The year was 1982. All across the country, millions of women watched 45-year-old Jane Fonda do leg lifts in their living rooms. In the times of VCRs, VHS tapes, leg warmers and leotards, the Oscar®-winning actress was America's workout queen.
More than two decades later, Jane still looks incredible at age 72. Svelte and beautiful, she walks onto the stage with the same energy and grace she displayed decades ago.
"Do you feel as great as you look?" Oprah asks.
"Yes," Jane says. "I think it's just getting better!"
In a country and culture that seems to fear aging, Jane embraces her life. "Over [age] 50, people tend to get happier and less anxious," she says. "[Life] gets better and easier."
Part of what makes life easier at this age, Jane says, is the wisdom that comes along with it. "One part of wisdom is knowing what you don't need anymore and letting it go," Jane says. "We don't have to keep going back there. Been there, done that. I survived. I can do it again."
The last time Oprah interviewed Jane for O magazine was 10 years ago, just a few short weeks after Jane's separation from her third husband, media mogul Ted Turner. She went from a life of luxury to living in her daughter's modest Atlanta home in a room with no closet—and Jane says she wouldn't have had it any other way.
"I needed to be there," she says. "It was like I was giving birth to my second adulthood in the home of my firstborn. It was very, very moving."
During that interview, Jane says she articulated for the first time that she was in her "third act" of life, a stage in which she says she found her voice.
"When you left, I knew what I had to do," Jane says to Oprah. "I knew that I had to write my memoirs."
The same year her memoir came out, Jane also returned to the big screen after a 15-year break from making movies. Her book became a success, her movie career was revived, and 16-and-a-half months ago, she began dating music producer Richard Perry. Jane's third act was—and still is—in full swing.
"[I'm] falling in love again, making movies again, doing a play on Broadway," Jane says. "I'm back."
During Jane's "first act," she made a name for herself when she fell into modeling and acting in the early '60s, even studying at the famed Actor's Studio with Marilyn Monroe. But it was her role as the sexy space siren in Barbarella that really made Hollywood take notice. Jane became a sex symbol.
Oprah: Was [being a sex symbol] important to you?
Oprah: Would you have imagined yourself looking this great at 72?
Jane: Never. No. Not looking as good and not being in love and not moving back to Los Angeles. A lot of things that I would never, ever had imagined!
Jane's ex-husband, Ted Turner, was a major part of her "second act." The pair connected shortly after her divorce from social and political activist Tom Hayden in 1990. They dated for several months before marrying in 1991. Both busy, successful individuals, Jane and Ted often spent time apart due to work and eventually divorced after 10 years of marriage.
Today, Jane says she and Ted are still close friends. "[I'm] very, very close with him and his children," Jane says.
"We may not be together as a couple, but I don't regret a moment of the 10 years that we had together," Jane says.
In 2000, towards the end of her marriage to Ted, Jane says she made a pact with a friend to never get plastic surgery. However, Jane confesses that she simply got fed up with looking in the mirror and wondering who the tired-looking stranger was staring back at her.
In February 2010, Jane wrote candidly on her blog about having plastic surgery on her chin, neck and eyes. She wrote: "Bob Evans complimented me on my new, short haircut, and I said: 'Thanks. I just had some 'work' done on my chin and neck and had the bags taken away from under my eyes so I decided it would be good to get a new hair cut so people will think it's my new hair.' He thought that was so funny he actually toasted me for doing what he said he'd never heard anyone do before: admit they'd had work done. I was planning on blogging about it anyway, so who cares?"
Jane has no regrets about going under the knife. "Now, I look more like how I feel," she says. "I'm glad I did it."
"And now when you look into the mirror, what do you see?" Oprah asks.
"Good work!" Jane jokes.
Despite being married three times, Jane has says she missed out on feelings of intimacy during her past relationships.
"One of the things I remember most about our interview 10 years ago for O magazine, you were talking about how you'd had no intimacy in all of your marriages," Oprah says to Jane.
While intimacy can mean different things to different people, Jane says she believes intimacy means you're not afraid to bring your whole self to the table. "[Now], I can give myself away with more intimacy because I know who I am," she says.
Even when she was younger, Jane says she was aware that she hadn't come to know her true self, and for years, she felt like a fake. "I would often say, 'Today's the day they're going to find out I'm a fraud,'" she says.
Jane says she used to struggle with the idea of perfection.
"It's a toxic desire to try to be perfect," she says. "I realized later in life that the challenge is not to be perfect. It's to be whole."
For Jane, the entire third act of life is about "becoming whole." This sparks an aha! moment for Oprah.
"Wouldn't it be amazing if everybody ... was able to make the shift to not have your life be about being successful or getting ahead?" Oprah says. "What if our entire culture rested on, 'How do I become more whole?'"
"It would be a completely different world," Jane says. "You can't be trying to be perfect and be whole. You have to know what's wrong and say: 'It's okay. It's all right.'"
As the daughter of legendary actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Seymour, Jane admits that her struggles with intimacy and perfection may stem from her childhood.
"Parents are supposed to give the child back to herself with love," Jane says. "If they've got duct tape over their eyes because of narcissism, it doesn't happen."
"And you would say that of your father, narcissist?" Oprah asks.
"And mother too," Jane says.
When she was 59, Jane says she did a life review, which allowed her to forgive people in her life, including her parents. "The people who did you wrong or who didn't quite know how to show up, you forgive them," she says. "And forgiving them allows you to forgive yourself too."
In her life review, Jane discovered that her mother, who committed suicide when Jane was 12, had been sexually abused. "[That] changed my life," Jane says. "I [realized] it had nothing to do with me."
Jane is the mother of two adult children, Vanessa and Troy, and she says one of her biggest regrets in life is not being a better mom to them.
As someone who was raised by governesses as a child, Jane had governesses for her own daughter as well. "I didn't know how to do it otherwise," she says.
Then, when Vanessa gave birth to Jane's first grandchild, Jane says she felt her heart opening. "When [my grandson] got a little older, we'd stare ... into each other's eyes," she says. "I'd turn to go to sleep, but he'd pull me back and say, 'I'm not ready.' And he'd look at me more and say, 'I wuv you, Gamma.'"
"So you had not done that with your own children?" Oprah asks.
"Not enough," Jane says. "Maybe I did it, but I wasn't there."
Today, Jane says Vanessa is an unbelievable mother. "We break the cycle," she says.
Jane currently lives in Los Angeles, where she splits her time between her home and the home of her new love, Richard.
"It's not how I thought I'd be living at this stage in my life, but it's great," she says.
Each night, Jane says she and Richard try to dance together for 15 to 20 minutes, often to songs from a new album Richard produced, Rod Stewart's Fly Me to the Moon.
"Sometimes we dance to the whole album, beginning to end, for the entire hour," she says.
While she is undeniably thrilled with her relationship, Jane brushes off rumors that she and Richard are secretly engaged. "No, no," she says. "I'm not going to get married again."
As a vibrant, energetic woman living a full life, Jane is clearly enjoying her third act. She's also returning to her fitness roots by releasing two new workout DVDs.
"I've been writing a book called Prime Time: Creating a Great Third Act, ... and in the research I did, it was clear that one of the most important things is to stay physically active," Jane says. "Not just for your body and your muscles, but for your brain."