At book signing event for Another Man's War by Sam Childers, Beverly Hills, California, May 5, 2009
|Born||Peter Henry Fonda
February 23, 1940
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Nebraska at Omaha|
|Spouse(s)||Susan Jane Brewer
(m. 1961; div. 1974)
Portia Rebecca Crockett
(m. 1975; div. 2011)
Margaret 'Parky' DeVogelaere
|Children||2, including Bridget Fonda|
Frances Ford Seymour
|Relatives||Jane Fonda (sister)|
Peter Henry Fonda (born February 23, 1940) is an American actor. He is the son of Henry Fonda, brother of Jane Fonda, and father of Bridget and Justin Fonda (by first wife Susan Brewer, stepdaughter of Noah Dietrich). Fonda is an icon of the counterculture of the 1960s.
Fonda was born in New York City, the only son of actor Henry Fonda and his wife Frances Ford Seymour; he is the younger brother of actress Jane Fonda. He and Jane had a maternal half-sister, Frances de Villers Brokaw (1931-2008), from their mother's first marriage. Their mother committed suicide in a mental hospital when Peter, her youngest, was ten.
On his eleventh birthday, he accidentally shot himself in the stomach and nearly died. He went to Nainital and stayed for a few months for recovery. Years later, he referred to this incident while with John Lennon and George Harrison and taking LSD. He said, "I know what it's like to be dead." This inspired The Beatles' song "She Said She Said".
Early on, Fonda studied acting in Omaha, Nebraska, his father's home town. While attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Fonda joined the Omaha Community Playhouse, where many actors (including his father and Marlon Brando) had begun their careers.
Fonda found work on Broadway, where he gained notice in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole. He moved on to Hollywood to make films. He started his film career in romantic leading roles. He debuted in Tammy and the Doctor (1963), which he called "Tammy and the Schmuckface". But Fonda's intensity impressed Robert Rossen, who had directed the Oscar winner All the King's Men. He cast Fonda in Lilith (1964). He also was in The Victors (1964), and played the male lead in The Young Lovers (1964), about out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
By the mid-1960s, Peter Fonda was not a conventional "leading man" in Hollywood. As Playboy magazine reported, Fonda had established a "solid reputation as a dropout". He had become outwardly nonconformist and grew his hair long, alienating the "establishment" film industry. Desirable acting work became scarce. In the 1963–1964 season, he appeared in an episode of the ABC drama about college life, Channing.
Through his friendships with members of the band Byrds, Fonda visited The Beatles in their rented house in Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles in August 1965. While John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Fonda were under the influence of LSD, Lennon heard Fonda say, "I know what it's like to be dead." Lennon used this phrase as the tag line for his song, "She Said She Said", which was included on the Revolver (1966) album.
In 1966, Fonda was arrested in the Sunset Strip riot, which the police ended forcefully. The band Buffalo Springfield protested the department's handling of the incident in their song "For What It's Worth". Fonda did some singing and in 1968, recorded a 45 for the Chisa label: "November Night" (written by Gram Parsons) b/w "Catch The Wind" (the Donovan song), produced by Hugh Masekela.
Fonda's first counterculture-oriented film role was as the lead character "Heavenly Blues", a Hells Angels chapter president, in Roger Corman's b-movie, The Wild Angels (1966). In the film, Fonda delivered a "eulogy" at a fallen Angel's funeral service. This was sampled in the Primal Scream recording "Loaded" (1991), and in other rock songs. Fonda next played the male lead in Corman's film The Trip (1967), a take on the experience and "consequences" of consuming LSD.
In 1968, Fonda produced, co-wrote and starred in Easy Rider, directed by Dennis Hopper. This independent film is his most notable. Easy Rider is about two long-haired bikers traveling through the southwest and southern United States where they encounter intolerance and violence. Fonda played "Captain America," a charismatic, laconic man whose motorcycle jacket bore a large American flag across the back. Dennis Hopper played the garrulous "Billy". Jack Nicholson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his turn as George Hanson, an alcoholic civil rights lawyer who rides along with them. Fonda co-wrote the screenplay with Terry Southern and Hopper.
Hopper filmed the cross-country road trip depicted almost entirely on location. Fonda had secured funding in the neighborhood of $360,000 - (largely based on the fact he knew that was the budget Roger Corman needed to make The Wild Angels).
The film was released in 1969 to international success. The guitarist and composer Robbie Robertson, of The Band, was so moved by an advance screening that he approached Fonda and tried to convince him to let him write a complete score, even though the film was nearly due for wide release. Fonda refused, using Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding" sung by the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, among many other tracks. Fonda, Hopper and Southern were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film grossed over $40 million.
After the success of Easy Rider, both Hopper and Fonda were sought for film projects. Hopper made the drug-addled jungle epic The Last Movie (in which Fonda co-starred along with singer Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas). Fonda directed the Western film, The Hired Hand (1971). Fonda took the lead role in a cast that also featured Warren Oates, Verna Bloom and Beat poet Michael McClure. The film received mixed reviews and failed commercially upon its initial release.
This was followed in 1974 by both Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, a box-office hit that became a cult classic, and Open Season, which failed. Fonda and Warren Oates were close friends, and they worked together again in Race with the Devil and 92 in the Shade, both released in 1975.
In 1976, Fonda starred opposite Susan St. James as a musician on the run in Outlaw Blues, and in Futureworld, an unsuccessful science fiction sequel to Westworld. In 1979, he directed and starred in the drama Wanda Nevada alongside Brooke Shields. His father Henry Fonda made a brief appearance as well, and it is the only film in which they performed together. In a later nod to his roles in The Wild Angels and Easy Rider, Fonda had a cameo as the "Chief Biker" in the 1981 slapstick comedy The Cannonball Run.
After years of films that did not attract much attention, Fonda received high-profile critical recognition and universal praise for his performance in Ulee's Gold (1997). He portrayed a stoic North Florida beekeeper who, in spite of his tumultuous family life, imparts a sense of integrity to his wayward convict son. He takes risks to protect his drug-abusing daughter-in-law. His performance gained him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Fonda's long movie career has embraced the contrasts between the wide-eyed and questing (possibly amoral, certainly drug-dealing) rebel motorcyclist in Easy Rider and the heartsick, embittered, war-veteran father he played nearly three decades later in Ulee's Gold. The older man represents decency as he tries to share the wisdom of age with his defiantly nihilistic son, and saves the life of his addicted daughter-in-law.
In 1998, Peter Fonda starred in a TV movie version of The Tempest, based in part on Shakespeare's play of the same name. This version has often been overlooked when versions of the play are listed or quoted. It was directed by Jack Bender and starred Fonda, John Glover, Harold Perrineau, and Katherine Heigl. Although not available on DVD, it is on VHS tape.
In 2001 a fully restored version of The Hired Hand was exhibited at a number of festivals. Despite generating mixed reviews upon its initial release, in 2001 it gained a generally enthusiastic critical response. The Sundance Channel released a DVD of the film in two separate editions that same year, and the film has since found an audience as a cult Western classic.
In 2002, Fonda was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. He did the voice-over of the aging hippie, The Truth, in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), which was very successful.
In a 2007 interview, Fonda said that riding motorcycles helped him to focus, stating,
"I ride an MV Agusta. This is an Italian racing motorcycle. It forces focus. You have to be focused and in my life, in this business, focus is hard to find sometimes. So I need to force focus and that's great. The bike takes you on a free road. There's no fences on the roads I ride and I don't ride freeways. That's as much as I can tell you because there are more lands waiting for this little Christian boy. That's not true. I'm an atheist, but what the heck."
In 2007, Fonda made a notable return to the big screen as the bounty hunter Byron McElroy in the remake of the 1957 Western, 3:10 to Yuma. He appeared together with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. The film received two Academy Award nominations, and positive reviews from critics. He also appeared in the last scenes of the biker comedy Wild Hogs as Damien Blade, founder of the biker gang Del Fuegos and father of Jack, played by Ray Liotta. This year also featured Fonda portraying Mephistopheles, one of two main villains in the 2007 film Ghost Rider. Although he wanted to play the character in the sequel, he was replaced by Ciarán Hinds.
In 2009, he appeared as 'The Roman', the main villain, in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, the sequel to a cult hit. 'Il Duce' was played by Billy Connolly. Fonda also appeared in the TV series Californication.
Fonda wrote an autobiography, Don't Tell Dad (1998).
In 2011, Fonda and Tim Robbins produced The Big Fix, a documentary that examined the role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its effects on the Gulf of Mexico. At a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, Fonda stated that he had written to President Barack Obama about the spill and attacked him as a "fucking traitor" for allowing "foreign boots on our soil telling our military—in this case the Coast Guard—what they can and could not do, and telling us, the citizens of the United States, what we could or could not do.’"
On January 12, 2011, Fonda found the body of a man sitting in a car parked on the side of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He called 911. Emergency personnel estimated the man had committed suicide about three days earlier in the car.
- Peter Fonda- Biography
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