Posted by lebeau
Bridget Fonda came from Hollywood royalty. Peter Fonda is her father
and Jane Fonda is her aunt. Her grandfather was the legenday Henry
In the late 80′s, Bridget Fonda was hailed as one of America’s most
promising young actresses. In the early 90′s, she seemed poised for a
break-out that never happened. And then, she disappeared faster than
you can say “Steve Guttenberg in the 90′s”. What the hell happened?
Okay, this one actually has a fairly simple explanation. Fonda
basically walked away from her career to start a family with former
Oingo Boingo frontman and current movie soundtrack composer, Danny
Elfman. I figure we may as well get that out of the way up front so
the answer won’t seem too anti-climactic. But What the Hell Happened
articles are more about they journey than the destination. So, let’s
walk through Fonda’s career so we can appreciate what she left behind
for the love of Jack Skellington.
Yeah, keep on smiling, Oingo Boingo!
As a child, Fonda appeared in her father’s film, Easy Rider. But her
first credited role wasn’t until 1987′s Aria.
Aria asked the question, “What can we do to sex up opera?” The answer
turned out to be to add some sex scenes. Viewers were treated to
opera, pretension and nudity. I believe I saw it twice. I was really
into pretentious opera movies at the time.
Fonda’s segment centered on a young couple who consummate their
relationship in Las Vegas and then try unsuccessfully to commit
suicide. All set to “Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde. Seven
minutes, well spent.
I tease Aria. It was actually a very well-regarded art film. It won
the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival that year. And it
had Elizabeth Hurley naked. Sixteen-year-old lebeau approved of both.
In 1988, Fonda appeared in You Can’t Hurry Love. Apparently, someone
thought it would be a good idea to make a romantic comedy starring
David Leisure. You know, Joe Isuzu. Yeah, that guy. Fonda’s career
was not off to a great start.
Things started looking up in 1989. First, Fonda scored a juicy role
in the British drama, Scandal.
Scandal starred John Hurt and Joanne Whalley (future wife and
eventually ex-wife of Val Kilmer). It was based on a real-life
British sex scandal which apparently they really have in England. Who
Although most American audiences never heard of the film, it received
very good reviews. Fonda was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best
Later that year, Fonda appeared in the 60′s road movie, Shag.
Shag had an impressive ensemble of up-and-coming actresses that
included Phoebe Cates, Annabeth Gish and Page Hannah (sister of 80′s
mermaid, Daryl Hannah).
Shag got mostly positive reviews, but flopped at the box office. It
has developed a cult following in the years since its release.
In 1990, Fonda appeared as Mary Shelley in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein
I have never seen Frankenstein Unbound, but I’m willing to bet it’s
better than Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic abomination, Mary Shelley’s
Frankenstein from 1994. If for no other reason than it does not
include Branagh wrestling a naked Robert De Niro covered in amniotic
Later that year, Fonda had a small role in The Godfather Part 3, the
movie that dared to ask the question, “Will it ruin a movie if you
replace Winona Ryder with your daughter?”
It turns out that was a trick question. Because while casting Sophia
Coppola in a key role in the final Godfather movie certainly made the
movie worse, it would likely have sucked anyway.
Fonda’s role is small. She plays a journalist that has a one-night
stand with Andy Garcia’s character. But it was still a feather in her
cap to be cast in one of the most beloved franchises in film history.
Even if the third film did not remotely live up to the high standards
of the first two.
Personally, I just pretend it doesn’t exist. So, let’s move on, shall
In 1991, Fonda had a small role opposite her Shag co-star, Pheobe
Cates in Drop Dead Fred. She also had a supporting role in the
Michael J. Fox romantic comedy, Doc Hollywood.
Doc Hollywood was as derivative as movies come. Replace all the human
actors with vehicles and you’ve got Pixar’s Cars. It’s not a bad
movie, but pretty much every one in the cast is better than the
Surprisingly, Fonda’s character did not end up with Marty McFly, I
mean Michael J. Fox. She had a supporting role as the girl who is too
eager to be the romantic lead. As punishment, she ends up with Woody
In 1992, Fonda had a cameo role in Army of Darkness which just goes to
show you how cool she was.
She also starred opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh in the roomie thriller,
Single White Female. Both were rising stars in independent films.
But while Fonda seemed to embrace mainstream Hollywood movies like,
well, Doc Hollywood, Leigh had little patience for them.
I feel like this dynamic is reflected in the film. Leigh got the
juicy role of the crazy killer roommate. Whereas Fonda had the
thankless lead role. Put another way, Leigh got to kill Stephen Weber
with her stiletto heel. Fonda just got a pageboy haircut.
Later that year, Fonda continued her “single” theme with Cameron
Crowe’s slacker comedy, Singles.
Singles, which costarred Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, and Kyra
Sedgwick was essentially “Grunge: the Movie”. But like most movies
that targeted Generation X, its target demographic couldn’t be
bothered to go see it. Singles’ box office failure actually made it
difficult to get Reality Bites made a few years later.
Up until this point, Fonda hadn’t done a lot of starring roles. But
in 1993, she made her bid to break out as an action hero with John
Badham’s Nikita adaptation, Point of No Return.
Point of No Return was supposed to launch a franchise. But for
whatever reason, that didn’t happen. When it came out, I was sure it
would be a hit. Fonda wearing slinky outfits and kicking ass? I was
in. But it turns out, I was alone in that respect.
The movie got mixed reviews, but suffered when compared to the
original. It failed at the box office. But Nikita was later adapted
into two television series. Perhaps American audiences prefer their
female spies on TV?
Later that year, Fonda reteamed with Phoebe Cates for Bodies, Rest &
Motion. And then she appeared in the drama, Little Buddha opposite
In 1994, Fonda tried her hand at romantic comedy again. This time
opposite Nicolas Cage in the lottery-themed rom com, It Could Happen
Fonda played a waitress who was offered half of a lottery ticket as a
tip. Cage played a cop who won the lottery and then honored the
agreement to split the winnings. The movie was very loosely based on
a true story.
It Could Happen to You is a sweet movie that tries to present itself
like a real-world fairy tale. But it’s one of those romantic comedies
that forgets the laughs. As a result, it got mixed reviews and
flopped at the box office.
Later that year, Fonda appeared as part of an all-star ensemble in
Alan Parker’s truly bizarre period comedy, The Road to Wellville.
Wellville starred Anthony Hopkins as John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of
corn flakes and founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Fonda and
Matthew Broderick played a husband and wife couple who came to the
Sanitarium for its unconventional treatment. John Cusak and Dana
Despite all the talent involved, Wellville just didn’t work. It got
poor reviews and flopped at the box office.
In 1996, Fonda reunited with John Cusack for the legal thriller, City
City Hall co-starred Al Pacino and was directed by Harold Becker who
had directed Pacino in the hit, Sea of Love. It was expected that
City Hall would be a hit that would cement both Fonda and Cusack on
the A-list. But when it bombed, it had the reverse effect calling
their star status into question.
In 1997, Fonda appeared opposite Samuel L Jackson and Robert De Niro
in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
Jackie Brown was Tarantino’s follow-up to the decade defining Pulp
Fiction. As a result, it was practically guaranteed to disappoint.
But the truth is, the crime drama is criminally under-rated. Watch it
now years apart from Pulp Fiction and see how well it stands on its
Fonda played a drugged-out surfer girl who lives on the couch of a
drug and arms dealer played by Samuel L. Jackson. She has a tense
relationship with Jackson’s unstable new partner played by DeNiro
which is put to the test during a pick-up gone awry.
Unfortunately, Jackie Brown didn’t provide much of a career boost for
Fonda as she may have hoped.
In 1998, Fonda appeared opposite Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton in
Sam Raimi’s crime thriller, A Simple Plan.
Raimi, of course, was the director of the Evil Dead movies of which
Fonda was a big enough fan to make a cameo in Army of Darkness. He
would go on to direct the Spider-man films. But at the time, A Simple
Plan was Raimi’s big bid for respectability as a mainstream director.
Paxton and Thornton played brothers who discover a bag full of money.
The brothers struggle over what to do with their findings. Things
gradually spiral into tragedy. As the danger increases, Paxton’s
wife, played by Fonda, takes greater control of the situation.
For whatever reason, A Simple Plan never caught on with audiences in
spite of largely positive reviews. If anything, it was even more
under-rated than Jackie Brown.
In 1999, Fonda starred opposite Bill Pullman (aka “the other Bill”)
and Oliver Platt in the Jaws rip-off, Lake Placid.
Lake Placid replaced the ocean with a lake and the shark with an
aligator. In theory, it was supposed to be a winking satire of the
genre. But someone forgot to include any humor. Neither funny nor
scary, Lake Placid got terrible reviews. It actually managed to make
a profit at the box office and three direct-to-video sequels.
And then came Monkeybone…
I won’t say Monkeybone killed Fonda’s career. The fact of the matter
was that after a decade of trying, she had never broken into the
mainstream. But when it came time to decide whether to continue
trying to act or to raise a family with the guy who wrote the theme
music for The Simpsons, having an infamous flop like Monkeybone on her
resume probably made the decision a little easier.
Monkeybone starred Brendan Fraser as a cartoonist who goes into a coma
and enters a dark and seriously unfunny fantasy world. The film was
budgeted at 75 million and grossed less than 8 million at the box
office. It effectively took both Fraser and Fonda’s careers with it.
In 2002, Fonda retreated into the world of TV movies with the fantasy
film, The Snow Queen. Apparently it was pretty good. Fonda was
nominated for another Golden Globe.
In 2003, she married that Oingo Boingo guy and they raised a family.
Rather than tempt fate at appear in Monkey Bone 2, Fonda quit acting.
She walked away Rick Moranis-style. Her filmography just stops.
So, what the hell happened? Despite a promising start, Fonda’s career
just never took off. Which made it fairly easy for Fonda to decide to
concentrate on her family instead.