Peter Fonda obituary: Easy Rider and Ulee’s Gold star dies aged 79

Peter Fonda, best known for his work on the cult classic Easy Rider and his link to one of Hollywood’s most renowned families, has died at the age of 79.

His death was confirmed on Friday night via a statement saying he suffered respiratory failure due to lung cancer, and died peacefully at home in Los Angeles.

Fonda was part of a veteran Hollywood family. As well as being the brother of Jane Fonda, he was also the son of Oscar-winning actor Henry Fonda, and father to the actress Bridget Fonda.

Two time Oscar-winner Jane gave our own perspective on the passing of her sibling.

“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.”

Born in 1940 in New York City, Fonda lost his mother when he was 10 years old and then on his 11th birthday, he accidentally shot himself with a rifle and almost died.

He then followed in the footsteps of his father by becoming an actor. His screen career began in television with roles in the likes of Naked City (1962) and Wagon Train (1962) before making his big-screen debut in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Doctor (1963).

That same year saw him appear as Weaver in the WWII drama The Victors for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising (Male) Newcomer. After starring in the drama Lilith, he then embraced the rise of counterculture with his role as Hell’s Angel leader Heavenly Blues in the biker flick The Wild Angels (1966). The biker character was a role Fonda would take on numerous times throughout his acting career.

He then worked alongside fellow Hollywood greats Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper in the gritty drama The Trip which then led to the trio collaborating on a more memorable project in the form of Easy Rider (1969). The cult classic starred Fonda and Hopper as hippies Wyatt and Billy who hit the road on motorcycles “in search of the real America” with Nicholson also featuring as an alcoholic lawyer who joined the pair on their quest.

The film, which touched a nerve for America’s youth, received critical acclaim and earned Fonda his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. However his acting career stalled in the 1970s with a number of roles similar to his work on Easy Rider. These included the likes of The Hired Hand (1971) Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974), Race With the Devil (1975) and Wanda Nevada (1979).

Aside from another memorable biker role in the Burt Reynolds-starring action comedy The Cannonball Run (1981), Fonda struggled to find work on mainstream films and had to settle for low-budget productions.

However his fortunes changed in the late 90s as he started to appear in more recognisable projects. After playing Weaver in the sci-fi action flick Escape from L.A. (1996), Fonda produced the best performance of his career with his role as veteran beekeeper Ulee Jackson in the drama Ulee’s Gold (1997).

His role landed him a Golden Globe for Best Actor (Drama) as well as his second Oscar nomination. Coincidentally, he lost out on the Best Actor award to his Easy Rider co-star Jack Nicholson for As Good as It Gets.

He then earned another Globe nod for his performance as Gideon Prosper in an updated version of the Shakespeare classic The Tempest (1998). He would then win his second Globe for his performance as Frank O’Connor in the television biopic The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999).

After starring in The Limey (1999), Fonda then played Grandpa Burnett Stone in the critically-derided family adventure Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000). The twilight of his career saw him appear in a number of supporting roles which included sinister devil Mephistopheles in Ghost Rider (2007), veteran biker Damien Blade in Wild Hogs (2007), bounty hunter Byron McElroy in 3:10 to Yuma (2007), serial killer Henry Lee Bishop in House of Bodies (2013), senator Edward Johnson in The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017) and Reverend Harrington in The Most Hated Woman in America (2017).

He also contibuted his voice to the hit computer game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) and also popped up in various television series including ER (2007), Hawaii Five-0 (2011) and The Blacklist (2014).

Fonda is survived by his third wife and his children, Bridget and Justin.

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