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Peter Fonda (1940–2019), Hollywood counterculture icon starred in “Easy Rider”

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Son of Hollywood legend Henry, brother of Jane, and father of Bridget Fonda

Peter Fonda was an actor who became an icon of 1960s counterculture when he starred in “Easy Rider” alongside Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. The low-budget 1969 film—about a pair of bikers living a hippie lifestyle of free love and drug use, while clashing with authority and square society—was a commercial hit and became a cultural touchstone for a generation. Fonda was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay along with co-authors Hopper and Terry Southern.

Peter was the son of classic Hollywood acting legend Henry Fonda, known for his straight-arrow performances in films like “The Grapes of Wrath” and “12 Angry Men.” Peter’s older sister, Jane Fonda, carved out a successful acting career of her own, but Peter followed his own drummer and starred in low-budget exploitation films during the 1960s. Even after the success of “Easy Rider,” when he could have landed more traditional roles in studio films, he continued to be attracted to off-beat movies like “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.” In 1997 he received critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for best actor for his performance as an aging beekeeper and patriarch in the independent film “Ulee’s Gold.”

Fonda is survived by two children, including actress Bridget Fonda.

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Died: Friday, August 16, 2019 (Who else died on August 16?)

Details of death: Died at his home in Los Angeles of respiratory failure due to lung cancer at the age of 79.


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He Said He Said: At the age of 11, Fonda accidentally shot himself in the abdomen. While taking LSD at a party in 1965, he related the near-death experience to John Lennon of the Beatles, claiming, “I know what it’s like to be dead.” This inspired Lennon to write the song “She Said She Said.”

Notable quote: “It was when I came into the counterculture that I came into my stride like a runner. You get in that stride, and you can lock yourself in for that long-distance run. I think that the counterculture attitude, because that’s what was happening at that time, those roles were more interesting than the toe-the-line type,” he told Parade in a 2018 interview.

What people said about him: “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.” —Fonda family 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 sister Jane Fonda

“Godspeed, Heavenly Blues. You will carry my heart with you wherever you may ride.” —Nancy Sinatra, his co-star in "The Wild Angels"

“Peter Fonda was a friend and underrated actor. Bright, funny, warm, Peter was a movie star with a twinkle in his eyes. He was Crazy Larry and Pipeline and I will miss him.” —Director John Carpenter

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

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