The Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored movie star, writer, activist and feminist icon Jane Fonda at its annual fundraiser Saturday with the 10th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film.
The black-tie gala at the Bacara Resort & Spa recognized the iconic movie star in much the same way as the honors and tribute evenings that make up the February festival’s week-plus schedule.
Ms. Fonda is back on American screens with her second foray into episodic television, co-starring with her “9 to 5” co-star Lily Tomlin in the Netflix original series “Grace and Frankie,” which has just been renewed for a second season.
Before that she was a recurring character in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” for which she earned an Emmy nomination.
But it’s her work in Hollywood that was really up for tribute Saturday evening. Her early work in “Cat Ballou” and “Barefoot in the Park,” and then her sexy comic role in “Barbarella,” could have typecast her.
Instead, she went into more dramatic films almost immediately with “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” “Klute” and “Coming Home,” the last two of which earned the actress her first and second Oscars.
Her life outside film has always been subject of press fascination. She comes from a showbiz family, she’s had three famous husbands, and she’s always been an outspoken human rights and anti-war activist.
Although she has apologized for the controversial photograph of her with a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, she has stood by everything else that she’s protested, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to all patriarchy.
Introducing her and giving the award were actresses Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane, who look up to Ms. Fonda as a feminist icon.
Ms. Banks said that seeing “9 to 5” as a kid was very important to shaping her identity.
“It’s so important to me because it’s about female empowerment, unlike ‘Klute,’ for instance,” she said. ” ‘On Golden Pond’ affected me deeply too. I remember bawling my eyes out.”
Ms. Banks met her idol backstage at an event.
“I’ve got to pick her brain a bit and she, like all great Hollywood legends, is a great sharer. She’s not stingy with the stories.”
“My first memory of Jane is the scene in the bathroom with George Segal when they’re plotting a heist in ‘Fun with Dick and Jane,’ ” said Ms. Lane. “My 12-year-old heart was given to her and she still has it.”
Ms. Fonda calls both of her presenters her friends, and spoke briefly on the red carpet about the differences of working in episodic television.
“This every day, every day, every day (schedule) is different,” she said. “I don’t think the experience of shooting is different if you’re doing it for HBO or Netflix, but when you’re doing a show when you can watch the entire season in six-and-a-half hours, and it drops on a midnight in Thursday in April, and you fly to Los Angeles the next morning, and by the time you get home you’re getting emails from people who have seen the entire season and say ‘I love what you did in episode five,’ well, I mean, that’s a mind-blowing experience.”
“We thought our demographic (for ‘Grace and Frankie’) was older women,” she continued. “But it turns out that it’s across the board for age and gender. People love this series.”
Judging from the turnout last night, they also love Jane Fonda.
Money raised from the event goes to fund many of the festival’s programs, such as Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, the 10-10-10 Mentorship Program, the Film Studios Program, Apple Box Family Films, and their latest endeavor, the upcoming Film Camp summer program.