Born: February 23, 1940
Birthplace: New York City, New York, U.S.
Peter Henry Fonda (born February 23, 1940) is an American actor. He is the son of Henry Fonda, younger 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 (1905-1982) and his wife Frances Ford Seymour (1908-1950); 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, although he did not discover the circumstances or location of her death until he was 55 years old.
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 while 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. Before he attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Peter attended Fay School in Southborough, MA and was a member of the class of 1954.
Fonda found work on Broadway, where he gained notice in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole, written by James and William Goldman.
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 Two, directed by Carl Foreman. Fonda's performance won him a Golden Globe Award for most promising newcomer.
Fonda had impressed Robert Rossen, who had directed the Oscar winner All the King's Men. He cast Fonda in what would be Rossen's last movie, Lilith (1964), alongside Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg and Gene Hackman. Fonda's performance was well reviewed.
He graduated to starring roles in The Young Lovers (1964), about out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the sole directorial effort of Samuel Goldwyn Jr., and not very popular. He also appeared in an episode of the ABC drama about college life, Channing In its 1963-1964 season.
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. 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 a biker in Roger Corman's B-movie, The Wild Angels (1966). Fonda originally was to support George Chakiris but graduated to the lead when Chakiris revealed he could not ride a motorycle, Fonda helped name his character "Heavenly Blues". In the film, Fonda delivered a "eulogy" at a fallen Angel's funeral service. This was sampled by Psychic TV on their recording "Jack the TAB" LP (1988). It was later sampled in the Primal Scream recording "Loaded" (1991), and in other rock songs. The movie was a massive hit at the box office, screened at the Venice Film Festival, launched the biker movie genre, and established Fonda as a movie name.
Fonda next played the male lead in Corman's film The Trip (1967), a take on the experience and "consequences" of consuming LSD which was written by Jack Nicholson. The movie was very popular.
Fonda then travelled to France to appear in the portmanteau horror movie Spirits of the Dead (1968). His segment co-starred Fonda's sister Jane and was directed by her then-husband Roger Vadim.
In 1968, Fonda produced, co-wrote and starred in Easy Rider, directed by Dennis Hopper, which was Fonda's breakthrough role, and a critical and commercial success. 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 declined the offer, instead using Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild", Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" sung by the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, and Robertson's own composition "The Weight" performed by The Band, 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 and starred in 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, but many years later in 2001 a fully restored version was shown at various film festivals gaining critical praise, and was re-released by the Sundance Channel on DVD that same year.
Fonda later directed the science fiction film Idaho Transfer (1973). Fonda did not appear in the film, and the film received mixed reviews upon its limited release. That same year he co-starred with Lindsay Wagner in Two People (1973) for director Robert Wise, where he played a Vietnam deserter.
In early 1974 Fonda starred alongside Susan George in the film Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, a film about two NASCAR hopefuls who execute a supermarket heist to finance their jump into big-time auto racing. The film was a notable box-office hit that year, and it would go on to become a cult classic.
It led to Fonda 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); 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 St. James . After some more action with High-Ballin' (1978), Fonda returned to directing, with 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.
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 massive box office success that year with a large ensemble cast. He also played a charismatic cult leader in Split Image (1983), a film which 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 1980's of varying genres: Daijōbu, My Friend (1983); Spasms (1983); Certain Fury (1985); The Rose Garden (1989). He also contributed to the script of Enemy (1990), in which he starred.
In the early 1990s Fonda had support roles in many "independent" films: Deadfall (1993), directed by Christopher Coppola; Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993), starring his daughter Bridget; Love and a .45 (1994); Nadja (1994), produced by David Lynch. He had a good support role in Escape from L.A. (1996).
After years of films of varying success, 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 that year 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 available on VHS tape.
Two years later Fonda appeared in the 1999 crime film The Limey as the money laundering/celebrity rock music producer Terry Valentine. It was directed by Steven Soderbergh in a neo noir style.
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.
He was once asked about performing in the classic stage drama 12 Angry Men, for which his father Henry was renowned. Peter's response: "Don't hold your breath for that one."
Fonda wrote an autobiography, Don't Tell Dad (1998).
In 2000, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
Fonda has had a permanent home in Paradise Valley, Montana since 1975.
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.’"
|1963||Tammy and the Doctor||Dr. Mark Cheswick|
|The Victors||Weaver||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year - Actor|
|The Young Lovers||Eddie Slocum|
|1966||The Wild Angels||Heavenly Blues|
|1967||The Trip||Paul Groves|
|1968||Spirits of the Dead||Baron Wilhelm||(segment "Metzengerstein")|
|1969||Easy Rider||Wyatt||Nominated—Academy Award For Best Original Screenplay
Nominated—Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen
|1971||The Hired Hand||Harry Collings||Also director|
|The Last Movie||Young Sheriff|
|Two People||Evan Bonner|
|1974||Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry||Larry Rider|
|1975||Race with the Devil||Roger March|
|92 in the Shade||Skelton|
|Fighting Mad||Tom Hunter|
|1977||Outlaw Blues||Bobby Ogden|
|1979||Wanda Nevada||Beaudray Demerille||Also director|
|1981||The Cannonball Run||Chief Biker||(Cameo appearance)|
|Dance of the Dwarfs||Harry Bediker|
|Daijôbu, mai furendo||Gonzy Traumerai|
|Spasms||Dr. Tom Brazilian|
|1989||The Rose Garden||Herbert Schlüter|
|1990||Enemy a.k.a. Fatal Mission||Ken Andrews||Also co-writer|
|Bodies, Rest & Motion||Motorcycle Rider|
|1994||Give Me Your Life||Marcantony Appfel|
|Love and a .45||Vergil Cheatham|
|Nadja||Dracula/Dr. Van Helsing|
|1996||Escape from L.A.||Pipeline|
|Grace of My Heart||Guru Dave|
|1997||Ulee's Gold||Ulysses "Ulee" Jackson||Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
|Painted Hero||Ray the Cook|
|1999||The Limey||Terry Valentine|
|2000||South of Heaven, West of Hell||Shoshonee Bill|
|Thomas & the Magic Railroad||Grandpa Burnett Stone|
|Second Skin||Merv Gutman|
|2004||The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things||Grandfather|
|Ocean's Twelve||Bobby Caldwell||Deleted scene|
|Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas||The Truth (voice)|
|2006||In God We Trust aka Cobrador||Millionaire|
|Wild Hogs||Damien Blade|
|3:10 to Yuma||Byron McElroy||Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|2009||The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll||August West|
|The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day||The Roman, The old man, Louie|
|2011||The Trouble with Bliss||Seymour Bliss|
|2013||The Ultimate Life||Jacob Early|
|As Cool as I Am||Gerald|
|House of Bodies||Henry Lee Bishop|
|2015||The Runner||Rayne Pryce|
|Jesse James Lawman||Mayor|
|2017||The Most Hated Woman in America||Reverend Harrington|
|The Ballad of Lefty Brown||Edward Johnson|
|1962||Naked City||Jody Selkin||Episode: "The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos"|
|The New Breed||Ronnie Bryson||Episode: "Thousands and Thousands of Miles"|
|Wagon Train||Orly French||Episode: "The Orly French Story"|
|1963||The Defenders||Gary Foster||Episode: "The Brother Killers"|
|Channing||Episode: "An Obelisk for Benny"|
|1964||Arrest and Trial||Alex Bakalyan||Episode: "A Circle of Strangers"|
|The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Verge Likens||Episode: "The Return of Verge Likens"|
|Twelve O'Clock High||Lt. Andy Lathrop||Episode: "The Sound of Distant Thunder"|
|1966||Insight||Episode: "Politics Can Become a Habit"|
|What's My Line?||Himself/Mystery Guest|
|1968||Certain Honorable Men||Robbie Conroy||TV film|
|1980||The Hostage Tower||Mike Graham||TV film|
|1985||A Reason to Live||Gus Stewart||TV film|
|1988||Sound||Roberto Lovari||TV film|
|A Time of Indifference||Leo||TV miniseries|
|1994||In the Heat of the Night||Marcantony Appfel||Two episodes|
|1996||Don't Look Back||Mouse||TV film|
|1997||Space Ghost Coast to Coast||Himself||Two episodes|
|1998||The Tempest||Gideon Prosper||TV film|
|1999||The Passion of Ayn Rand||Frank O'Connor||TV film
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
|2002||The Laramie Project||Dr. Cantway||TV film|
|2003||The Maldanoda Miracle||Father Russell||TV film|
|2004||Capital City||President Bridgewater||TV film|
|A Thief of Time||Harrison Houk||TV film|
|Back When We Were Grownups||Dr. Will Allenby||TV film|
|2005||Supernova||Dr. Austin Shepard||TV film|
|2007||The Gathering||Thomas Carrier||TV miniseries|
|ER||Pierce Tanner||Episode: "300 Patients"|
|2008||Journey to the Center of the Earth||Edward||TV film|
|2009||Revolution||Lawrence Fortis||TV film|
|Californication||Himself||Episode: "So Here's the Thing..."|
|2011||CSI: NY||William Hunt||Two episodes|
|Hawaii Five-0||Jesse Billings||Episode: "Mea Makamae"|
|2014||HR||Jonathan Quaff||TV movie|
|The Blacklist||Geoff Pearl||Episode: "The Mombasa Cartel"|
|2016||Documentary Now!||Peter Fonda||Episode: "Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid"|
|Ride with Norman Reedus||Himself||Episode: "The Keys with Peter Fonda"|
|2017||Milo Murphy's Law||Director (voice)||Episode: "Star Struck"|
|2018||Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan||Joe Muller||Announced|
|2004||Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas||The Truth|
Peter Fonda supports the following charitable causes: Children, Animals, AIDS.