What the Hell Happened to Bridget Fonda?

Bridget FONDOVÁ herec hereèka USA

Bridget Fonda came from Hollywood royalty.  Peter Fonda is her father and Jane Fonda is her aunt.  Her grandfather was the legenday Henry Fonda.

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?

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.

fonda - elfman

Yeah, keep on smiling, Oingo Boingo!

fonda - easy rider

At the age of four, Fonda appeared in her father’s 1969 cult classic, Easy Rider.

Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper played hippies who ride motorcycles across the American Southwest.  Along the way, the two come across a commune where they stay for the day.  Four-year-old Bridget played one of the kids in the commune.

Cameron originally wrote The Terminator with Bridget Fonda in mind to play Sarah Connor.  In the original script, the character was much younger.  Had Fonda agreed, The Terminator would have been her movie debut.  When she passed, several actresses were considered.  Debra Winger was cast but changed her mind before filming started.  Eventually Linda Hamilton landed the role.

fonda - aria

Fonda’s 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.

fonda - can't hurry love

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.

fonda - scandal

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  a fictionalised account of the Profumo Affair – a well-known British sex scandal which was documented in  Anthony Summers’ book Honeytrap.

The movie caused quite a stir in Europe.  It was nearly rated X in the US.  Apparently, some of the extras in the orgy scene were taking their roles a little too seriously.  They were going all method-acting on a piano in the background.  The couple was out of focus, but the MPAA (who apparently scrutinized the footage to determine whether or not an actual sex act was being performed) insisted that the offending out-of-focus non-simulated fornication be cut from the orgy scene.

Although most American audiences never heard of the Scandal, it received very good reviews.  Fonda was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Next: Shag and the Godfather Part III

Posted on October 7, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 185 Comments.

  1. Hard to believe he didn’t mention Single White Female- probably her most important role, with a serious hot sex scene.

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  2. Great Actress possibly better than some of the other family member’s, just finished watching Assassin, great movie, she could of been massive movie star, but I can see why she would like to retire to bring up her family, it is very hard place to be.

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  3. On Dutch commercial television(on Veronica television) l watched the film Point of no return last night. Great movie, good actress she is.
    Hopefully she will make her way back to the cinema. Giorgio.Rotterdam The Netherlands.

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  4. Until a couple moments ago, I’d never heard of “what the hell happened to …” — kind of a snarky, s.hitty-attitudinal site. Hey, she’s set for life. She quit making movies. It’s not as if she walked out of a lab 3 days before find a cure for cancer. But hey, who am I to argue with words of a one-named writer?

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    • Hugo, my friend, it’s all in fun. Snarky? Sure. That’s intentional. Shitty? I like to think I don’t fall on that side of the line. Especially with regards to Ms. Fonda. I think I have made my appreciation of her work fairly evident. You seem to feel I was overly critical. I’d love to hear you elaborate on that.

      See, your last line tells me you appreciate a little snark. Well done.

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      • Bit of an overreaction Hugo.. if you don’t mind my saying that. A lot of times the very question of WTHH is not an insult or even snarky. Sometimes it’s a compliment of sorts, especially with someone like Fonda who has an enduring fan base. WTHH has really taken on quite a variety of different meanings and has generated very different kinds of answers. Then again sometimes it can be more on the snark side. I don’t know anyone who sits around pining for the next Seagal movie. And if so, it’s still apparent that it is indeed, all in fun.

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        • Thanks RB. I can see where someone who is new to the series would read a single article and find the tone off-putting. It’s not intended to be for everyone. Having said that, I didn’t exactly go after Bridget Fonda.

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  5. She was a great actress when will she return..

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  6. 10 Awesome Actors Who Just Dropped Off The Face Of The Earth:

    http://whatculture.com/film/10-awesome-actors-just-dropped-face-earth.php/2

    10. Bridget Fonda

    You may recognize Bridget Fonda from films as varied as Point of No Return and Monkeybone. She had worked with Sam Raimi, Jet Li and starred in the crazy 90s hit Single White Female. Her last credited role was a television film called Snow Queen. That was 2002.

    It wasn’t like Fonda was having trouble finding parts. She was beautiful and talented and in her prime when she suddenly disappeared. In 2001, she starred in Monkeybone opposite Brendan Fraser and Kiss of the Dragon opposite Jet Li.

    Where is the actress now? 2003 was a big year for her. Fonda suffered a fracture in her vertebra after a serious car crash in L.A. Though that probably didn’t have long term effects on her career, she also married film composer Danny Elfman that same year and the two are still married and raising a son. The best guess here is that Bridget Fonda walked away from Hollywood to start a family. We wish her luck, but hopefully we can see the Jackie Brown actress on the big screen again someday.

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    • Re: Bridget Fonda:

      http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=10717571#page:showThread,10717571,2

      Boy there was a real push back in the late 80s early 90s to make her a huge star but it didn’t really happen. I think the tipping point for her career was the American remake of La Femme Nikita that was a huge flop. It was supposed to make her an action star but it didn’t happen. In all honesty while I liked her a lot and enjoyed a lot of her performances she always kind of seemed like a poor man’s Jodie Foster, of course her big draw was her last name, but that could only last for so long. I’d be interested to see if she comes back in middle age roles. It seemed to me like her career goal was about stardom and not acting so I would be surprised if she returned.

      by: Anonymous reply 25 08/07/2011 @ 08:11PM

      Loved her in “Single White Female” as well.

      I think she could have bridged the gap into successful middle-aged roles, a la Laura Dern. But it’s nice to see someone who can take it or leave it.

      by: Anonymous reply 27 08/07/2011 @ 08:45PM

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      • Film ‘stars’ you thought were going to be massive, and really weren’t:

        http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showpost.php?p=72715724&postcount=78

        Fonda was already retired when she became romantically involved with Elfman.

        She was interested in being a film star, but certain incidents in her personal and professional lives at one point had her deciding to retire in 1999. She didn’t outline those incidents but regarding her career, she hinted at being pressured over her appearance and age, which had her being offered almost nothing but unsuitable roles. Once she made her decision, she still had to fulfill the remaining agreements, so she worked until she could retire in 2000 or 2001. She shared this story at a Women in Film event a few years ago.

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  7. I just loved how you kept saying for ‘some reason’ it was a flop. (g) She had horrible taste in the projects she chose. As a movie goer, she became one of the ‘bellwether”s of whether I would like the movie or not. If she was in it, I stayed away. Garbage material with talented people in it is still garbage. Actually, when someone consistently chooses these types of movies to act in, I have to conclude that personally they appeal to them and they don’t to me, so I’ll go watch someone else.

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    • I can’t agree with you. For one, I liked a lot of her movies. Some of them fell short. But I don’t think Fonda made very many movies that were clearly destined to be bad. For example, Godfather 3 and Point of No Return had to look like sure-things on paper. A Simple Plan and Jackie Brown were good movies. It Could Happen to You and Singles were movies that could have been solid hits but just didn’t connect with audiences.

      Perhaps the majority shared your point of view and avoided Fonda. But I doubt it. I think most people just didn’t register her one way or another.

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      • The only obvious mistake she made was in turning down Ally McBeal- but movie stars turning down TV is nothing new.

        The Road to Wellville might have been a bit out there- but it was with Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Broderick – it wasn’t like she was doing a Uwe Bolle movie.

        She probably could have been in a few more mainstream roles than some of the indie-type stuff she did- but she just might not have been offered these roles over Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, etc-

        She’s hardly a female James Caan – who basically turned down every great role of the late Seventies(!!)

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        • I remember really wanting to see The Road to Wellville. And when I finally did, my enthusiasm slowly drained from me. But no, you can’t blame her for wanting to do it.

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  8. BTW,today Bridget hits the half-century mark!!!

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  9. I’ve heard David Kelley mentioning that Bridget wasn’t even on his list during the search for
    his Ally,BTW!!!!

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    • Interesting- Fonda gave interviews where she said it- its all over a google search I just did.

      It wouldn’t be the first time this sort of thing is disputed. Producers/actors/agents do have their agendas.

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  10. like all her movies…has that fonda face that keeps you looking at her…wish she would have made a sequel to point of no return…girl action figure…loved it

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  11. In my opinion she was the most attractive “rising young actress” of the 90s – but she had kind of a cold and unlikeable personality onscreen, which I think people never responded to despite her looks. There was also the nepotism factor to turn people off, and since the Fondas were pretty unpopular anyway… I’d say that’s what the hell happened.

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    • In that regard, I wonder if Bridget Fonda is sort of an opposite variation of Drew Barrymore, who you can also make the argument wouldn’t have gotten as far as she did in part because of the famous acting dynasty that she came from. I’m not necessarily saying that Drew pretty much “took” Bridget’s career per se, I’m saying that while you can argue that Drew Barrymore has never been the greatest actress from a technical standpoint, she none the less had sort of a “magnetic charm and quality” (perhaps something that Bridget couldn’t immediately fall on) about her to make you know overlook her limitations.

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      • I wasn’t on board until you got to the end. I do think Barrymore got a lot of mileage out of her charm. Fonda, on the other hand, didn’t have that bubbliness. In that respect, I think you’re right. I don’t really buy that Fonda’s family held her back in any way. I doubt she would have gotten as far as she did without her family connections.

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        • I hope I didn’t phrase my words incorrectly or poorly when discussing the differences between Drew Barrymore and Bridget Fonda’s career arcs, because part of my point is that you can make the argument that both women (regardless of overall acting talent) wouldn’t have gotten as far as they did in the first place w/o their famous family connections.

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          • Sure family connections help a lot for getting in the door- but that’s it. A lot of actors have kids- many tried acting- and never did much. Look at all Clint Eastwood’s kids- for example.

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  12. Seems she was a victim of her family’s excess baggage,perhaps????

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    • It’s possible. Although I don’t think the casual audience member knew or cared about her family connection. I just don’t think she connected with audiences for some reason. To some extent, I think it was the projects she chose. But I’m sure some people also found her “cold and unlikable”.

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  13. Blink And You Miss ‘Em: Celebs Who Were Famous For, Like, Five Minutes:

    http://www.vh1.com/celebrity/2014-05-13/celebs-whose-fame-didnt-last/

    Bridget Fonda (daughter of Peter, granddaughter of Henry, niece of Jane) was a huge star for a red hot minute. She lit up classics like Singles and Single White Female with her quirky pixie beauty, and managed to bring some class to The Godfather Part III. And then nothing! She was in a terrible car accident in 2003 that damaged her vertebra, which might be why she slowed down — but her presence is sorely missed. We’d love to see her playing Gwyneth’s big sister in a family dramedy about pristine Upper East Side wasps.

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  14. Longtime favorite in the 90s … Think she was underappreciated by the audience. IMHO she has acting talent.

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  15. Loved her in Single White Female, shame she walked away. I wish her well in whatever she chooses to do with her life.

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  16. 17 Career Comebacks We’d Love To See:

    http://www.hitfix.com/galleries/overlay/17-career-comebacks-wed-love-to-see/8.js

    Bridget Fonda
    Best known for: “Jackie Brown,” “Single White Female,” “Singles”
    Last seen in: “The Whole Shebang”
    Comeback plan: “Looooooouisssssssss. Looooooouuuuissssssss.” Fonda was the real deal, smart and funny and casually gorgeous, and she seemed to be able to find fun notes to play even in weak material. She hasn’t worked at all since 2002, and her last theatrical feature was 2001. She’s got a young son, and she’s married to Danny Elfman, and she may be perfectly happy with that. But I’d love to see her work again, and it would take someone (maybe Tarantino, who gave her one of her very best roles as the sharp-tongued Melanie in “Jackie Brown”) to write something worthy of her enormous wit to remind audiences just how great she is.
    – Drew McWeeny

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  17. I remember her most in Point of No Return. There have been many versions of this plot through the years but none as good and no one has ever played her character as well. She was so believable.

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  18. Maybe I missed this but saw nothing regarding the huge accident she was in in this article to which I was surprised not to see written here. Forgive me if I missed this if it’s in this article/post but she was in a serious car wreck and her car plunged off an embankment in which she suffered head and neck injuries and a back fracture. That isolated likely want she suddenly stopped acting. This occurred in early/mid 2000s

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    • It is addressed very near the end of the article:

      In 2003, Fonda was in a car accident in which she flipped her Jaguar. Fonda lost control of her vehicle due to weather conditions. She sustained a slight fracture of two thoracic vertebrae and was rushed to the hospital. Remarkably, her injuries were not terribly serious and she was able to recover at home.

      I could probably give it a little more attention. But frankly, there isn’t much more out there. By this point, Fonda was largely out of the public eye. Although there is little doubt it must have been a contributing factor.

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  19. Good for her, she had a taste of Hollywood but apparently, decided being happy was more important. Still, after watching Single White Female, I was hoping to see more of her, she was excellent in that, one of my favorites movies from that period. Hope she’s happy and doing well, too lazy to read the entire article :)

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  20. I liked Bridget Fonda, but I think her husband has had an amazing musical journey. I know Oingo Boingo wasn’t huge per se, but I really like the songs “Weird Science” and “Dead Man’s Party” (who can ask for more?). I mean, “The Simpsons” theme and the ambiant 1989 “Batman” instrumentals? Love it.

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  21. Colorado semi-native

    I liked her in Point of No Return. She was very good. She may not be one of our all time greatest actresses but you can’t accuse of her of over acting. Don’t compare her to Jodie Foster. Foster over acts in all her moves. I like the more nuanced performances.

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    • That’s true. I won’t accuse Foster of over-acting in every performance. But her performances do tend to be showier than Fonda. I think some would accuse Fonda of underselling sometimes. So if you think Foster is going overboard, Fonda’s going to see just about right by comparison.

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  22. Like many, I thought that Bridget Fonda would become a star. Kind of in the mold of her aunt Jane.
    But Jane Fonda, (always in spite of the polarizing impact she developed and still retains to some), was pretty good at picking projects. Bridget Fonda simply was not.
    That is, if box office success is the standard. . .. which it generally is.

    I enjoyed her in some of the (not quite) bombs, but not hit movies such as Road to Wellville and Singles. She seemed best – and perhaps more comfortable – in ensemble casts and in movies which were not rom-coms, but had an overall comedy flair to them.

    She never seemed to be the ‘leading lady’ type even in the roles she was. The best example of this would be “Single White Female” where despite top billing she seemed the second fiddle.
    Action films were not her forte. She was not particularly believable in Point of No Return. She just came across as too nice.

    Drew Barrymore seems to be the actress she should have become. Barrymore knows her strengths and is better at picking projects.

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    • Was Fonda bad at picking projects? If you are judging based on the final outcome, I would say so. But based on the info she had at the time, she picked some movies that looked like sure-fire winners. How could Godfather 3 be anything but a huge boost to her career? Point of No Return looked like a franchise in the making. It Could Happen to You seemed like a charming rom com – just what her career needed. Singles was going to be the BIG Gen X movie. A Simple Plan could have been Fargo. The list goes on and on. Heck, even Monkeybone probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

      I need to revisit Point of No Return. I had no problem with tiny little Fonda as an action hero. But I tend to be willing to suspend my disbelief where that is concerned. Her one rom com didn’t work out well, but I didn’t think she was in any way responsible for that movie’s shortcomings. I think dramatic roles were her strong suit. She just picked the wrong dramas despite the fact many of them – like City Hall – seemed like blue chips at the time.

      Definitely agree about Single White Female. She took the bigger, boring role while JJL got the showy supporting role.

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  23. Being a chronic pain sufferer myself, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that her career ended in 2002 and she had ‘semi’-serious injuries in the car accident in early 2003. It doesn’t take much, especially dealing with the spine, to all of a sudden be living a life with chronic nerve pain. Invisible, but debilitating pain. To look at a person dealing with this you would never know there’s anything wrong and many would never let on that there’s anything wrong, all while going through hell internally.
    I hope to hell that’s not the case and I have no way of knowing for sure, but the timing just seems a little too coincidental to me. I have a feeling that it plays a much larger role than we realize.

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  24. What in the hell happened to Bridget Fonda???

    http://www.lipstickalley.com/showpost.php?p=19854424&postcount=1

    I was watching SWF last night (one of my faves) and realized I haven’t seen her in movies in awhile. The last movies I remember her in were Lake Placid and Jackie Brown (another fave). She was really poppin in the 90’s, what happened? I saw on wiki that her last movie was in 2001?! Anyone have any info?

    #2

    She was no longer the hot “It” girl.

    Hollywood has a shelf life for their actresses.

    Once they hit 30, Hollywood wants them to play the “mother” role. No longer taking their clothes off and being sexy.

    When they hit 40, they play the grandmother role.

    Men, on the other hand, get to be 50 and annoy us showing off their naked bodies, while some young hot 20 something year old has to pretend she’s getting off on him sexually.

    #5

    Cliff-notes: she married Danny Elman in 2003. he’s a well-known and well-paid musician who does film scores for big movies, so he’s not hurting for money. good for her for stepping away and having the means and support to do so.

    #12

    Nothing really and that was kind of the problem. Her career was stop and go, stop and go, it just never really took off and when she got married she basically just walked away and focused on raising a family. I don’t know if it’s because she wasn’t making the right choices or she wasn’t being offered the roles she wanted but she said F it and left.

    Like

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