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TIFF: Jane Fonda wanted to audition for Canadian director – Toronto

TORONTO – Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda volunteered to audition for This is Where I Leave You.

The star of classic films like Klute and Coming Home revealed Monday that she wanted to prove she could play the role of family matriarch Hilary Altman, a celebrated child psychologist and author with a penchant for plastic surgery.

She recalled auditioning with Jason Bateman, who had already won the part of her son Judd.

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“I was extremely nervous,” the 76-year-old actress admitted. “I hoped that I would get the part, and glad that I did. I totally identify with the character, except for the boobs.”

Fonda was joined by her co-stars Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Dax Shepard and Abigail Spencer, as well as director Shawn Levy and producer Paula Weinstein, at a press conference during the Toronto International Film Festival.

This is Where I Leave You, based on the best-selling novel by Jonathan Tropper, follows four grown siblings who return to their childhood home after their father dies. Confronting their frayed history and relationships, the family is forced to reconnect.

Bateman recalled being blown away by Fonda’s performance when she auditioned with him.

“If she was nervous, I was twice as nervous,” he said. “She was obviously outstanding but she made me cry like a baby and that was a little embarrassing. But it was pretty clear that we needn’t look any further than Ms. Fonda.”

Levy added it was “very unusual” for someone of Fonda’s stature to audition for a role.

“No one does that. No one has the courage to actually go for what they want,” he said. “So my first thought was, ‘I can’t believe that Jane wants to read,’ but indeed she wanted this part, she knew she was this woman and she wanted to show it.”

The Montreal-born director said the chemistry between Bateman and Fonda was immediately clear by halfway through the first scene they did together.

“I remember Jane walking out of the room and one of my favourite memories of that day is she said, ‘When do you think I’ll know?’” he recalled. “That stuck with me, to kind of still wake up hungry like that, to wake up yearning for the next challenge. And she’s magnificent in this project.”

Fonda maintained her modest tone when she suggested that she didn’t have the “brain” for comedy.

“Comedy is so much harder than drama. There’s a rhythm. I come from a long line of depressives. It just doesn’t exactly come naturally to me,” she said. “I kind of learned how to be funny with Ted Turner,” she said of her former husband.

Bateman quickly pointed out that Fonda had drawn the most laughs from the audience at the press conference. “You are very, very funny,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fey — best known for her comedic performances in Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock — said she was hungry for a more dramatic role.

“It was so nice to shoot scenes where it was just people sitting still and talking. It’s just a treat that you almost never get. In TV, you certainly never get it because every scene is like 40 seconds long. And you have to cut ten seconds out of it before it airs. So it felt like a treat to be able to sit there and talk about human feelings with another person,” she said.

©2014The Canadian Press

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