Susan Lacy felt it was “logical” to divide her Jane Fonda documentary into the titular five acts. Reading the Oscar-winning actress’s autobiography “My Life So Far,” Lacy zeroed in on a line she wrote about how “she wanted to understand her first two acts … in order to understand how to live her third.” Yet the documentarian knew that three acts weren’t enough. “She was dividing her life into thirds,” Lacy explains, “and it was very obvious from her book that the four men in her life … had influenced who she was.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Lacy above.
“Jane Fonda in Five Acts,” which premiered on HBO in September 2018, looks at Fonda’s development as a performer, political activist and feminist icon. It charts that journey through her relationships with four men: her father Henry Fonda and husbands Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner. “For each of these husbands, she was a different woman,” Lacy says. Meanwhile, “the shadow of her father,” from whom she forever sought love, loomed large.
The fifth act, ultimately, is Jane on her own, when she “finally had come to enough self-love and appreciation of who she was, and courage to say, I don’t need to define my life any longer around a man.” This wasn’t a conclusion Lacy came to on her own. Fonda herself “said that she had to free herself from this, and she did.”
Lacy is a 14-time Emmy winner for her work on “American Masters,” earning nine additional nominations as a producer and one as a director for that nonfiction series. She has helmed films about other legendary figures like Judy Garland, Leonard Bernstein, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen, and Rod Serling for that long-running program. She earned additional Emmy bids for the documentaries “D.W. Griffith: Father of Film” (1993) and “Spielberg” (2018). She is also a Grammy winner for directing the music documentary “Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart” (1999) and for producing “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” (2006).
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