In conversation with Jane Fonda, the living legend

At 80, Jane Fonda is in her prime. She's just released a hit movie, has a hit Netflix Show and she's showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

She's in New Zealand this week on a speaking tour, promising a no-holds-barred insight into her extraordinary Hollywood life, and just as her film Book Club rolls into local cinemas.

You'd think a film boasting four multi-Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy winning Hollywood legends would be easy to get greenlit.

Not exactly.

"It's called ageism. It's still alive and well," said Fonda.

"When we went to make the movie we had no studio behind us. The producers had gone to studios to get financing and they said, 'well, cast it with younger actors'. They didn't wanna have a movie with a bunch of old broads.

"But we insisted it be about older women, so we made it for very little money and only after it was made, did Paramount buy it. That was a smart move, because it's done very well."

It certainly has. Currently, Book Club has made US$68.6 million at the North American box office, more money than The Rock's Skyscraper.

"There is definitely an audience and it's so nice that this film has done well, as it means that hopefully there will be more films with older women in the lead roles," said Fonda.

For Fonda, this kind of success goes far beyond the box office.

"I'm primarily an activist, we have an election coming in the United States and I've been going door-to-door talking to people, gathering signatures for ballot measures and things like that. It really helps when you're doing that, that you have a hit series and a hit movie behind you.

"People want to talk to you... they're much more forthcoming."

Using how recognisable she is for a good cause is something very important to her.

"Why be famous, unless you can somehow use that to help voices that are less audible to rise up?"

Fonda has been using that voice for a very long time, one pivotal moment in history galvanizing her to speak up.

"It was the Vietnam war, that was what turned me into activism," she said.

"When I do things, I do them 200 percent. I realised there weren't a lot of celebrities at that time doing what I was doing, my voice was very important to those people. And that's how I learned that I had to be careful about how I used my voice, but that I needed to use it."

More recently, Fonda has been at the forefront of the #TimesUp movement, and sees a real lasting change to come.

"See there's #MeToo, that's the people who have been victimised by sexual assault and abuse speaking up, and #TimesUp grew out of that," she explained.

"The fact this kind of exploded is because it was famous white women speaking about it. It's unfortunate, that's just the way it is. African-American women were saying this for a lot longer -most notably Anita Hill. But, OK, so it was white women in Hollywood who broke through because we were white and famous.

"Now it's much broader than that. And whether they're women on the floor of the Ford Auto plant or domestic workers in the hotels of New York who are trying to get panic buttons, so if something happens to them they can press a buzzer so security people can come help them. These are all things which are starting to happen now, and I think it's going to make a big difference."

Fonda is the subject of a new documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, due for release next month. She's also just finished shooting season five of Grace and Frankie, and is still travelling the world with her speaking tour.

But she takes nothing for granted.

"I guess I've been around so long, I'm 80 and I'm still going and I'm still healthy, and I have a hit series and a hit movie and I think it gives people hope, you know? I've thought a lot about the meaning of my life, I've written books about it and I think it can help other people and so I feel very blessed to be in a situation where I can try to make a difference."