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‘Easy Rider’ star Peter Fonda, RIP

Peter Fonda in Easy Rider

Counter culture icon and Easy Rider star, co-writer and producer Peter Fonda has passed away at the age of 79. His family released a statement confirming his death:

It is with deep sorrow that we share the news that Peter Fonda has passed away. [Peter] passed away peacefully on Friday morning, August 16 at 11:05 a.m. 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.

Peter’s sister Jane Fonda also released a statement which reads, “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.”

More from Variety:

The first significant step Fonda took in the path toward the success he would achieve through “Easy Rider” was a starring role, with Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern, in Roger Corman’s 1966 Hells Angels drama “The Wild Angels.” It was the first of a series of successful biker pictures produced by American International Pictures that screened at drive-ins across the country.

The next step was the 1967 feature “The Trip,” directed by Corman and written by Jack Nicholson. This piece of what has been termed psychedelic cinema follows a young director of commercials played by Fonda who goes an LSD trip together assisted by Dern’s character. Later Fonda’s character visits the groovy pad of a guru-dealer played by Dennis Hopper.

In his 1998 autobiography, “Don’t Tell Dad: A Memoir,” Fonda said that he got the idea for “Easy Rider” while staring at a poster for “The Wild Angels.”

“I understood immediately just what kind of motorcycle, sex, and drug movie I should make next,” Fonda wrote. “It would not be about one hundred Hell’s angels on their way to a funeral. It would be about the Duke and Jeffrey Hunter looking for Natalie Wood. I would be the Duke and (Dennis) Hopper would be my Ward Bond; America would be our Natalie Wood. And after a long journey to the East across John Ford’s America, what would become of us? We would be blasted to bits by narrow-minded, redneck poachers at dawn, just outside of Heaven, Florida, and the bed of their pickup would be full of ducks. I mean really full of ducks.”

Peter had been scheduled to give the opening remarks at Easy Rider Live, a September 20 event at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall celebrating the film’s 50th anniversary.

Watch a clip from Easy Rider below.

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