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'Easy Rider' Star Peter Fonda Dead at 79: 'He Went Out Laughing'

'Easy Rider' Star Peter Fonda Dead at 79: 'He Went Out Laughing'
Splash News

A month after the 50th anniversary of "Easy Rider," the iconic '60s film that he co-wrote and in which he starred, actor Peter Fonda has died at 79.

People magazine reports exclusively that Fonda died of respiratory failure due to lung cancer.

In a statement to People, the Fonda family said, "It is with deep sorrow that we share the news that Peter Fonda has passed away. He passed away peacefully on Friday morning, August 16 at 11:05am at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family. The official cause of death was respiratory failure due to lung cancer. 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 was the son of movie icon Henry Fonda, who died in 1982, and socialite Frances Ford Seymour, who took her own life in 1950. He was the younger brother of actress Jane Fonda, 82, and a father of two, including retired actress Bridget Fonda, 55.

Jane Fonda told People magazine: "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."

Surviving accidentally shooting himself at age 11, Fonda followed his father and sister into acting, appearing on Broadway and on episodic TV in the '60s. In the movies, he found success in the saccharine "Tammy and the Doctor" (1963) opposite Sandra Dee, as well as in the drama "The Victors" that same year, the latter of which won him a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.

Fonda, like his sister, went on to become a prominent counterculture figure, inspiring the trippy Beatles song "She Said She Said," getting arrested in the Sunset Strip riot of 1966, and starring in the film "The Wild Angels" — all in 1966. He starred in the LSD-themed hit "The Trip" (1967), but found lasting fame by producing, co-writing, and starring in "Easy Rider" (1969), about a pair of bikers traversing the country. Starring with Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson, Fonda became an emblem of rebellion in a movie that made Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" an anthem. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (along with Hopper and Terry Southern) and Nicholson scored a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Branching out less successfully into directing, including the controversial "Wanda Nevada" (1979), his acting career was reignited with the 1974 NASCAR-themed hit "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry." He appeared in a variety of films of different genres, including "The Cannonball Run" (1981), "Spasms" (1983), "Certain Fury" (1985), "Love and a .45" (1994), "Escape from L.A." (1996), "The Limey" (1999), and "3:10 to Yuma" (2007). For "Ulee's Gold" (1997), he received his first and only Oscar nomination for acting, for Best Actor.

His final film appearance will be in "The Last Full Measure," releasing in October.

In 2011, Fonda and fellow actor Tim Robbins produced "The Big Fix," a documentary about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. More recently, he was an outspoken critic of President Trump's immigration policies, having to apologize in 2018 for an angry tweet that used Trump's youngest son to make his point.

Fonda is survived by his daughter, Bridget; his son, Justin; his third wife, Margaret DeVogelaere; his sister, Jane; and many other relatives.