There are few actors with star power quite like the aura Jane Fonda possesses. Throughout her remarkable six-decade-spanning career in show business, Fonda has been adorned with several accolades, including two Academy Awards, two Baftas and seven Golden Globes, to name just a few.
She first came to prominence in the 1960s after starring in the likes of Period of Adjustment, Barefoot in the Park and Sunday in New York, before going on to establish herself as one of the best actors of her generation with efforts in Klute, Coming Home, Julia, The China Syndrome and On Golden Pond.However, for all the acclaim and career successes that Fonda has enjoyed over the years, it’s fair to say that there is one particular sour point that sticks out from her time in the spotlight, and it remains a moment that she wholeheartedly regrets and wishes she could have undone.
The incident in question led to Fonda being called “Hanoi Jane”. The story goes like this. In 1972, Fonda set out on a tour of north Vietnam after the war had been raging on for around a decade. Fonda was already a recognisable actor, having starred in Barefoot in the Park and Barbarella.
Fonda had also been a social activist, fighting for Native Americans and the Black Panthers. In terms of the Vietnam War, she’d organised anti-conflict shows for soldiers about to be deployed, and when touring the northern part of the country, she spoke out against the battle on several different radio stations.
After begging the American forces to stop bombing non-military targets, Fonda was photographed sitting inside an anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi. The photo was not well received by the American public when it was printed back home. She was labelled a traitor, and her films were banned in some states.
On reflection, Fonda deeply regretted the incident and told Oprah Winfrey in 2000, “I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft [gun], which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.”
According to the actor, she hadn’t been thinking about the consequences of sitting in the gun and had asked for the photograph not to be published when she saw it, writing in her memoir, “It is possible that the Vietnamese had it all planned. I will never know. If they did, can I really blame them? The buck stops here. If I was used, I allowed it to happen. It was my mistake, and I have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for it.”