Jane Fonda spends a lot of time these days being asked to stroll down memory lane, most notably for 2018’s HBO documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” which covered everything from her high-profile protests against the Vietnam War to her years as Ted Turner’s wife.
But when she appears July 6 in St. Paul, she’ll be focused squarely on her movie career, one that has earned her two Oscars, an honorary Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival and an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
Not that the 81-year-old is looking back from a rocking chair. In recent years, she reunited with Robert Redford for Netflix’s “Our Souls at Night,” swapped stories in the big-screen comedy “Book Club” and continues to dazzle on the Emmy-nominated sitcom “Grace and Frankie.” She’s also contributed to upcoming documentaries on director Hal Ashby and fellow thespian Geraldine Page.
Fonda is so busy that a phone interview with her was rescheduled six times. When she finally became available, the actor offered more than a taste of what fans will hear later this week at the Ordway.
Q: How comfortable are you looking back at old films and talking about your past work?
A: I’m perfectly comfortable with it. I like to speak on a lot of different subjects. In this case, the organizers wanted more of a cultural career thing, and that’s fine. I have a lot of fun stories. I’m a good storyteller.
Q: Which movies are people the most interested in hearing about?
Q: It feels like “Barefoot” is getting appreciated by a new generation. Why do you think it remains popular?
A: It’s interesting. Comedy doesn’t always have legs. But Neil Simon was such a brilliant writer and that’s one of his best. It speaks to universal things and that helps make something last. That’s why people love “Golden Pond” so much. Almost anyone can identify with the issue of distant and nonresponsive parents.
Q: “Klute” is another movie that could easily feel dated. I mean, you’re playing a hooker.
A: It’s a fascinating character. Everything about that film worked — the cinematography, the music, the rich character study. And it was scary. The audience feels hunted, just like she felt.
Q: Are there any of your movies that make you cringe?
A: There’s enough other stuff going on in the world that makes you want to cringe. But I’m surprised how many people say they love “Sunday in New York.” Why? I made a terrible movie called “In the Cool of the Day.” John Houseman produced it. I can’t even remember the name of the director. It also starred Peter Finch and Angela Lansbury and we shot it in Greece. I’m not even sure that it got released.
Q: What film’s success surprised you the most?
A: When we did “Cat Ballou,” neither Lee [Marvin] nor I thought it was going to be any good. We made it on a shoestring and shot it very fast. Then Lee won an Oscar. So you never really know. You just give it your best and see what happens.
Q: Which of your films do you wish got more attention?
A: Well, I did an ABC movie called “The Dollmaker” that I’m very, very fond of. It took me 12 years to get the script ready. Interestingly enough, it took Hume Cronyn and a woman who writes children’s books to get it right.
Q: Television has been good to you. One of my favorite roles of yours is Leona, the cable news executive in “The Newsroom.”
A: It was fabulous. I’m so grateful that Aaron Sorkin wrote that part for me. I loved playing her. I’m just sorry it’s no longer on the air. I’d love to do a movie or another series with that character. I would also like to play a character that was a little slow, not super bright. That would be an interesting change for me.
Q: In 1990, you took a 15-year hiatus from acting. How did that break change you as a person?
A: I didn’t see it at the time as a hiatus; I didn’t have any intention of coming back. Fifteen years went by. Ten wonderful years with Ted and five years writing my memoir. Those experiences transformed me. I regained a confidence and understanding about myself — and the world — that allowed me go back to acting with more enjoyment. Maybe some artistry is enhanced when the artist feels worthless and that they’re not good enough, but for me, that feeling shuts me down. I was shut down creatively. If I had stayed in the business, I don’t think I would have been very good.
Q: When you did come back in “Monster-in-Law,” how had your approach to acting changed?
A: That was different from anything I had done before and I couldn’t have done it without 10 years with Ted. He taught me that being over-the-top and outrageous can be a lot of fun. I got a lot of courage from Ted. I do research differently now. I work with a coach, which I hadn’t before. And I enjoy it, even though the days are long. I just finished a 15-hour day on “Grace and Frankie.” But I feel so lucky.
An Evening With Jane Fonda
When: 7:30 p.m. Sat.
Theater: Ordway Theater, 345 Washington St., St. Paul.
Tickets: $58-$100. ordway.org.