Who: Two-time Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda, 82, and Honorary Academy Award-winning actor Donald Sutherland, 85.
How They Met: According to Entertainment Weekly, the actors first met at a Black Panther benefit in L.A., but it wasn’t until they were both cast in crime thriller Klute around 1970 that a romance began.
Recalling the beginning of their affair nearly half a century later, Sutherland told Rolling Stone, “We’d already been cast but had not started shooting. And one day, [Fonda] made it very clear, via a somewhat provocative suggestion, that I should come home with her. And I just said, [pause] ‘OK.’”
Though the exact timeline is unclear, several sources allude to the fact that this romance began while Sutherland was still married to his second wife, Shirley Douglas.
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In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, Sutherland and Douglas’s son, actor Kiefer Sutherland, addressed the period of his parents’ divorce and his father’s relationship with Fonda. When asked whether he and his father had ever discussed the affair, the 24 star said no, but imagined “he’d probably say, ‘I fell in love.’ I understand that. People do. And when they’re falling in love, they believe in everything so strongly and passionately, this kind of heightened experience, that it’s very hard to judge somebody for it.”
Why We Loved Them: They weren’t just “lovers,” they were activists. Fonda got Sutherland involved in the anti-war movement and they both joined the F.T.A. (“Free the Army”) theater troupe, providing entertainment to U.S. soldiers who were opposed to the Vietnam War. As Fonda recalled in her 2005 memoir My Life So Far, the tour was meant to serve as “an antiwar alternative to Bob Hope’s traditional pro-war entertainment.”
“We believed,” Sutherland told The Times in 2018 of his and Fonda’s activism. “We really believed that change was going to happen. We really believed it. But it was hard. Kennedy was killed, and when Bobby [Kennedy] was killed and Martin Luther King was killed …”
When They Peaked: Well, as Sutherland tells it (somewhat eagerly), things were pretty hot and heavy between the two. The MASH actor has described sexual encounters with Fonda in interviews throughout the years (all instances of which feel largely unprovoked), recounting to GQ how they visited the Chelsea Hotel in the early ‘70s and that “when the moonlight caught her perfect breasts,” he “stopped breathing.” Nearly 45 years later, the effect remained the same: “Now, when I see it in my memory, I stopped breathing again.”
The following year, Sutherland voiced his admiration for Fonda’s breasts once more while reminiscing about filming Klute, telling Entertainment Weekly, “She had, at the time, the most beautiful breasts in the world.” According to the magazine, he followed his comment with “a juicy, not-fit-for-print story.”
So, yes, perhaps this isn’t a fair “peak” for Fonda and Sutherland, but there’s something almost poetic about a horniness that transcends the decades.
Fonda has spoken, er fondly of Sutherland as well, though of a much more professional nature. In her memoir, she described her frequent co-star as having “something of the old-world gentleman about him,” noting that she found his “rangy, hangdog quality and droopy, pale blue eyes especially appealing.”
The Breakup: As Sutherland told The Guardian in 2008, he and Fonda “were together until the relationship exploded and fell apart in Tokyo.”
Reports indicate that Fonda, Sutherland, and the rest of the F.T.A. troupe were banned entry to Tokyo upon arrival in December 1971.
“It broke my heart,” Sutherland continued. “I was eviscerated. I was so sad. It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together.”
Where They Are Now:
Fonda married social activist Tom Hayden in 1973. They share an actor son, Troy Garity, and an activist and author daughter, Mary Williams. After splitting from Hayden in 1990, Fonda went on to wed CNN founder Ted Turner. The unlikely couple called it quits 10 years later.
In 2018, Fonda declared her dating days over. “I'm not dating anymore,” she told Extra. "I've closed up shop down there!"
The actress’s Emmy-nominated Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, will resume filming its seventh and final season in 2021.
It wasn’t long after Sutherland's relationship with Fonda ended that he met his future wife, actress Francine Racette. The pair wed in 1972 and share three sons together: Roeg, Rossif, and Angus Sutherland.
The actor currently stars in HBO’s The Undoing alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant.
#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.