Born in New York City in 1939, Peter Fonda is an actor who is most well-known as a counterculture icon of the 1960s. Although he once had a golden boy persona derived from his status as the son of actor Henry Fonda, Peter earned notoriety as a rebel from such films as The Wild Angels and The Trip. His career took a nosedive for several years until he starred in the 1997 film Ulee's Gold, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor.
Peter Seymour Fonda was born on February 23, 1939, in New York City, to actor Henry Fonda and Frances Seymour Brokaw, who committed suicide when Peter was 11. His only sister, Jane, is also an actress. A brilliant student, at the age of 17, Fonda left New York for Nebraska, where he entered the University of Omaha as a sophomore without even finishing high school.
Though he spent much of his childhood trying to live up to his famous father's expectations, it wasn't until college that Fonda broke into acting. After appearing in the Omaha Playhouse's production of Harvey, he moved back to New York, debuting on Broadway at the age of 21 in a production of Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole. In 1963, he made his first Hollywood film, Tammy and the Doctor, starring Sandra Dee.
With all-American good looks and a reputation that preceded him through his father, Fonda continued to play romantic leads during much of the early to mid-1960s. But in 1966, Fonda turned on his golden boy persona as he began to take on roles that were increasingly anti-establishment, earning him notoriety as both a delinquent and rebel. Such films included Roger Corman's 1966 film The Wild Angels, in which he played a motorcycle gang leader, and 1967's The Trip.
In 1969, Fonda pushed the envelope even further when he produced and starred in Easy Rider as Wyatt "Captain America" Earp. The film co-starred Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson as freewheeling, pot-smoking adventurers and became one of the era's cultural landmarks. But it also proved to be an unexpected commercial success, grossing more than $19 million at the box office and earning Fonda an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay.
The success of Easy Rider proved hard to live up to and cast Fonda as a cultural hero. In 1971, he teamed up again with Hopper for The Last Movie to lukewarm critical reviews. Increasingly, Fonda became better known for his activities off-screen than on. John Lennon's "She Said She Said" was reportedly inspired by a bad acid trip the musician had taken, during which Fonda repeatedly told him, "I know what it's like to be dead, man." In 1969, Fonda left Los Angeles to live in Montana.
His screen career continued its downward spiral during the 1980s, and was eventually eclipsed by that of his daughter, Bridget. But in the mid-1990s, he staged a comeback, beginning with a cameo appearance in Bodies, Rest & Motion. In 1994, he had a starring role in Michael Almereyda's Nadja and created a self-parody in John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. in 1996.
Fonda's true comeback came in 1997 with Ulee's Gold, Victor Nunez's 1997 exploration of loss and family ties. He won raves for his portrayal of the title character, as well as a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Always one to play by his own rules, Fonda rejected mainstream Hollywood fare to next star in Steven Soderbergh's The Limey in 1999. He also appeared in The Passion of Ayn Rand as the author's long-suffering husband for which he received a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor.
Fonda was married to Susan Brewer from 1961 to 1972. They have two children, Bridget and Justin. He married Portia Rebecca Crockett (also known as Becky McGuane) in 1975.
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