TORONTO — Hollywood stars Jane Fonda and Robert Redford never thought they would live long enough to play an onscreen couple again.
Nearly 40 years after last starring as a cinematic pair, both say hopes of getting together one last time had long faded. But then "Our Souls At Night" serendipitously landed in Redford's lap.
The new film, which debuted Friday on Netflix, is based on Kent Haruf's posthumously published novel about two elderly neighbours seeking companionship late in their lives. When Redford read the book, he couldn't see anyone but Fonda starring alongside him.
He decided this was his chance to woo her back.
"Time was wasting," the 81-year-old actor says. "I wasn't sure (the right film) would come around until this."
Mortality isn't usually a topic confronted by actors during interviews, but Redford and Fonda raise it several times in separate conversations.
"First of all, I didn't think I'd ever be alive at this age," Fonda, who turns 80 in December, says matter of factly. "I never thought I'd be able to work with him again."
Both of their characters are facing the realities of getting older and the emotional baggage that comes with it. They have partners who have died, and their own mistakes linger, but they are still looking for a human connection.
"Our Souls at Night" opens with Fonda's character asking Redford if he'd like to sleep with her. She means it literally.
Soon afterward, they wind up in bed together, reflecting on their lives. It's not about sex, though the topic does eventually come up.
"No one pays much attention to love coming later in life to people who thought they lost it," Redford says.
"But (these two people) find it in a surprising way — lying together at night and just talking to each other. The idea that if it's dark and you're willing, you can say things you haven't said before... There's a connection on that level that's very unique."
It helps that Redford and Fonda have a storied history on the silver screen.
She played the lonely wife to his imprisoned husband in 1966's "The Chase" before the pair got together as doe-eyed newlyweds in 1967's "Barefoot in the Park." The 1979 drama "The Electric Horseman" played upon their established chemistry.
But after that, Redford and Fonda's cinematic romance faded away. She went onto produce a best-selling line of exercise videos and star in comedies like "Monster-In-Law" and he launched an Oscar-winning directorial career with 1980's "Ordinary People."
While they casually discussed igniting the flame for another movie, several decades passed.
"Our Souls at Night" convinced Redford it was now or never, so he reached out to Fonda, who was smitten with the idea.
On the set, Redford and Fonda say their chemistry was as strong as ever.
"It was just so easy and comfortable being back with him," Fonda says. "It was something I'll treasure for whatever is left of my life."
The experience also unearthed some old memories, like when Fonda walked into a historic Denver hotel for one scene. As she looked around the lobby, she asked Redford if it reminded him of anything.
"He didn't know what I was talking about," Fonda chuckles.
"(In) 'Barefoot in the Park,' we're newlyweds and we're checking into the Plaza Hotel in New York. So it's like a book-end of checking into hotels. That really tickled me."
While their memories might be different, both actors share an unwavering thirst to continue working into their eighties.
Redford is about to embark on directing a film about the creation of the atomic bomb. Any suggestions he might retire are quickly dismissed.
"I'll run out of life before I run out ideas," the actor says.
"I decided I've probably acted long enough, so directing and producing is what I'll be moving towards," he adds.
Fonda is looking towards a fourth season of the Netflix comedy "Grace and Frankie," co-starring Lily Tomlin. It's due next year, but Fonda says she hopes the show keeps chugging well beyond that batch of episodes.
"Lily and I have pledged to each other to stay healthy so we can keep doing it for many years to come," she says.
"I don't even know anybody that retires. I don't know what that would even mean."
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David Friend, The Canadian Press