Fonda, Peter: Star of Seminal Countercultural “Easy Rider” Dies at 79

August 16, 2019–Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in the seminal 1969 road movie Easy Rider, died on Friday from lung cancer in Los Angeles. He was 79.

His sister actress Jane Fonda said in a statement, “I am very sad. He was my sweet-hearted baby brother. The talker of the family. I have had beautiful alone time with him these last days. He went out laughing.”

His wife Parky released a statement: “In one of the saddest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts…And, while we mourn the loss of this sweet and gracious man, we also wish for all to celebrate his indomitable spirit and love of life. In honor of Peter, please raise a glass to freedom.”

Fonda made an impression in his first significant starring role, alongside with Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern, in Roger Corman’s 1966 drama The Wild Angels, the first of several biker pictures produced by American International Pictures (AIP), which screened at drive-ins across the country.

He then made the 1967 controversial psychedelic feature The Trip, directed by Corman and written by Jack Nicholson. Fonda played a young director of commercials who goes an LSD trip. Later, Fonda’s character visits a guru-dealer played by Dennis Hopper.

In his 1998 autobiography, “Don’t Tell Dad: A Memoir,” Fonda said that he got the idea for “Easy Rider” while staring at a poster for The Wild Angels.  “I understood immediately just what kind of motorcycle, sex, and drug movie I should make next,” Fonda wrote. “It would not be about one hundred Hell’s angels on their way to a funeral. It would be about the Duke and Jeffrey Hunter looking for Natalie Wood. I would be the Duke and Hopper would be my Ward Bond; America would be our Natalie Wood. And after a long journey to the East across John Ford’s America, what would become of us? We would be blasted to bits by narrow-minded, redneck poachers at dawn, just outside of Heaven, Florida, and the bed of their pickup would be full of ducks. I mean really full of ducks.”

Born on February 23, 1940, Peter Fonda was the son of legendary actor Henry Fonda, younger brother of actress and celeb Jane Fonda, and father of actress Bridget and Justin Fonda (by first wife, Susan Brewer).

Peter attended the Fay School in Southborough, MA and was a member of the 1954 class. He then matriculated to Westminster School, a Connecticut boarding school in Simsbury where he graduated in 1958. Fonda studied acting in Omaha, Nebraska, his father’s home town. While attending the University of Nebraska, Fonda joined the Omaha Community Playhouse, where many actors (including his father and Brando) began their careers.

He was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Easy Rider, and the 1997 Best Actor Oscar for Victor Nunez’ indie drama, Ulee’s Gold. For the latter, he also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor–Motion Picture Drama.

In 1999, Fonda won another Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor–Series, Miniseries or TV Film for The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999).

 

 

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