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Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin Have Been Soul Mates Since 1971

Sarah Aswell is a freelance humor writer who lives in Missoula, Montana, with her husband and two kids. Her words have appeared in places like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Hairpin, and more.

A timeline of Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin's amazing 40-year friendship

As the third season of Grace and Frankie hit Netflix this week, you might be thinking that the deepening friendship between the two title characters is too good to be true. But in reality, the two actors who portray the parts, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, have been real-life buddies for four decades since the pair starred in the cult movie classic 9 to 5 along with Dolly Parton. In fact, they are such long-term and successful besties that they did a TED Talk about it.

Let's take a walk down memory lane with the duo and see how their friendship blossomed — and stayed in bloom —throughout the years.

More: Watch Lily Tomlin Soar in Grace and Frankie

1971: Lily Tomlin sees Klute

Tomlin has told interviewers that she was taken by Jane Fonda since she saw the crime noir film Klute in 1971. “I was a huge fan of hers," Tomlin told The Washington Post. "I had a Klute hairdo for about two years after [I saw the movie] and just fell madly for her. I cut my hair to go like she wore it.”

1977: Fonda sees Appearing Nitely

A few years after Klute, Jane Fonda went to see Tomlin's one-woman show, Appearing Nitely, at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. She was so taken by Tomlin that she met her backstage and immediately had her in mind to be a part of a project she was co-producing, 9 to 5. On her ride home, Fonda heard a Dolly Parton song on the radio, and she knew who she wanted for the cast. She told The View that she thought, "Oh my god, that would be fun."

1980: 9 to 5 becomes a hit

A timeline of Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin's amazing 40-year friendship
Image: WENN

In December 1980, 9 to 5 opened in theaters and immediately became a hit. Fonda says that it was originally going to be a dark drama, but with Tomlin and Parton on board for the project, it turned into a comedy and went on to be the 20th highest-grossing comedy film in history. The story of three secretaries getting revenge on their sexist boss has become a classic.

2014: Grace & Frankie is developed

A timeline of Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin's amazing 40-year friendship
Image: Netflix

Currently, the pair stars in the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie, which follows the developing friendship between two 70-something women whose husbands ran away to be with each other. Co-creator Marta Kauffman said during a panel that it was a "gorgeous fluke" in which she heard that both actors were considering taking up a television show. Kauffman assumed that they wanted to enter a project together and looked into it. Her agent said, "They do now!"

More: Grace and Frankie Renewed: 8 Things You Should Know If You've Never Watched

2015: Women in Film Brunch at Sundance

Vanity Fair reported that the most sought-after ticket at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 was a conversation over brunch with Fonda and Tomlin about women in film. The pair discussed aging in the entertainment industry, being female in Hollywood, and of course their friendship. During one moment, the pair revealed that they could have starred in another movie together, though things didn't pan out: 

“Do you remember you tried to get me the job that Vanessa [Redgrave] took in Julia?” Tomlin says.

Not seeming to remember this, Fonda jokes, “You would have been wrong for the part.”

Tomlin responded, “[Julia director] Fred Zimmerman didn’t know who I was or didn’t want me or something so you told him to watch the Oscars because that was the year I was nominated for Nashville. And I went as a 50s movie star. I wore a tiara and a fur and gloves... I looked like Edith Ann at a birthday party...”

“You would have done a great job,” Fonda responded.

To which Tomlin replied, “I could swing just as well as Vanessa.”

More: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda team up for new Netflix series

2016: Activism together

Jane Fonda has always been an activist, and recently she has welcomed Tomlin to join her as she engages in protests and marches. In December 2016, according to People, Fonda celebrated her 79th birthday by participating in a Standing Rock protest against the DAPL pipeline with Tomlin at her side. A month later, Fonda invited Tomlin to join her in the Women's March in LA, which involved an estimated 750,000 people.

What do you love most about the friendship between Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin?

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

A timeline of Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin's amazing 40-year friendship
Image: Andrew Toth/Getty Images
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