Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda rank as two of the best actors in Hollywood history, and each has a formidable reputation for speaking their mind. So naturally, when they worked together for On Golden Pond – one of the best ’80s movies for both of them – it was a clash of the titans.
Jane Fonda bought the rights to the play that inspired On Golden Pond with the hope of getting the chance to work with her father, Henry Fonda before his health declined too far. The story follows an elderly couple, who are estranged from their daughter.
The real-life father and daughter anchored the film, with Hepburn cast as Ethel – wife to Henry’s character and mother to Jane’s. Looking back over her career at the Cannes Film Festival 2023 (via Vulture), Fonda explained how Hepburn came to get the role.
“We hadn’t even begun to think about who should play Ethel, and one day in my office, the phone rings. ‘Hello? I hear you’re making a movie of On Golden Pond’. It was Katharine Hepburn. She called us! ‘You can’t make it in May, the trees will turn red’. She was telling us how to make the movie. Of course, we hired her. It was one of the most glorious experiences of my life. I made the movie for my father, but the person I learned from in the movie was Katharine Hepburn.”
Hepburn won a Best Actress award at the Oscars for the movie, while Henry Fonda won for Best Actor. Jane was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but lost out to Maureen Stapleton in Reds.
This prompted Hepburn to gloat just a little. Fonda said: “She didn’t like me. All three of us were nominated for Oscars, and I didn’t win, and they did. And I called Hepburn up to congratulate her, and she said: ‘You’ll never catch me now’.”
Hepburn still holds the record for the most acting wins at the Oscars, with her four victories. Fonda had already won twice by the time she starred in On Golden Pond – for Klute and Coming Home – but has not won again since.
Fonda explained that her relationship with Hepburn was a strange one and that “she wanted me to keep talking about her after she was dead, and I talk about her all the time”.
You can find out more about Fonda’s latest work in our Book Club 2 review, and also check out which actor Clint Eastwood compared to Katharine Hepburn.
We’ve also got our picks for the best movies of all time, as well as a list of all of the new movies coming to cinemas. For more, check out our detailed guides to the Dune 2 release date and the Oppenheimer release date.