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‘Book Club’ stars tout the power of female friendships

Updated May 12, 2023 - 11:41 am

“I don’t wear Spanx,” Candice Bergen says.

The interview with the cast of “Book Club: The Next Chapter” has gone there.

Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen are getting extremely personal. Fonda nods her glorious silver mane, and Steenburgen clasps Bergen’s hand. We’re talking skivvies.

“Remember that wonderful line I had in the first movie when I tried on my Spanx?” the 76-year-old Bergen says of 2018’s “Book Club.”

Who could forget one of the best movie lines of that year?

“When I put on Spanx, I can’t feel my feet,” Bergen recites to gales of laughter.

It might not be a book club meeting — in fact, there isn’t a book in sight — but these three screen legends are a force. They don’t miss a beat, a line or a moment to reflect how the bond of female friendship is their superpower.

“It was a dream come true to come back together,” the 85-year-old Fonda says.

With Diane Keaton (who shies away from interviews), the fab four are back in the sequel in theaters this weekend. The four best friends take their book club on the road to Italy for a bachelorette party to celebrate Vivian’s (Fonda) engagement to Arthur (Don Johnson). Meanwhile, Diane (Keaton) is still figuring out her feelings for Mitchell (Andy Garcia), Carol (Steenburgen) is coping with the emotional aftermath of a family health crisis, and the judge (Bergen) is dealing with retirement.

Over tea on a rainy spring afternoon in L.A., the ladies talked about aging, health, joy … and the good life. Their tips:

Surround yourself with friends

“Book Club,” shot for $14 million, earned $104 million at the box office, but that success wasn’t the only reason the ladies returned for a sequel. “At this age, I find that there is such power in female friendships, but you have to earn it. You have to be all-in,” Fonda says. “Women’s friendships are very different from men’s friendships. In fact, I think they’re even very important to our health. Guys sit side by side and watch sports. Women sit facing each other, eye to eye, face each other and say, ‘I’m in trouble.’ We’re not afraid of being vulnerable.”

But how do you find new friends when you’re older? “My favorite husband, Ted Turner, once said to me, ‘You don’t make new friends after 60.’ I think he’s really wrong,” Fonda continues. “What you have to do is be intentional. For example, I would meet someone like Candice but not really pursue her. Now, I say, ‘I’m intentionally wanting to be your friend.’ It works.”

Take control

One of the themes of “The Next Chapter” is whether our lives are governed by fate or choice. Steenbergen believes life gets better when you take control. “For a long time, I felt like anything could and would happen to me,” she said. “Then, I realized that things come to you like a gift, such as these movies, but there is so much in life where you choose. Just thinking about all of our choices is a great way to feel in control and not victimized.”

Find your sense of self-worth

“I was a little star-struck with this group at first,” says Steenbergen, who despite her lengthy filmography was surprised when she was cast in the first movie. “I couldn’t believe they were asking me, which is not how you should think about it. It should be, ‘I know why they’re asking me.’ … You must be your own cheerleader.”

Don’t dwell on disappointments

Filming in Italy was “wonderful, but not all aspects of it were great,” Fonda says. “For instance, my first dinner there was terrible.” She didn’t dwell. “The next day, we were invited to go to the Vatican and went into the Sistine Chapel — just us with an incredible guide — and it was such a special feeling just being there.”

“The point is to not dwell on what’s not good. Absolutely grab the great moments.” Steenbergen adds, “There are so many great moments in life. It’s a crime to miss them, but you can if you’re only thinking about the bad stuff.”

Don’t lament big birthdays

“Don’t worry about the numbers,” Bergen says of growing older. “Grab it while you can.”

“It gets better. I came into myself when I was older,” Fonda adds. “Don’t even think about the number. It’s really great to be young, but it’s also great to be older. Plus, there is one thing you learn with the big numbers: You can get through anything.”

Redefine aging

“I remember when I was younger, I was just drifting with the current. Age means I put an oar in the water and I finally feel like I’m steering where I need to go,” Fonda says. She takes a breath and adds, “I’m also 85 and have a lot of help from hair and makeup people.”

Steenbergen’s take? “I’ve found with age that all the stuff you’re dreaming about will happen if you really believe.”

“I agree with everything she just said,” Bergen concurs before Fonda jumps back: “With age, you realize that life is hard, relationships are hard. None of it is easy, but there are moments of such bliss and joy.”

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