More: Your new exercise video, AM/PM Yoga for Beginners, is being released December 4.
Jane Fonda: Over the past two and a half years, the six DVDs I put out were targeted at older people, or baby boomers. Everything is designed to be slower and easier so everyone can take part. This time I am focusing on working out with yoga, and I am calling the video Prime Time, which was also the title of my last book.
More: A yoga video? No more bopping around to aerobics?
JF: This yoga video is for people who are not particularly fit and twisting themselves into pretzels. It is also great for people who don’t have a lot of time because the DVD is shot in 10-minute bites.
More: How long have you been doing yoga?
JF: Since 1997.
More: Your first video, Workout: Starring Jane Fonda, debuted in 1982. Some say you were the pioneer in this area of the fitness industry.
JF: Totally. There was no video industry back then. The hardware was there, but it was too expensive, because you needed a lot of women who would say, “Here is a product that I will use over and over again.” After Workout became a craze, the hardware got less expensive.
More: How did an Academy Award–winning actress become interested in making fitness videos?
JF: I always exercised. However, my main form of exercise for many years was ballet. I had been doing it since I was 20. I knew what moving to music did for my mind and my body and how good it made me feel inside. I turned it into a business because I was looking to raise money for a political organization I was working on. This was all happening during a recession, and I was told not to go into a business you don’t understand. The one thing I understand is exercise, and that is how it all got started.
More: Do you remember making that first video?
JF: I am really proud of that video, yes. There was one camera, no teleprompter. I wrote the script on the floor of a hotel room, and I did my own hair and makeup. When that video took off, it really floored me. Although I was not a clever businesswoman, I did know timing was everything. I never expected this to happen, yet once I started, I couldn’t go back.
More: Not knowing the success that would follow, sounds like you took a risk.
JF: I never thought a whole lot of people would see it, anyway. When they did see it, it didn’t affect my career in a negative way. If anything, this made me realize people see me in three different ways: one is the actor, two is the political activist and three is the exercise guru. People always say to me things along the lines of, “Cat Ballou was my favorite movie” or “You saved me after my mastectomy” or “Remember when we marched together in San Diego in 1972?” Different people, for different reasons, relate to me in different ways. One does not hurt the others.
More: You took a 15-year break from the industry and then returned with a hilarious film called Monster-in-Law. What made you come back to the big screen after a long hiatus?
JF: I left because—and it wasn’t because of Ted Turner, although I couldn’t be working and married to him at the same time because he is 24/7—I found that I was not enjoying acting anymore. I was really unhappy as a woman, and when I am really unhappy, I find it difficult to be creative. It was agony for me, and I could see it on my face when I looked at the last movies I made. I said to myself, I am going to leave Hollywood, be a full-time activist and move to New Mexico. Then I met Ted and didn’t have to move to New Mexico because he bought it [laughs]. I was with Ted for 10 years, and then in 2000 we split and I began to write my memoirs. After four years of writing, I realized I was a different person. Then I thought to myself, I think I could find pleasure again in working. Along came the script for Monster-in-Law, which was a blast to make and made me laugh. I have been acting ever since.
More: Another film you will be appearing in is The Butler, as Nancy Reagan.
JF: Robin Williams plays Truman, John Cusack plays Nixon, Alan Rickman plays Reagan and I play Nancy Reagan. They are all cameos. The main meat of the movie is the butler, played by Forest Whitaker, and his wife, played by Oprah. I had two days of work, and it was a lot of fun. I am happy to say that Nancy Reagan liked the fact I was playing her. I was pretty impressed with her involvement as first lady, and I think I even got to look like her.
More: Fans can find you on the small screen too. You’re in the hit cable series The Newsroom.
JF: I am loving it, loving it, loving it! I was just at work yesterday. Wrapping your mouth around Aaron Sorkin’s words is so much fun. All of the actors are just so nice and great to work with, and Aaron is just so talented.
More: Do you find there are more roles in television than in movies?
JF: Television is the place to go if you want great writing, edgy stuff and more outside the box.
More: You are also a best-selling author. Your last book, which came out in 2011, was called Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit—Making the Most of All of Your Life. Why put it all out there?
JF: It changed my life. When I went down deep, I discovered not only do I love to write, but I write well. What was also gratifying to see was how well people responded. I then went to my publisher and said I wanted to write a book for adolescents on sexuality, and I did.
More: That’s interesting.
JF: There are two books actually, and they will be out in 2014. One is for middle school, and the other for high school. But before I did that, my publisher wanted me to write a book based on my third act. So I made a list of all the things I wanted to know about aging. That book took me three years to write, because I traveled and did tons of research.
More: You are now an advice expert.
JF: I know—that’s great, huh? I recently met somebody who told me she gave the book to scores of women and they all read it and follow my advice.
More: Did you learn something new about yourself through all these writing projects?
JF: Always. You have to dig down and be prepared to share what you have inside.
More: Does it keep getting better as you get older?
JF: Yes, and I was surprised by this. One of the reasons I wanted to write Prime Time was that I found I was just so happy. I come from a long line of depressives, so being so happy at 70 is not what I expected. When I began to research, what I found was that people after the age of 50 have more of a sense of well-being. What research indicates is that you have a long life behind you. You have been there, done that and survived it. When you are young, you are all over the place thinking, Maybe I need to know this, and maybe I need to know that. You don’t know what’s ahead. When you are older, the thought process is, Been there, done that. You also know what you can overlook and what you don’t need to know and what you can let go of. Older people are also great mediators, because they know how to smooth over differences.
More: You have a boyfriend. Does that mean love and relationships get better with age too?
JF: They can. For one thing, in a woman’s case, they tend to say “Enough” and leave. Usually it’s the older women who initiate the divorces. That is not commonly known, but they do quite well, thank you. Men, much less so. If you are in a happy relationship, sex can get better because you know your body. You know what you want and what you need for pleasure. I focused a lot on sex in my book because a lot of people feel sexy at an older age and I want to help people negotiate those changes so they can still be happy and sexually active.
More: It sounds like you have had a fascinating life.
JF: I have had a wonderful life and been blessed.
More: Is it always red-carpet fabulous?
JF: Part of it is very glamorous, yes. I got the L.A. Press Club Visionary Award just recently. Robert Redford presented it to me. Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston were there too. There were video clips from James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett, Vanessa Redgrave and my favorite ex-husband, Ted Turner. It brought a little glamour to the scene [laughs].
More: That deserves a double wow!
JF: But that is when you are out in public. I spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t so glamorous, such as staying at home to read or work out.
More: You are also a breast cancer survivor. How are you feeling?
JF: I am fine. Luckily it was an easy cancer to get rid of.
More: The holidays are upon us. Any big plans?
JF: My family is all coming for Christmas to the new house my boyfriend and I bought together.
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