Peter Fonda Dead At 79
LOS ANGELES, CA — Actor Peter Fonda, who wrote and starred in the generation-defining “Easy Rider,” died at his home in Los Angeles Friday. The 79-year-old died from respiratory failure due to lung cancer, according to his family.
Fonda was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing “Easy Rider,” which also starred and launched the acting careers of Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. Part of one of Hollywood’s most famous families, Fonda was the son of Henry Fonda, brother of Jane Fonda and father of Bridget Fonda. He died at 11:05 a.m., his family said.
“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. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy,” according to the family. “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.”
“Easy Rider” is a cult classic, a 1969 icon of the counterculture. It also helped Fonda emerge from the shadows of his famous father and sister. Throughout his career, Fonda was a proponent of independent film-making, taking chances with unknown artists and artistic experimentation.
Despite his long career — he continued acting through 2018 — it’s “Easy Rider” that he is best remembered for, and that is a legacy he was proud of. He explained its impact in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“That audience was not something that the establishment knew anything about or how to reach,” he told The Times. “They thought it was a small little market. But it was a market that had never been played to. Nobody had sung their song to them. They had their poetry. They had their artwork. They had their music. They had their dress. They didn’t have their movie.”
Fonda began his career with successful runs on Broadway in the early 1960s. He moved into a series of TV appearances before making his film debut in the 1963 comedy “Tammy and the Doctor.” He shared the screen with Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd in Roger Corman’s “The Wild Angels,” and appeared with Dern again in Corman’s “The Trip” before achieving fame with “Easy Rider.”
Years later, he would earn another Oscar nomination for his turn as beekeeper Ulee Jackson in “Ulee’s Gold.” He didn’t win the Oscar, but he did take home a Golden Globe for the role. He won another Golden Globe two years later for his supporting work in the TV movie “The Passion of Ayn Rand,” co- starring Helen Mirren.
Responding to her brother’s death, Jane Fonda told Variety, “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.”
Stars and fans alike took to Twitter Friday to pay tribute to Fonda and his famous family.
“My heart goes out to Jane over the loss of her brother. Peter Fonda was a revolutionary filmmaker during a revolutionary time,” wrote Rob Reiner. “Born in the house I now live in, his spirit will be missed.”
City News Service and Patch staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.
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