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Peter Fonda, the 'Easy Rider' star and counterculture icon, has died at 79

Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Peter Fonda, the counterculture icon who came from a show business family that included his father, Henry Fonda, and sister, Jane Fonda, has died.

"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," his family said in a statement. "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 died Friday morning surrounded by family at his L.A. home from respiratory failure due to lung cancer. He was 79.

Fonda followed in his father's footsteps and studied acting at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He got his start in Omaha community theater before returning to New York to take on Broadway. His time in New York was short before he went to Hollywood to make movies, where his film debut was "Tammy and the Doctor" in 1963.

Soon after, he joined the anti-establishment, anti-war movement in Los Angeles, grew his hair long and found himself on the outside of the studio gates looking in. In 1966, he appeared in the Roger Corman-produced low-budget biker picture "The Wild Angels." The next year, he appeared in another Corman counterculture film, "The Trip," about LSD.

Using the knowledge of low-budget filmmaking he learned from Corman, Fonda produced, co-wrote and starred in his own biker picture, "Easy Rider," directed by co-star Dennis Hopper. The film became a cultural touchstone for America's youth and set the stage for a wave of fresh filmmakers and filmmaking techniques in Hollywood during the 1970s. Fonda and his co-screenwriters were nominated for an Oscar.

 

Fonda's acting and directing careers continued to diminishing returns throughout the 1970s and '80s, but he had a comeback in 1997 playing an elderly beekeeper in the independent film "Ulee's Gold." That performance earned Fonda his first Oscar nomination for acting.

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