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Jane Fonda's First Interaction With Katharine Hepburn Was Too Hilarious

Both Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn are two of America's most lauded actresses with six Academy Awards for best actress between them (via Gold Derby). Both stars reached the heights of Hollywood stature during different eras: Hepburn reached the peak of her career during the Golden Age of Tinseltown from the 1930s-1960s, while Fonda emerged during the "New Hollywood" era of the 1960s.

Jane Fonda's most memorable movie roles have allowed her to amass the kind of influence and reverence seen with Hepburn later in her career. Both actresses have given a range of performances in genres as varied as screwball comedy, intense drama, and poignant character studies. This is why their co-starring roles in 1981's "On Golden Pond" remains an example of major star power all inside of one movie.

Hepburn and Fonda star alongside another icon of Classic Hollywood: Henry Fonda, Jane's father. "On Golden Pond" garnered box office success (via Box Office Mojo), which was a surprise considering the movie is a character-driven drama about family bonds both broken and repaired, as well as the reality of aging and coming to terms with mortality. 

Elderly couple Norman (Henry Fonda) and Ethel (Hepburn) live in a lake house in rural New England. Norman's daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) brings her boyfriend's son to the lake house for the summer, which leads to unexpected developments. "On Golden Pond" perfectly blends Jane and Henry's real father/daughter dynamic with that of their fictional characters, and Hepburn's endearing role adds a different layer to things. The working relationship between Jane Fonda and Hepburn was tense, but not without some humor.

Katharine Hepburn didn't like co-star Jane Fonda while filming On Golden Pond

Throughout her storied career, Katharine Hepburn always let her true feelings be known in interviews, such as her open and revealing 2-hour interview with Dick Cavett in 1973. The actress with the most Oscar wins to date was often blunt in her observations about people, which she made regardless of how long or well she actually knew the person. Hepburn's brand of no-nonsense character assessment greeted Jane Fonda head-on in their first meeting on the set of "On Golden Pond."

In a 2005 interview with James Lipton, Fonda noted that her father and Hepburn were meeting for the first time ever while making "On Golden Pond," but she couldn't make that meeting (because she was traveling with Dolly Parton). She commented, "Katharine never forgave me that I wasn't there, and the first time I met her, you know what the first word she said to me were, 'I don't like you!'" 

Hepburn's declaration set the tone for the two performers, who simply did not get along. In a 2021 interview with Harper's Bazaar, Fonda revisited the topic and said that the animosity stemmed in part from Hepburn's highly competitive nature. Although Hepburn did try to teach the younger Fonda and help her with line readings, Fonda noted that "She [Katharine Hepburn] once told Dominick Dunne that I didn't have a soul." Ouch.