Jane Fonda: Wish I Hadn't

Actress Talks To <b>Lesley Stahl</b> About Her Ex's, & The Vietnam Photo

In her lifetime, Jane Fonda has made a significant mark on American culture. With her movies, her workout videos, her political activism, and her famous marriages, Fonda has captured headlines in every decade for the past 40 years.

She has been the envy of women seeking the perfect form, and the bitter enemy of Vietnam veterans who resent her every move, ever since she paraded around North Vietnam in protest of the war.

Now, she has written a book about all of it, and she has done an interview with that, like the book, is sometimes painfully candid and honest. You'll hear her apologize for some of what she did in Vietnam, and talk about her sometimes strange, wild and complicated marriages.
Today, the workout queen is 67, the grandmother of two, and still glamorous and beautiful. She lives in Atlanta, and spends much of her time on a program in the schools that she began, with her own money, to persuade teenage girls not to get pregnant, and to teach girls who are pregnant how to be better mothers.

"I wish that I'd been able to have a class like this when I had my first kid, 'cause I was not a good mother," says Fonda. "And then, you end up paying for it later."

She says she's drawn to this work because of the mistakes she's made in her own life, and because of the mistakes her parents made raising her.

"If you don't have a parent or an adult, a teacher or a mentor … really see you, really love you, 'Yes, there are things you do I don't like, but you're fantastic, you're good enough. I love you.' If that never happens to a child, the child assumes it's her fault and tries to compensate for it," says Fonda.

"And plus, all the other things that happened in my life made me infected with the disease to please. Not with women – I'm fine with women, but with men. 'Whatever you want, honey, I'll become.' … That was me."

It's a story spun out in her book that she wrote herself, called "My Life So Far." She tells all about her career as an actor, including her first big hit, "Barefoot in the Park" with Robert Redford.

She was big box-office, and made a total of 50 movies. But she says she had trouble standing up for herself in her personal life: "You know, I'm a very brave person. I can go to North Vietnam, I can challenge my government, but I can't challenge the man I'm with if it means I'm going to end up alone."

She readily admits that she allowed each of her three husbands to reinvent her, starting with Roger Vadim, the French film director who turned her into Barbarella, a sexy sci-fi secret agent, with an emphasis on sexy.

"When you look at 'Barbarella' now, are you embarrassed by how you looked in that movie?" asks Stahl.

"No, no, for a long time, I couldn't look at it," says Fonda. "I thought that it was politically incorrect, you know."

"She was a sex symbol, she was a pin-up symbol," says Stahl. "You can't get away from it."

"Yeah, but I can look at it now and laugh at it, and find it very charming," says Fonda.

She's come to see Vadim's "Barbarella" with a sense of humor, but her off-screen, private life with him is another matter.

"One night, Vadim brought another woman into my bed with me and I went along with it," says Fonda. "It really hurt me. It hurt me. It reinforced me feeling I wasn't good enough. One of the reasons that I went along with it was because I felt that if I said no, that he would leave, and I couldn't imagine myself without him."

Fonda says that sometimes she solicited the women herself: "If that's what he wanted, I'd give it to him in spades. I wasn't going to write about it. I got enough enemies, right? There's enough people who don't like me. I'm not going to go into this."

When asked why she would write about such private matters, Fonda responds: "Because I knew that if I didn't really fess up about how far I went in the betrayal of my heart, that it would not make the journey that I've been on, to where I am now, as important and as poignant."
  • Rebecca Leung

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes

Comments