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.

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.

fonda - strapless

Fonda also starred opposite Blair Brown and Bruno Ganz in the indie drama, Strapless.

Brown played an expatriate American doctor in London who becomes involved with a mysterious man played by Ganz.  Fonda played her younger sister who helps her loosen up.

Reviews were mixed.  Miramax gave Strapless a limited release in the US.


Later that year, Fonda appeared in the 60′s road movie, Shag.

Shag takes place in 1963.  Phoebe Cates plays a girl with a rich but boring fiance.  Fonda and Annabeth Gish play her friends who take her on a road trip for one last adventure before her nuptuals.  Page Hannah (sister of 80′s mermaid, Daryl Hannah), also appears as an uptight senator’s daughter.

Shag got mostly positive reviews, but flopped at the box office.  It has developed a cult following in the years since its release.

Next: The Godfather III and Doc Hollywood

Posted on October 7, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 167 Comments.

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

  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.

  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.

  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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

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

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

    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.

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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(!!)

        • 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.

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

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

    • 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.

  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

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

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

    • 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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