On the surface, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton may seem worlds apart. Fonda grew up as the daughter of Hollywood royalty, Henry Fonda, while Parton grew up poor in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Fonda is outsoken politically, while Parton prefers to stay out of politics (but uses her platform to donate to causes she believes in). But the two talented and witty women have been close friends since working together on the boundary-pushing comedy 9 to 5 (and may even work together again on the final season of Grace and Frankie). It turns out that Dolly and Jane have quite a bit in common. Below, take a look back at their 40 year friendship.
Jane Fonda Once Sang Backup for Dolly
During an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Fonda recounted going on tour with Parton after they filmed 9 to 5 together. As if that weren't nerve-racking enough, their journey started with a performance at the historic Grand Ole Opry, where Fonda sang backup for Parton.
"They didn't know who I was," Fonda said. "I wouldn't be here alive today if they did."
They Got Drunk on Moonshine Together
While on tour, they made a stop in the Ozarks, where they decided to test out Parton's cousin's moonshine still.
"She wanted me to know what really good White Lightning was like," Fonda said. "I was drunk for 10 days and I didn't know it until I got home."
Apparently, the fun lasted for quite a while.
"[Dolly's] husband edited a video of the trip for us and when I look at that video I realize that we had no idea that we were as drunk as we were," Fonda said.
We Partly Have Fonda to Thank for Parton's Movie Success
In her book Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, Parton said the experience of working on 9 to 5, which Fonda also produced, inspired her to keep acting.
"The whole experience of doing Nine to Five was as much fun as I have ever had with two women," Parton wrote. "It made me wonder what had taken me so long to get into the movies. It whetted my appetite to do more."
Fonda Once Unknowingly Made Eyes at Parton's Husband
In My Life and Other Unfinished Business, Parton recalls one day on the set of 9 to 5 when Fonda noticed Carl Dean, Parton's notoriously camera shy husband, across the room. Having no idea he was Parton's husband, Fonda made it known to Parton that she was interested in the handsome stranger.
"Jane nearly died laughing from embarrassment," Parton wrote. "Carl, of course, was flattered. He got to talk to Jane. He still carries a little torch for her to this day."
They Have Each Other's Backs
Fonda drew criticism during the Vietnam War for, while on a trip to North Vietnam, appearing on radio programs to speak out against the U.S. military's policy in Vietnam. A photograph was also taken of Fonda seated on an anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi, earning her the nickname "Hanoi Jane." (Fonda has since apologized repeatedly for the photo. "If I was used, I allowed it to happen. It was my mistake, and I have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for it," Fonda wrote in her book My Life So Far.)
While Parton has said she understands how Fonda's critics feel, she called her friend a "sincere person" and a "special girl."
"[Jane Fonda] was scheduled to appear at Dollywood a couple of years ago as a celebrity guest. That's when I realized how prejudiced people still are about her," Parton wrote in My Life and Other Unfinished Business. "I understand how these people feel, but I also know Jane as a sincere person, a very professional woman, and a special, special girl. She gave me a break on Nine to Five, and she was also very good to my sister Rachel when she gave her the part of Dora Lee in the [Nine to 5] TV series. Jane will always be special to both of us."
Fonda would come to Parton's defense when the country legend was criticized for not speaking out against Donald Trump during an appearance alongside Fonda and Tomlin at the 2017 Emmy Awards.
"Dolly is a person of heart and spirit," Fonda told The New Yorker."She's not a political person, but we need more like her. She is profound and she has a really, really huge heart, and she's really smart and deeply spiritual."
Fonda Once Teared Up While Talking about Parton
It's clear that Fonda and Parton have great respect for one another. Fonda appeared on A&E's Biography to discuss Parton's life and career and got emotional when discussing the relationship between Parton and her fans.
"Through her songs, she opens her arms wide and embraces such a broad swath of people that don't always feel seen and it's why people love her," Fonda said. "When we've been in public with her, her fans will drive for hours to be where she is. I've been with a lot of big movie stars. I've never seen the devotion that her fans have for her in anyone else."