Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland star in Klute
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While filming Klute in 1970, Sutherland fell in love with fellow star and activist Jane Fonda, even though both were married at the time. In the 1960s and 70s he was at the heart of Hollywood activism, alongside an on-screen career that included provocative and seminal films like Don’t Look Now and The Invasion of The Body Snatchers. They were matched body, mind and soul. For the next two years, they were together at the forefront of Hollywood support for the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. The pair were just as passionate in private and Sutherland still dwells (often in no holds barred detail) on their intimate moments together.
Klute started filming in 1970. Fonda had been together with husband Roger Vadim, who directed her in 1968’s Barbarella, since 1963. When rumours started spreading in 1970 that they had separated, her official spokesman quickly denied it.
However, Sutherland later described how it was his beautiful co-star who made all the moves on him: “We’d already been cast but had not started shooting, and one day, she made it very clear, via a somewhat provocative suggestion, that I should come home with her. And I just said… Ok.'”
It would mark the end of the actor’s own second marriage to Shirley Douglas, which had produced twins Kiefer and Rachel
Kiefer revealed in 2014 that they had never discussed the affair but he imagined his father would say: “‘I fell in love.’ I understand that. People do. And when they’re falling in love, they believe in everything so strongly and passionately, this kind of heightened experience, that it’s very hard to judge somebody for it.”
His father frequently and famously has talked about the love and the lust, famously declaring: “She had, at the time, the most beautiful breasts in the world.”
Apparently, he followed that description with an anecdote so explicit it was not suitable for print. He did, however, wax lyrical in another interview about a naked moment that still has the power to stop his breath decades later.
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Sutherland told GQ: “I was with Jane Fonda at the /Chelsea Hotel in 1970, maybe ’71. It was a room with a big bed and, to the right, four or five stairs to a landing that led to the bathroom. There was a little oval window on the landing and there was a street light shining through that window though it seemed more like moonlight, so maybe it was the moon, I like to think it was the moon.
“I was lying on my back on the bed when Jane came out of the bathroom. She, too, was naked, and when the moonlight caught her perfect breasts I stopped breathing. Everything stopped. And then it started again. Now, when I see it in my memory, I stop breathing again.”
It’s easy to believe. The actress has maintained her extraordinary figure through the decades, although this year she finally allowed her natural grey hair to shine.
The affair was passionate and intense, although Fonda has been less vividly ‘descriptive’ over the years.
She said in her autobiography that he had, “Something of the old-world gentleman about him.” The actress added that she found his “rangy, hangdog quality and droopy, pale blue eyes especially appealing.”
Alongside both their successful Hollywood careers, the pair performed together at benefits for soldiers who opposed the Vietnam War and found themselves on CIA watchlists.
Although they seemed perfectly matched, the affair would suddenly burn out as abruptly as it started – leaving Sutherland devastated.
He said: “We got together shortly before we made Klute and then we were together until the relationship exploded and fell apart in Tokyo. And it broke my heart.
“I was eviscerated. I was so sad. It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together.”
However, in 1972, Sutherland married French Canadian actress Francine Racette, after meeting her on the set of the Canadian pioneer drama Alien Thunder. It remains one of the longest and most stable marriages in Hollywood, and has produced three sons – Rossif Sutherland, Angus Redford Sutherland, and Roeg Sutherland.
After three high profile marriages to Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden and media tycoon Ted Turner, Fonda dated music producer Richard Perry until 2017 and has said she is now happily single.
The actress has also battled cancer three times. Last week she announced that, after undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy to treat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, her cancer is now in remission.
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