Peter Fonda, celebrated actor known for Easy Rider, dies aged 79

Son of Henry Fonda and brother of Jane Fonda died after battling lung cancer, family says

The actor Peter Fonda has died at the age of 79 following a battle with lung cancer, his family has said.

Fonda, who co-wrote, produced and starred in the classic 1969 road movie Easy Rider, died peacefully at his home in Los Angeles on Friday, his family said in a statement.

He was the son of Henry Fonda and younger brother of Jane Fonda.

A statement from his family said: “It is with deep sorrow that we share the news that Peter Fonda has passed away.

“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 died at 11.05am local time, according to his family. The official cause was respiratory failure due to lung cancer, they said.

Peter Fonda, left, with his father, Henry Fonda, center, and Henry’s wife, Shirlee Fonda, in 1980.
 Peter Fonda, left, with his father, Henry Fonda, center, and Henry’s wife, Shirlee Fonda, in 1980. Photograph: Randy Rasmussen/AP

Born into Hollywood royalty, Peter Fonda carved his own path with his non-conformist tendencies. He became a well known figure of the 1960s counterculture movement and earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the psychedelic road trip movie Easy Rider. He would also later be nominated for his performance as a Vietnam veteran and widowed beekeeper in Ulee’s Gold.

Fonda was born in New York in 1940 and was only 10 years old when his mother, Frances Ford Seymour, died. Fonda’s relationship with his father was limited, but he said that they grew closer over the years before Henry Fonda died in 1982.

Although Peter never achieved the status of his father or his older sister, the impact of Easy Rider, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, cemented his place in popular culture.

Peter Fonda with his sister, Jane, in 2013.
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 Peter Fonda with his sister, Jane, in 2013. Photograph: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Fonda collaborated with another struggling young actor, Dennis Hopper, on the script about two pot-smoking, drug-slinging bikers on a trip through the south-west and deep south.

Fonda produced Easy Rider and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40m worldwide, a substantial sum for its time.

The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute’s ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave its official blessing in 1998 when Easy Rider was included in the United States National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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