Jane Seymour Fonda (born December 21, 1937) is an Academy Award-winning American actor, writer, producer, and political activist. Fonda, who currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, describes herself as a liberal, and more recently, as a feminist and a Born-again Christian.
Jane Fonda was born in New York City to actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour. Seymour, who was of Irish and German descent, was the second of Fonda's five wives, and had previously been married to millionaire George Tuttle Brokaw. In 1950, when Jane was twelve years old, Seymour committed suicide after voluntarily seeking treatment at a psychiatric hospital.
Although Henry Fonda was primarily of Dutch and British descent, the surname Fonda originates in Italy. Her name was apparently inspired by Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII of England. As a girl she was frequently called "Lady Jane", a nickname she greatly disliked.
Her brother Peter Fonda (born 1940) and his daughter Bridget Fonda (born 1964) are also actors. She also has an adopted sister, named Amy, who was born in 1953.
Fonda first became interested in acting in 1954, while appearing with her father in a charity performance of The Country Girl, at the Omaha Community Theatre. After attending Vassar College in New York, she was introduced by her father to renowned drama teacher Lee Strasberg in 1958, and subsequently joined his Actors Studio.
Her stage work in the late 1950s laid the foundation for her film career in the 1960s. She averaged almost two movies a year throughout the decade, starting in 1960 with Tall Story, in which she recreated one of her Broadway roles as a college cheerleader pursuing a basketball star, played by Anthony Perkins. Period of Adjustment and Walk on the Wild Side followed in 1962. In Walk on the Wild Side Fonda played a prostitute, and earned a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.
In 1963 she appeared in Sunday in New York. Newsday called her "the loveliest and most gifted of all our new young actresses". However, she also had her detractors—in the same year the Harvard Lampoon named her the "Year's Worst Actress". Fonda's career breakthrough came with Cat Ballou (1965), in which she played a schoolmarm turned outlaw. This comedy Western received five Oscar nominations and was one of the year's top ten films at the box office. It was considered by many to have been the film that brought Fonda to stardom at the age of twenty-eight. After this came the comedies Any Wednesday (1966) and Barefoot in the Park (1967), the latter co-starring Robert Redford.
In 1968, she played the title role in the science fiction spoof Barbarella, which established her as a leading sex symbol. In contrast, the tragedy They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) won her critical acclaim, and she earned her first Oscar nomination for the role. Fonda was very selective by the end of the 1960s, turning down lead roles in Rosemary's Baby and Bonnie and Clyde, films widely praised by critics and considered box-office successes.
Fonda won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1971, again playing a prostitute, in the detective murder mystery Klute. It is generally acknowledged that her finest moment onscreen is the extraordinary scene towards the end of Klute where she is confronted by her potential killer. Her second Award was in 1978 for Coming Home, the story of a disabled Vietnam War veteran's difficulty in re-entering civilian life.
Fonda spent most of the first half of the decade without a major film success. She personally blamed the situation on anger at her outspoken political views. In an interview, she said "I can't say I was blacklisted, but I was greylisted." In mid-decade, her biggest role was in the 1976 fairy tale The Blue Bird. Through her production company Indo-China Peace Campaign (IPC), she produced films that helped return her to star status. The 1977 comedy film Fun With Dick and Jane is generally considered her comeback picture. She also received very positive reviews and an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of playwright Lillian Hellman in the 1977 film, Julia.
During this period Fonda announced that she would only make films that focused on important issues, and she generally stuck to her word. She turned down An Unmarried Woman because she felt the part was not relevant. She followed with popular and successful films such as The China Syndrome (1978), about a cover up of an accident in a nuclear power plant; and The Electric Horseman (1979) with her previous co-star, Robert Redford.
In 1980, Fonda starred in Nine to Five with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. She played a divorced woman re-entering the workforce. The film was one of her greatest financial successes, contributing significantly to her wealth.
She had long wanted to work with her father, hoping it would help their strained relationship. She achieved this goal when she was cast as a supporting actress alongside Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond (1982). This film brought Henry Fonda his first Academy Award for Best Actor, which Jane accepted on his behalf, as he was ill and homebound. He died several months later.
In the early 1980s, she began a different career by leading the aerobics craze as a fitness guru. She continued appearing in feature films throughout the 1980s.
In April 1991, after three decades in film, Fonda announced her retirement from the film industry. In May 2005, however, she returned to the screen, after a fourteen-year absence, with the box-office success Monster-in-Law, a comedy in which she plays the prospective mother-in-law of a character played by Jennifer Lopez.
In July 2005, the British tabloid The Sun reported that when Fonda was asked if she would appear in a sequel to her 1980 hit Nine to Five, she replied "I'd love to."
In the course of her career, Fonda has received seven Oscar nominations and two Oscars.