Peter Fonda broke out from under the legendary Fonda family name with Easy Rider. He has died.
Fonda, the son of acting legend Henry Fonda, the younger brother of Jane Fonda and the father of Bridget Fonda, died Friday morning at his home in L.A. The cause of death was respiratory failure due to lung cancer.
The family rep said this afternoon,
“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. 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 received an Oscar nomination as a screenwriter for Easy Rider, which he shared with Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern.
Fonda and Hopper dreamed up the idea of two motorcyclists who hit it big with a drug deal and take off across the country, ostensibly to attend Mardi Gras. They were “in search of America,” with Jack Nicholson as their alcoholic, back rider/lawyer, the film was low-budget but a HUGE hit.
Fonda produced Easy Rider for about $384,000, with Columbia Pictures distributing,
“I made Easy Rider for the same amount of money Roger Corman made Wild Angels, and [I knew] it would knock the audience’s socks off.”
Shot in roughly seven weeks between L.A. and New Orleans, it introduced the studios to the bright, educated youth market, and Fonda paved the way for independent filmmakers. Easy Rider won a standing ovation at Cannes and the festival’s best director award for co-star Dennis Hopper.
It came out the same year as the Stonewall riots, the moon landing, the Manson Murders and Woodstock which was this weekend 50 years ago.
To a generation of young people, Fonda was “Captain America” and a poster boy for the age. With his cool shades and leather jacket with the flag stitched on back, he sat perched atop a chrome-laden, high-handle-bar cycle, and the poster for the film was ubiquitous in college dorms in 1969 and the early ’70s.
Nearly 30 years after Easy Rider, Fonda’s performance in Ulee’s Gold (1997) as a beekeeper and Vietnam War vet whose family had fallen apart got him another Oscar nomination, this time as Best Actor.
In addition to his daughter Bridget, Fonda had a son, Justin, by his first wife, Susan Brewer. With his second wife, Betty Crockett McGuane, the pair had a combined family, including her son, Thomas McGuane.
Peter Fonda was 79.