Jane Fonda: Why Katharine Hepburn ‘Intimidated’ Me on the Set of ‘On Golden Pond’

Jane Fonda reflected on her appearance in the 1981 film ‘On Golden Pond’ with icon Katharine Hepburn and why the four-time Oscar winner pissed her off.

“I was intimidated by Katharine Hepburn, that’s for sure. My God,” Fonda told AARP The Magazine in a recent interview.

The 85-year-old ‘Barbarella’ star said she models the way she treats people on set completely opposite to Hepburn’s while they direct the family drama.

“When we did ‘On Golden Pond,’ she made sure she was still the best female dog — and I knew it,” the ‘Monster in Law’ alum added. “I think my partners will tell you that I really try to do the opposite and make people feel comfortable.”

Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar for her work in “On Golden Pond,” while Fonda picked up a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

Jane Fonda as Chelsea Thayer Wayne, Henry Fonda as Norman Thayer and Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer in “On Golden Pond” in 1981.
Corbis via Getty Images

Her father, Henry Fonda, also starred in the film and won Best Actor.

Fonda previously recalled her experiences working with the Old Hollywood starlet in a 2021 interview with Harper’s Bazaar, noting what an “interesting woman” Hepburn was.

“We weren’t friends,” Fonda said. “She was really competitive. She really thought I wanted to win more Oscars than her.

“When she won for ‘On Golden Pond,’ I called her to congratulate her and she said, ‘You’ll never catch me now,'” Fonda said.


ON GOLDEN POND -- Pictured: (lr) Katharine Hepburn as Ethel Thayer, Jane Fonda as Chelsea Thayer Wayne (Photo by NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Hepburn won an Oscar for her portrayal of family matriarch Ethel Thayer in “On Golden Pond.”
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

She continued, “What I liked about her was that she took being an elder very seriously. She intended to teach and talk to me, including giving me line readings, and I found that to be just wonderful. She didn’t love me.

The ‘The African Queen’ actress died in 2003 at the age of 96 – after a meteoric career spanning more than six decades. She’s been nominated for 12 Oscars and has added four to her slate.

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