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R.I.P. Peter Fonda, Easy Rider star and counter-culture icon dead at 79

on August 16, 2019, 6:30pm

Peter Fonda, the former counter-culture icon and veteran actor best known for his 1969 biker film Easy Rider, has died at the age of 79.

TMZ was the first to report news of Fonda’s passing, citing a representative for the actor. The cause of death was respiratory failure due to lung cancer.

In a statement confirming his death, Fonda’s 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. 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 the 1960s, Fonda was a poster boy of America’s counter-culture movement, a self-proclaimed nonconformist who regularly experimented with drugs and associated himself with bands like the Byrds and The Beatles. In fact, The Beatles’ song “She Said She Said” was partially inspired by the band’s LSD trip with Fonda.

His first major film role came in the Jack Nicholson-penned 1967 film The Trip, which depicts the experiences of a television commercial director (played by Fonda) who takes LSD for the first time.

Two years later, Fonda collaborated with Dennis Hopper on Easy Rider. Fonda himself wrote the screenplay, which told the story of two motorcyclists who, after hitting it big in a drug deal, embark on a journey “in search of America.” Hopper directed the film, and both men co-starred alongside Nicholson. The screenplay later earned Fonda an Academy Award nomination.

Following the success of Easy Rider, Fonda went on to star in a handful of films throughout the 1970s and 80s, mostly in the action genre. Notable roles during this period included 1974’s Open Season, 1979’s Wanda Nevada (which he also directed), and 1981’s The Cannonball Run.

Fonda’s performance as a Vietnam vet turned beekeeper in the 1997 film Ulee’s Gold earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Pictor Drama, as well as an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Two years later, he picked up another Golden Globe, this time for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film for his role in The Passion of Ayn Rand.

More recently, Fonda appeared in films including 3:10 to YumaGhost Rider, and Journey to the Center of Earth.

Fonda came from a family of Hollywood royalty. He is the son of Henry Fonda, younger brother of Jane Fonda, and father of Bridget and Justin Fonda. In a statement addressing his death, Jane Fonda wrote, “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.”

Revisit the original trailer for Easy Rider below: