As Jane Fonda prepared to visit Omaha for tonight's Film Streams fundraiser at the Holland Performing Arts Center, we sneaked in a couple of quick questions before Omaha native Alexander Payne, a double Oscar winner himself, interviews her in front of a large audience.
Q. Most Nebraskans are aware that your father, Henry Fonda, was born in Grand Island and raised in Omaha, where he got his start acting at the Omaha Community Playhouse. What are your strongest memories from childhood of Nebraska and Omaha?
A.I loved my aunt Harriet Peacock (Henry's sister), who lived in Omaha. We often visited her. My dad adored her.
Because I had moved a lot and went to boarding school, I didn't have a lot of friends at “home.” So my experience of junior high and high school sock hops — in kids' basements with records and jitterbugging — it was all from summer visits to Omaha. Driving through town, going for sodas and things like that were my special Omaha memories.
Those and chiggers — I had never encountered chiggers (small red mites that bite and causing itching) until Omaha.
And, of course, there was “The Country Girl” at the Playhouse. I played the ingénue role with my dad and Dorothy McGuire.
Q. Were there particularly strong mentor actors, directors or teachers who helped shape your approach to acting?
A. Lee Strasberg was my teacher, and he's the one who told me I was talented. I hadn't imagined I'd be an actor, but I got fired as a secretary and I needed a job.
Strasberg's daughter persuaded me to take his classes, and it changed my life: gave me the confidence that maybe I could actually be an actor.
That and relaxing — Strasberg taught me the importance of being relaxed so that the creative juices could flow.
Q. You've been nominated for an Oscar seven times and won twice. But you don't always get recognition for what you think was your best work. Is there a role you're particularly proud of, nominated or not?
A. I played a hillbilly woman in a TV movie called “The Dollmaker.” I won an Emmy for it, but I was so scared I wouldn't be able to pull it off. It took me 12 years to get the script right, and the whole time part of me secretly wished it wouldn't happen.
Also, I had a real hard time with a scene in “On Golden Pond” where I had to tell my father I wanted to be his friend. It was so close to home!
...I wonder if Omaha has changed so much I won't recognize anything.
I'm also so happy to be doing this event with Alexander Payne. I'm such a huge fan.
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Gallery: Notable roles from Jane Fonda