eating disorder, her three marriages to powerful, interesting men, including Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, who are seen in the doc talking about Fonda. Other new and archival interviews include Robert Redford, and Lily Tomlin, among others.

In the meantime, check out the “Jean and Jane” season of the podcast You Must Remember This which is half dedicated to Fonda and half to Jean Seberg. Forget five acts—the woman has lived roughly 32.

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I have a love/hate relationship with You Must Remember This (love the concept and the detailed research she goes into but sometimes she has really weird takes and can be way too sympathetic to whomever her subject is to the point of weirdly villainizing others) but Jean/Jane was really fantastic. And it seemed to cover so much time. But it never even got into Mrs. Ted Turner Jane Fonda or her retirement from acting to her un-retirement from acting. Like as in depth as that series was there was so much left to cover for Jane Fonda. Not complaining about that I totally agree with taking it up to roughly the time period of Jean Seberg’s death but it’s insane how she managed to just shake off her last identity and forge ahead with a new one again and again.

(The recent Boris and Bella YMRT was also very good. For the Hollywood Babylon series currently playing I’d recommend the audiobook of Tinseltown over You Must Remember This. )