Peter Fonda cause of death: How did the Easy Rider star die?

Peter Fonda
Actor Peter Fonda dies at 79. Pic credit: @ImageCollect/HollywoodNewsWire

Peter Fonda, best known for his role as Wyatt in Easy Rider (1969), passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Friday morning at the age of 79. The actors family, which includes older sister Jane Fonda, announced his passing in a statement.

The statement added the actor died surrounded by his family on Friday at 11:05 a.m. due to respiratory failure following a battle with lung cancer.

“It is with deep sorrow that we share the news that Peter Fonda has passed away,” the statement by the family read.

YouTube video player

“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 statement continued. “As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy.”

Peter, a two-time Oscar-nominee, was born on February 23, 1940, to actor Henry Fonda and Frances Seymour. He was the younger brother of actress Jane Fonda (Grace Hanson in Netflix’s Grace and Frankie).

He attended the University of Nebraska Omaha after previously studying acting.

He started his career on Broadway, appearing in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Pool (1961). He also a[[eared on ’60s TV shows such as Wagon Train, The Defenders, Naked City, and The New Breed. He also appeared on 12 O’Clock High (1964-1967) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-1965).

Fonda made his film debut in Tammy and the Doctor (1963), playing the leading role of Dr. Mark Cheswick, alongside Sandra Dee as Tammy Tyree. He subsequently appeared in The Victors (1963) as Weaver, and co-starred alongside Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, and Jean Seberg, as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964).

He was a counterculture figure in the mid-’60. He had several run-ins with the law at the time, and during the period, he found it challenging to secure major acting roles. But his breakout came in 1966 when he played the counterculture role of biker Heavenly Blues in The Wild Angels (1966). The film was a massive box office hit that helped to launch the so-called biker movie genre.

He subsequently appeared in Trip (1967), and in the horror movie Spirits of the Dead (1968).

He co-wrote, produced, and co-starred with Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider (1969) as Wyatt. Hopper played Bill, Wyatt’s long-haired biker companion, traveling through the southern U.S. at a time of violence and racial intolerance.

In the ’70s, Fonda directed the sci-fi cult classic Transfer (1973) and co-starred in Two People (1973). He also appeared in a series of action movies, including the cult classic Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), Open Season (1974), Race with the Devil (1975), and Fighting Mad (1976).

He starred alongside Burt Reynolds (J.J. McClure) as Chief Biker in  The Cannonball Run (1981) and played the leading role of Ken Andrews in Enemy (1990).

Peter’s mother Frances took her own life in April 1950 when Peter was 10 after struggling with mental health issues.

Peter wrote about his mother’s death in his memoir Don’t Tell Dad: A Memoir, published in 1998. In the memoir, he recalled his shock after he finally discovered that his family, including his father, tried to hide the truth about his mother’s death. They said it was a heart attack.

Peter Fonda is survived by his children with wife Susan Brewer — Bridget and Justin Fonda.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments