Every movie premiere boasts its own kind of celebrity power, specific to the film in question, but how many stars are there that can paralyze, fully occupying each gaze and every conversation in a room of unflappable New Yorkers and causing photographers (and anyone with an iPhone) to nearly topple over craning for a picture?
The Observer was afraid of getting swept away on the frenzied red carpet at the MoMA where Jane Fonda, the source of such widened eyeballs, was headlining last night’s premiere of her film Peace, Love & Misunderstanding, which cast her as the hippie mother of a straight-laced lawyer played by Catherine Keener. Fonda’s male co-stars were as enraptured with her as everyone else in attendance. For example, Chace Crawford, of Gossip Girl, endures constant conjectures about his romantic life, and not to perpetuate the rumor-mongering, but did Fonda, perhaps, catch his eye?
“Yes! Did you see how good she looks on the poster? I was a little nervous meeting her, to be honest,” he said. “Jane, that’s where it’s at. Look at her. She’s beautiful still.” Crawford cited Barbarella highest in her oeuvre. Jeffrey Dean Morgan concurred. “Okay, well, she knows this and I’ve talked about it before, but I started with Barbarella. You know what I mean?” he confessed. “I kind of became a man watching Barbarella twenty times. But I remember going to see Electric Horseman, On Golden Pond. I remember going to theaters and seeing it as a young man. And then, when I became an actor, I revisited movies like Klute and Coming Home.”
Ms. Fonda, Oscar winner, activist, workout pioneer, is said to be entering the third stage of her life. In ushering in this new phase, she has taken a recurring guest star role on The Newsroom, playing a media mogul along the lines of her ex-husband, Ted Turner. Star Jeff Daniels took her aside on set to give her some pointers. “He said, ‘Sorkin 101: Know every word, ever line, every period, every comma, in your sleep , backwards and forwards,’” she told The Observer. “What I discovered is that if I didn’t say it right, I was corrected. And then when I said it right I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s right. There was a reason.’”
Fonda’s Peace, Love & Misunderstanding character, Grace, is a modern day counterculture rebel and ardent pacifist. Was the part at all reminiscent of her own political awakening? Fonda says no.
“I never was a counterculture figure, I never was a hippie,” she insisted. “During most of the 60s, I was married and living in France. And I think some people might think I’m playing myself, but I never wore tie-dye in my life, and never did the things that Grace does.” Ms. Fonda confessed that she had to call upon Ms. Keener (kind of a hippie herself, according to Fonda) to help her understand the era. (The film’s anti-war protest scenes did, in fact, invoke some decades-old Fonda memories for The Observer, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Hippie status aside, the night wasn’t without any causes. Hosting the program was the Women’s Media Center, of which Fonda is a co-founder. Gloria Steinem, a fellow co-founder, was on hand to introduce the film. The Center works to get women an equitable role in the media and Steinem cited the gender diversity of this film’s team while underscoring the depressing fact that of the top 250 grossing films, only 5% have women directors and only 14% have women writers. “Hold on!” interrupted a voice in the audience. It was Ms. Keener. “Because we just got a new director?” questioned Ms. Steinem, expectantly. (Sadly no, Ms. Keener simply couldn’t hear the speech.)
An after-party at the Royalton Hotel was populated by several disparate tribes. Ms. Fonda was ensconced at a booth where she dined with PR maven Peggy Siegal and other friends. Ms. Steinem made a beeline for WMC leaders Jodie Evans and Lauren Embrey, who formed their own happy team, when she entered. Across the room, a cloud of women crowded around Mr. Crawford’s table in awe of his visage. The Observer would have been disheartened to see so many young ladies missing an opportunity to worship at the mantle of feminist leadership, were we not to have witnessed Fonda fall prey to the same distraction during our talk. “Oh, there’s Chace,” she said, interrupting herself. “God, is he cute!”
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