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Peter Fonda
Peter Fonda 2009.jpg
Fonda in 2009
Peter Henry Fonda

(1940-02-23)February 23, 1940
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died August 16, 2019(2019-08-16) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater University of Nebraska Omaha
Occupation Actor
Years active 1957–2019
Susan Jane Brewer
(m. 1961; div. 1974)
Portia Rebecca Crockett
(m. 1975; div. 2011)
Margaret DeVogelaere
(m. 2011)
Children 2, including Bridget Fonda

Peter Henry Fonda (February 23, 1940 – August 16, 2019) was an American actor. He was a prominent figure in the counterculture of the 1960s. Fonda was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Easy Rider (1969), and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Ulee's Gold (1997). For the latter, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. Fonda also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for The Passion of Ayn Rand (1999).

Early life

Jane Fonda & Henry Fonda & Peter Fonda, 1950s
Jane, Henry and Peter Fonda in July 1955

Fonda was born on February 23, 1940, in New York City, the only son of actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour; his older sister is actress Jane Fonda. He and Jane had a half-sister, Frances de Villers Brokaw (1931–2008), from their mother's first marriage. Their mother died in a mental hospital when Peter, her youngest, was ten.

Peter attended the Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts, and was a member of the Class of 1954. He then matriculated in Westminster School, a Connecticut boarding school in Simsbury, where he graduated in 1958.

Once he graduated, Fonda studied acting in Omaha, Nebraska, his father's home town. While attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Fonda joined the Omaha Community Playhouse.


Early years and film work

1962 Peter Fonda Patty McCormack New Breed
Fonda guest starring with Patty McCormack in The New Breed television series, 1962

Upon his return to New York, Fonda joined the Cecilwood Theatre in 1960. Afterwards, he found work on Broadway and gained notice in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole, written by James and William Goldman, which ran for 84 performances in 1961. Fonda began guest starring on television shows like Naked City, The New Breed, Wagon Train, and The Defenders.

Fonda's first film came when producer Ross Hunter was looking for a new male actor to romance Sandra Dee in Tammy and the Doctor (1963). He was cast in the role, in what was a minor hit. He followed this with a support part in The Victors (1963), a bleak look at American soldiers in World War II, directed by Carl Foreman. Fonda's performance won him a Golden Globe Award for most promising newcomer.

Fonda continued to work in television, guest starring in Channing, Arrest and Trial, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and 12 O'Clock High. He also tested for the role of John F. Kennedy in PT-109. Fonda impressed Robert Rossen who cast him in what would be Rossen's last movie, Lilith (1964), alongside Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg and Gene Hackman. Fonda's performance was well reviewed. Shortly before dying, Rossen signed him to a seven-film contract which was to start with an adaptation of Bang the Drum Slowly. Fonda graduated to a starring role in The Young Lovers (1964), about out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the sole directorial effort of Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

Easy Rider

ZweiRadMuseumNSU EasyRider
Replica of the "Captain America" Harley-Davidson chopper that Fonda rode in Easy Rider (1969), on display in a German museum.

Fonda produced, co-wrote and starred in Easy Rider (1969), directed by Dennis Hopper. Easy Rider is about two long-haired bikers traveling through the southwestern and southern United States where they encounter intolerance and violence. Fonda played "Wyatt", a charismatic, laconic man whose motorcycle jacket bore a large American flag across the back.

The film was released to international success. Jack Nicholson was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Fonda, Hopper and Southern were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film grossed over $40 million.

Director and action star

Peter Fonda 1970
Fonda in 1970

After the success of Easy Rider, Fonda was sought for film projects. He directed and starred in the Western film The Hired Hand (1971). He took the lead role in a cast that also featured Warren Oates, Verna Bloom and Beat Generation poet Michael McClure. The film received mixed reviews and failed commercially upon its initial release, but many years later, in 2001, a fully restored version was shown at various film festivals and was re-released by the Sundance Channel on DVD that same year in two separate editions. Fonda later directed the science fiction film Idaho Transfer (1973). He did not appear in the film, and the film received mixed reviews upon its limited release. Around the same time, he co-starred with Lindsay Wagner in Two People (also 1973) for director Robert Wise, in which he portrayed a Vietnam War deserter.

Fonda starred alongside Susan George and longtime-friend (and frequent co-star) Adam Roarke in the film Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), a film about two NASCAR hopefuls who execute a supermarket heist to finance their jump into big-time auto racing. The film was a box-office hit that year. It led to Fonda's making a series of action movies: Open Season (1974), with William Holden; Race with the Devil (1975), fleeing devil worshippers with Warren Oates (another hit); 92 in the Shade (1975), again with Oates, for writer-director Thomas McGuane; Killer Force (1976) for director Val Guest; Futureworld (1976), a sequel to Westworld (1973), financed by AIP; Fighting Mad (1976), a reuniting with Roger Corman, directed by Jonathan Demme.

Outlaw Blues (1977) was a drama, with Fonda playing a musician opposite Susan Saint James.

1980s and 1990s

Fonda was top billed in The Hostage Tower (1980), a television movie based on a story by Alistair MacLean. Fonda appeared in the hit film, The Cannonball Run (1981), as the "chief biker" that was a tongue-in-cheek nod to his earlier motorcycle films, and the film was a huge box office success that year with a large ensemble cast. He also played a charismatic cult leader in Split Image (1982), a film that also starred James Woods, Karen Allen and Brian Dennehy. Despite the strong cast and positive reviews, the film failed to find an audience.

Fonda later appeared in a series of films in the 1980s of varying genres — Daijōbu, My Friend (1983), shot in Japan; Dance of the Dwarfs (1983); Peppermint Peace [de] (1983), shot in Germany; Spasms (1983), a Canadian horror film with Oliver Reed; A Reason to Live (1985), a TV movie; Certain Fury (1985), with Tatum O'Neal; Mercenary Fighters (1988); Hawken's Breed (1988), a Western; Sound (1988); Gli indifferenti (1989) with Liv Ullmann; and The Rose Garden (1989).

In the early 1990s Fonda also contributed to the script of Enemy (1990), in which he starred. He had the lead in Family Express (1991) and South Beach (1993), but then drifted into supporting roles in many independent films: Deadfall (1993), directed by Christopher Coppola; Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993), starring his daughter Bridget; Molly & Gina (1994) with Frances Fisher and Natasha Gregson; Love and a .45 (1994) with Renée Zellweger; Nadja (1994), produced by David Lynch. He had a good supporting role in Escape from L.A. (1996) from John Carpenter and was in Don't Look Back (1996). He also guest starred on In the Heat of the Night.

After years of films of varying success, Fonda received high-profile critical recognition and universal praise for his performance in Ulee's Gold (1997). For his performance, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He had the lead in Painted Hero (1997). In 1998, Fonda starred in the TV movie The Tempest, based in part on William Shakespeare's play of the same name. It was directed by Jack Bender and starred Fonda, John Glover, Harold Perrineau, and Katherine Heigl.

He was in The Passion of Ayn Rand (1998), then appeared in the crime film The Limey (1999) as Terry Valentine, an aging rock music producer. The film was directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Fonda wrote an autobiography, Don't Tell Dad (1998).

In the 1990s, Fonda appeared in an advertisement for American Express.


Fonda's work in the 2000s included parts in South of Heaven, West of Hell (2000), Second Skin (2000), Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000) Wooly Boys (2001), The Laramie Project (2001), The Maldonado Miracle (2003), Capital City (2004), The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), A Thief of Time (2004), Back When We Were Grownups (2004), Supernova (2005), and El cobrador: In God We Trust (2006).

In 2002, Fonda was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

He appeared in Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), Japan (2008), and The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll (2009) and as "The Roman", the main villain in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (also 2009), the sequel to The Boondock Saints. Fonda also appeared on the television series Californication.

Later career

Fonda at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival

Fonda's later appearances include American Bandits: Frank and Jesse James (2010) for Fred Olen Ray; The Trouble with Bliss (2011); episodes of CSI: NY; Smitty (2012); Harodim (2012); As Cool as I Am (2013); Copperhead (2013); The Ultimate Life (2013); The Harvest (2013); HR (2014); Jesse James: Lawman (2015); The Runner (2015) with Nicolas Cage; The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017); The Most Hated Woman in America (2017); Borderland (2017); You Can't Say No (2018); and Boundaries (2018) with Christopher Plummer. He was an executive producer of the documentary The Big Fix (2012).

His final portrayal was in the Vietnam War movie The Last Full Measure, whose director Todd Robinson, has recounted that Peter Fonda was able to view that film in its entirety before his death, and got emotional upon viewing it.


In 2000, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.

Personal life

Fonda was married three times, he married his first wife Susan Brewer in 1961; together they had two children, Bridget and Justin. They divorced in 1974 after 13 years of marriage. Fonda married his second wife Portia Rebecca Crockett, in 1975. The marriage lasted for 36 years until they divorced in 2011. Fonda married his third wife Margaret DeVogelaere, in 2011. The marriage lasted for eight years until Fonda's death in 2019.


Fonda died from respiratory failure caused by lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles on August 16, 2019, at the age of 79.


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1969 Academy Award Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay Easy Rider Nominated
1997 Golden Globe Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Ulee's Gold Won
New York Film Critics Circle New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor Won
Academy Award Academy Award for Best Actor Nominated
1999 Golden Globe Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film The Passion of Ayn Rand Won
Primetime Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated
2007 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture 3:10 to Yuma Nominated

See also

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