| Michel Comte |
TORONTO, Canada (AFP) – Jane Fonda insists that she does not have a funny bone, but kept people in stitches Monday at the Toronto film festival premiere of “This is Where I Leave You”.
Best known for her dramatic roles, including in “The China Syndrome”, “Coming Home”, “Julia” and “On Golden Pond”, Fonda in her latest role plays a celebrity shrink in the hilarious adaptation of Jonathan Trooper’s book, opposite some of the best comedic actors in Hollywood such as Tina Fey and Jason Bateman.
The film by director Shawn Levy about siblings who rarely find time to see each other and are forced to spend an entire week together under one roof following their father’s death, at his behest, also stars Corey Stoll, Dax Shepard, Kathryn Hahn and Rose Byrne.
Levy told a press conference that he encouraged the actors to improvise some dialogue in the film.
Fonda, 76, said she had once tried comedy improvisation. “I decided that I should try to do it… and that’s when I learned that, nuh uh.
“Comedy is so much harder than drama because there’s a rhythm. You have to kinda land it,” she explained.
Fonda took a break from working a new Netflix series with Lily Tomlin to promote the film, that she said she “hopes will be funny.”
“I come from a long line of depressives so (comedy) just doesn’t come naturally to me,” she said.
“Of course most comedians that I know are also depressed people but I’m not one of them that’s also funny,” she added. “I learned to be funny with Ted Turner (her spouse 1991-2001), but it was not something that I could do naturally.”
Fonda has one improvised line in the film that provoked audience roars at its Toronto premiere, but Fonda confessed, “I stole it from (co-star) Tina (Fey).”
“Tina was like a vending machine (for jokes)” during filmmaking, added Shepard.
Fonda said she can improve drama easily, but not comedy: “I just don’t have the brain.”
Coming to Fonda’s defence, Bateman said: “She’s underselling herself. There’s been 25 laughs during this press conference and 24 of them have been (for Fonda). You’re very, very funny Jane.”
Fonda’s response to working now with younger actors drew the loudest laughs from the crowd: “Well I have no choice, most of the people my age are dead.”
Pressed if the mood on set was serious or light ahead of dramatic scenes that are interspersed throughout, Bateman commented: “You don’t want to waste it just beforehand so you want to keep it quite the opposite.
“We’ve got very limited talent up here so you don’t want to go blowing it on a rehearsal,” he quipped.
Fellow cast member Corey Stoll, who had no previous professional comedic experience, for his part said: “When you don’t do much comedy and then show up in a movie with a cast like this, it’s going to the major leagues so I was just trying to stay afloat.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to be nearly as funny as a lot of the people in this cast and so I just tried to be as honest with my character as possible and trust that the script was funny.”