Jane Fonda Battled the Flu When She Won Her First Oscar: ‘I Went in a Corner Backstage and Cried’

Fonda recalls leaving the stage after winning her first Oscar and feeling regret: "It just seemed wrong"

<p>Bettmann Archive/Getty</p>

Bettmann Archive/Getty

The night Jane Fonda won her first Oscar was memorable, but not for the reasons you might expect.

In 1972, the actress, in her 30s at the time, walked onstage to accept the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role playing a headstrong call girl in Klute. But what many assumed was one of Fonda’s happiest nights was anything but.

Onstage, the political activist — who had been controversially vocal about the ongoing Vietnam War — kept her speech short. “There’s a great deal to say and I’m not going to say it tonight," she said simply.

A lot was going on that night behind the scenes. “I had the flu — I was really sick. I had a temperature of 102. I remember thanking the people who voted for me and saying exactly what my father told me to say,” she tells author Dave Karger in his new book 50 Oscar Nights (on sale Jan. 23). “And then I walked off the stage, and I went in a corner backstage and cried.”

Jane, now 86, grew up in the world of movies — her father, Henry Fonda, who died in 1982, was also a celebrated actor. But in 1972, her father hadn’t won any Oscars. On the night of her triumph, she didn’t know how to feel.

“I was crying because of relief, because I said what I had to say, and I’d gotten off the stage, and nobody had booed,” she says. “But I also cried because my dad had never won an Oscar, and it just seemed wrong.”

Related: Nicole Kidman Recalls 'Struggling' with Her 'Personal Life’ When She Won Her Oscar in 2003: ‘I Went to Bed Alone’

Sonia Moskowitz/IMAGES/Getty
Sonia Moskowitz/IMAGES/Getty

A decade later, Henry would receive an honorary Oscar in 1981 and the Best Actor prize for On Golden Pond in 1982.

Jane says her illness, paired with the looming sense of regret, sent her home for the night after the Klute win. She tells Karger she skipped out on the famous after-parties and instead “collapsed in bed.”

Related: Looking Back at Jane Fonda's Life and Career in Photos

At the time, she was in a relationship with the late political activist Tom Hayden, who she married in 1973.

And while Jane Fonda won her second Oscar in 1979 for Coming Home, the trophies stayed tucked away. “While I was married to Tom Hayden, I wanted to play down the Hollywood part of me, so I didn’t have [the Oscars] on display anywhere,” Fonda explains in 50 Oscar Nights.

<p>Bonnie Schiffman/Getty</p>

Bonnie Schiffman/Getty

In the following years, she garnered a number of Golden Globes to add to the collection. By the time she and Hayden divorced in 1990, she had accumulated several additional accolades for her work.

“Then I married Ted Turner, and his office was wall-to-wall trophies," she says. "I thought, 'He can display every frigging one of his trophies — why the hell can’t I?' ”

In 2000, the actress split from the CNN founder. “Now I have them very prominently displayed on a bookcase in my living room," she says, where visitors can touch the gold statuettes themselves.

Related: America Ferrera Thanks ‘Women Who Keep Me Brave’ as She Receives Jane Fonda Humanitarian Award (Exclusive)

<p>Michael Kovac/Getty Images for LACMA</p>

Michael Kovac/Getty Images for LACMA

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The Grace and Frankie star, who underwent chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2022 and is now in remission, says despite her many ups and downs in life, she has always found a way to move forward.

"Life gets better with age," she told PEOPLE in her 2023 cover story. "There's been tragedy and hard things in my life. But I've never succumbed to them. I've been resilient all my life."

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