Peter Fonda

Peter Fonda (right) and Dennis Hopper in 1969’s "Easy Rider."

Born into a dynastic Hollywood family on February 23, 1940, Peter Fonda's father was Henry and his older sister Jane. He passed away at age 79 on August 16, 2019 after suffering from lung cancer.

Fonda's main counterculture claim to fame was his role as Wyatt (a.k.a. Captain America) in Dennis Hopper's druggy 1969 classic Easy Rider. Wyatt and Hopper's Billy travel cross-country on motorcycles, smoking joints and taking acid along the way. But they're eventually targeted by rednecks in Louisiana and suffer the ultimate price.

In one of the movie's most famous scenes, Wyatt teaches George, a lawyer they meet (played by Jack Nicholsonwho goes for a ride with them, how to smoke pot around a campfire.

As Wyatt rolls a joint, George takes a swig of alcohol.

"Do this instead," Wyatt says, passing him the joint.

"Oh, no thanks. I got some store bought right over here on my own."

"No, man. This is grass!"

"You mean marijuana?" George asks incredulously.


"Lord have mercy, is that what that is? Well, let me see that."

George takes the joint, and examines and smells it.

"Go ahead George, light it up," Wyatt says.

"Oh, no, no, no. I couldn't do that. I've got enough problems with the booze and all. I can't afford to get hooked."

"You won't get hooked."

"I know, but I mean, it leads to harder stuff." 

After a long pause, George asks: "You say it's alright?"

Wyatt shakes his head affirmatively.

"Alright then, how do I do it?"

"Here." Wyatt lights a match and then the joint that's in George's mouth. He takes a hit.

"That's got a real nice taste to it, though I don't suppose it will do me much good. I'm so used to the booze and everything."

"You've got to hold it longer in your lungs, George," Wyatt explains.

He takes another hit. Meanwhile, Billy thinks he just saw a satellite .

"You're stoned out of your mind, man," Wyatt tells him.

As George exhales, he says, "That was a UFO beaming back at you."

The scene was the first of its kind - three characters smoking a joint in a movie - and one that would be repeated over and over in films for the next half century.

Three years earlier, Fonda appeared in the sadistic biker flick, Roger Corman's The Wild Angels, as gang leader Heavenly Blues. He followed that with a role in The Trip, also directed by Corman, in 1967. Nicholson wrote it and Hopper co-starred. The trio would make history two years later with Easy Rider.

In 1971, Fonda tried his hand at directing with the Western, The Hired Hand.

HIs spotty career peaked again in 1997 thanks to Victor Nunez's Ulee's Gold, which earned Fonda his only Oscar nomination for his role as a bee keeper. He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor.

In one of his last roles, Fonda tooks hits off a vape pen in Shana Feste's Boundaries in 2018.

About Easy Rider, he told the Los Angeles Times

"That audience was not something that the establishment knew anything about or how to reach. They thought it was a small little market. But it was a market that had never been played to. Nobody had sung their song to them. They had their poetry. They had their artwork. They had their music. They had their dress. They didn’t have their movie. Easy Rider went right into that movement. It was their movie.”

Fonda was married three times and had two children, including actress Bridget.

comments powered by Disqus
Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.