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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Jane Fonda Receives AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

Legendary actress, Jane Fonda seems to be back on top. Last year at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival the two-time Academy Award-winning actress had her hand and footprints enshrined in concrete in front of the Chinese Theatre. During that festival she not only posed next to the prints of her famous father Henry (along with her famous brother Peter), but she also introduced a screening of On Golden Pond, the touching drama from 1981 that provided her the opportunity to work with her legendary father for the first and only time. Now, just over a year later, Jane has been honored with the 42nd AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. America's highest honor for a career in film was presented June 5, 2014, but you can catch the ceremony on TNT June 14 at 9:00pm with an encore at 10:30pm, and an additional encore on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Friday, August 1 at 8:00pm as part of an all-night tribute to Fonda.

Considered American film royalty, Jane was born in New York City in 1937 to the celebrated actor Henry Fonda (AFI Life Achievement Award recipient in 1978). Just the second tier in what was to become an acting dynasty, Jane is also the big sister to Peter, aunt to Bridget, and mother to Troy Garity. Jane herself began acting at the young age of 23, and the world watched as she found her own voice and forged her own path as an actor in more than 40 films, which include the slap stick comedy Cat Ballou, the dramas They Shoot Horse Don’t They, Klute, Julia, Coming Home, and The China Syndrome, the hilarious 9 to 5, the endearingly sentimental On Golden Pond, the powerful Agnes of God and most recently Lee Daniels' The Butler, and currently stars in Aaron Sorkin's HBO series, The Newsroom. With such a body of work it’s no wonder that today Fonda stands among the giants of American film, and it seems only logical that AFI should honor her with its Life Achievement Award.

In case you’re unfamiliar, these events are sort of on par with celebrity roasts (you know, with lots of stars saying nice things and telling amusing stories), but in swankier locations and with classier guests. The black-tie gala was taped at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood (the same place they now hold the Oscars). Among the more than 1,000 celebrities gathered were last year’s AFI Lifetime recipient Mel Brooks, the ever popular Sandra Bullock, crowd pleaser Cameron Diaz, fellow Academy Award winner Sally Field, the beloved Morgan Freeman, Fonda’s son Troy Garity, comedian Chelsea Handler, The Newsroom co-star Marcia Gay Harden, director David O. Russell, singer and song writer Carol Bayer Sager, the incomparable Meryl Streep, 9 to 5 co-star and good friend Lily Tomlin, and many, many more.

Of course the tribute is more than just about Fonda’s impressive acting career. It includes her work as a producer, feminist, activist and author (and don’t forget entrepreneur with all those workout videos). In the tradition of past AFI tributes, the details of the program have been held as a surprise to the honoree, making this event one of the most enjoyable and anticipated experiences in the film community. The night reflects Fonda's roots in Hollywood, bringing her full circle from her attendance at her father's celebration at the 6th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1978 to her achievements today.

Considering Fonda’s early years studying with renowned acting coach Lee Strasberg and subsequent membership at the Actors Studio, it’s not surprising that the scope of the talented actress includes the stage as well as the screen. The woman has earned numerous nominations and awards. Besides two Best Actress Oscars for Klute in 1971 and Coming Home in 1978, Fonda has also garnered an Emmy for her performance in The Dollmaker in 1984. Most recently Fonda received an Honorary Palme d'Or from the Cannes Film Festival in 2007, becoming only one of three people to ever be granted this honor to date. She then returned to Broadway in March 2009 and received a Tony Award nomination for her role in Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations, and in February 2011, she reprised that same Tony-nominated role at The Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Knowing how much theater meant to her father there’s no doubt this accomplishment holds a special place in her heart.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is more than just about one’s ability to entertain. In addition to her tremendous success as a stage and screen, the award acknowledges Fonda’s dedication to activism and social change. Not only did the lady found the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP), but she was named Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund in 1994. She is also currently on the board of the Women's Media Center, which she co-founded in 2004 with Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, and sits on the board of V-Day: Until The Violence Stops, a global effort to stop violence against women and girls begun in 1998 by Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. And if that weren’t enough to keep the 70 plus gal busy, she also established the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at the Emory School of Medicine.

Frankly, I don’t know how she found the time to be honored by anybody, let alone the American FIlm Institute. But then again, if the event brings that much more attention to Fonda’s favorite charities and organizations then all the better. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that so many people will enjoy watching Hollywood gush over one of their own. In this instance the recipient seems to be truly worthy, almost beyond words.

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