Peter Fonda dead at 79: Easy Rider star ‘went out laughing,’ sister Jane says


In the 1969 hit Easy Rider, Peter Fonda (center) starred alongside Dennis Hopper in a cross-country road trip movie that would define a generation.

Columbia Pictures

Actor Peter Fonda — best known for co-writing, producing and co-starring in the 1969 cult classic biker movie Easy Rider — has died at age 79 from respiratory failure related to lung cancer, his family confirmed Friday.  

“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,” the family said in a statement provided to multiple news outlets. “As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy.”

As the son of actor Henry Fonda and brother to the equally talented Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda acted for over 50 years, with roles in such notable films as Easy Rider, The Limey, Ghost Rider, 3:10 to Yuma and The Ballad of Lefty Brown. Fonda was nominated for an Oscar for his acting in the 1997 movie Ulee’s Gold

“I am very sad,” his sister Jane said in a statement. “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.”

Fonda also worked closely with B-movie director Roger Corman on two counterculture classic films — the 1966 biker movie The Wild Angels and the 1967 nightmarish LSD drug movie The Trip. Also known for his skills as a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for Easy Rider. Fonda’s more recent films included 2017’s The Most Hated Woman in America and 2019’s The Last Full Measure.

Fonda’s fans, including filmmaker Edgar Wright, took to social media to pay tribute to the actor’s long film legacy. 

“RIP Peter Fonda, counter culture legend, groundbreaking actor and all round real life hero,” Wright tweeted on Friday. “His sampled voice in Primal Scream’s Loaded will echo on forever: ‘Just what is it that you want you to do…'”

“RIP Peter Fonda. Most will post about Easy Rider — a great film — but I’d also strongly recommend his 2nd movie as a director – the little known lyrical western The Hired Hand,” producer and writer Larry Karaszewski tweeted. “We did an evening together celebrating it at the Cinematheque – Peter was so proud of that film.”

Originally published Aug. 16, 5:15 p.m. PT.