The audience went wild when Jane Fonda’s name was announced as the winner of Best Actress at the Academy Awards in 1979, taking home the Oscar for her performance in the beloved film Coming Home. The movie – telling the story of a disabled veteran’s return from the Vietnam War – practically swept the ceremony, winning two more Oscars, including one for leading man Jon Voight.
Its director, Hal Ashby, was nominated for Best Director, and Fonda – making a historic speech incorporating sign language to acknowledge people with disabilities – thanked him profusely, applauding his ‘taste’ and ‘courage’ … as well as his ‘ability with the scissors.’
By then, however, the eccentric director was already accustomed to praise. He’d won an Oscar for film editing 11 years beforehand for Sidney Poitier-starring In The Heat of the Night, directed by Norman Jewison. When he transitioned to directing himself, he earned a reputation for creating thoughtful, character-driven features tackling difficult or unusual themes and social issues. Among his greatest works would be cult classic Harold and Maude, The Landlord, Being There and Bound for Glory.