Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in seminal 1969 road movie “Easy Rider,” then showed Hollywood he could act about three decades later in “Ulee’s Gold,” died on Friday from lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79.
His sister Jane Fonda said in a 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 wife Parky released a statement on behalf of the family, saying “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. In honor of Peter, please raise a glass to freedom.”
More recently, Fonda played Mephistopheles in the Nicolas Cage vehicle “Ghost Rider” and a biker, for the umpteenth time in his career, in the John Travolta-Tim Allen comedy “Wild Hogs”; had a nice supporting role as a bounty hunter in the 2007 remake “3:10 to Yuma”; and reunited with Cage in the 2015 Louisiana political drama “The Runner,” in which Fonda played the younger actor’s father.
The first significant step Fonda took in the path toward the success he would achieve through “Easy Rider” was a starring role, with Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern, in Roger Corman’s 1966 Hells Angels drama “The Wild Angels.” It was the first of a series of successful biker pictures produced by American International Pictures that screened at drive-ins across the country.
The next step was the 1967 feature “The Trip,” directed by Corman and written by Jack Nicholson. This piece of what has been termed psychedelic cinema follows a young director of commercials played by Fonda who goes an LSD trip together assisted by Dern’s character. Later Fonda’s character visits the groovy pad of a guru-dealer played by Dennis Hopper.