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A Heartfelt Movie For Jane Fonda

October 16, 1994|SUSAN KING

Jane Fonda wanted to make a movie about the siege at Wounded Knee ever since it took place in 1973.

"I felt it was a dramatic way to show what is happening today," says Fonda. "The problem was at the time I couldn't get a studio interested. I couldn't find a vehicle to tell a story."

Until she read Mary Crow Dog's autobiography, "Lakota Woman," four years ago, around the same time she met her future husband, Ted Turner. "He told me he was doing this series on Native Americans, both films and documentary, and so we thought 'Lakota Woman' would be great.

"The movie would be the contemporary view (of Native Americans). I said I would like my company (Fonda Films) to do it because I know a lot about what happened and about the people who are involved. I think with my company and (executive producer) Lois Bonfiglio, we could do a good job."

It was imperative for Fonda that the film be done just right. "The people are still alive and the issues are still very much alive," she explains. "So you don't want to blow it out of proportion or trivialize it or make it superficial. You want to do it as accurately as possible. We put a lot of effort in to make it as real as possible."

A lot of the people involved in the film were part of the real Wounded Knee siege. "They were advisers to it, consultants to it," Fonda says.

"There was a very lengthy chronicle that was written, 'Eyewitness at Wounded Knee,' a day-by-day, blow-by-blow description. We relied a lot on that and on Mary and Richard Erdoes, who wrote the book with her."

Fonda believes "Lakota Woman" will be a learning experience for viewers. "I already know that it will be, because I have shown it to friends of mine, younger women and men, and they are just shocked that (Wounded Knee) happened during their lifetime. They never knew about it. I remember around the time of Alcatraz, there was an article in a magazine by a man named Peter Collier, and he told the story of what had been done to Native Americans. I'm ashamed to say I had not realized that. It rocked me."

And changed her life. "That is when I went to Alcatraz and really became an activist."

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