Fonda's Klute Worries

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Jane Fonda had second thoughts about Klute.

As she prepared for the role, she spent a week shadowing call girls and madams, even going with them to nightclubs to see how they interacted with potential clients.

“Not one John winked at me,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘They can tell I’m just this privileged, Bourgeois girl-next-door.’”

Feeling as if she wasn’t right for the role, she told director Alan Pakula to cast Faye Dunaway instead.

“I really didn’t think I could do it, and Alan just laughed me out of the room,” she said.

Part of her hesitancy was also rooted in her newly embraced feminist principles. Could she play a prostitute and still be a feminist?

She turned to jazz singer, Barbara Dane, for the answer.

“She called me and said, ‘Listen, this script gives you a chance to go deep. And if you can go deep into any human being that is feminism because it allows you to show the entirety of a human being.'”

So Fonda set out to do just that.

She drew not only from her time following call girls in New York but also her time in France where she met prostitutes with hidden or untapped potential.

She said, “They weren’t just beautiful. They were intelligent enough to have led other kinds of lives. Most of them had been sexually abused, so that is how come they ended up earning their living making a lot of money with their bodies and their sexuality.”

As Fonda developed her character, she worked with Pakula to insert the psychological implications of sexual abuse on women and men.

“The thing that struck me about the call girls, in particular, is there was no light in their eyes. It was like their soul had been taken out of them. There was a hardness and a hopelessness,” she said.

Their work also influenced a small, yet meaningful adjustment to the script.

“I said to Alan the one thing I’d like to change is she would never reveal herself to a male psychiatrist, and I asked to have a woman play the part.”

For her performance, Jane Fonda won an Academy Award in 1972.

She said, “Working with Alan Pakula was like being in a great ball room dance with a fabulous dance partner. It just flowed and was smooth, easy, and wonderful. It gave me huge confidence as an actor.”