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Easy Rider star Peter Fonda dies after lung cancer battle

Easy Rider actor and writer Peter Fonda has died aged 79 after respiratory failure from lung cancer, his family have said.

The son of actor Henry Fonda and the brother of actress Jane Fonda died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday morning.

LAS VEGAS, NEV: Actor Peter Fonda rides a cool sleek motorcycle - known to motorcycle enthusiasts as a "chopper" bike with a "raked" front--in a scene from his latest film, "Easy Rider." The Columbia Pictures release has no plot except for a basic theme, which is what happens to two young men experiencing "the ultimate freedom" by traveling across country on motorcycle
Image: Peter Fonda in the 1969 road movie classic Easy Rider

In a statement his family said: “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 honour of Peter, please raise a glass to freedom.”

Fonda was born in New York in 1940 to Hollywood star Henry and his socialite wife Frances Ford Seymour.

He carved his own path with his non-conformist tendencies and during the 1960s was a member of the counterculture.

His conversations with John Lennon while on LSD is said to have inspired the song She Said She Said.

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Although Fonda never achieved the status of his father or even his older sister Jane, the impact of the psychedelic road trip movie Easy Rider was enough to cement his place in popular culture.

He collaborated with Dennis Hopper on the script about two long-haired, weed-smoking bikers on a trip through the Southwest and Deep South.

Fonda’s character Wyatt wore a stars-and-stripes helmet and rode a motorbike called Captain America.

Fonda produced the film and Hopper directed it for just $ 380,000 (£312,000). It went on to gross $ 40m (£32m) worldwide, a substantial sum for its time.

Actor Peter Fonda attends the premiere of Sony Pictures Classics' "Boundries"
Image: Fonda was suffering from lung cancer

2003 Sundance Film Festival - "The Maldonado Miracle" Premiere Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda during 2003 Sundance Film Festival - "The Maldonado Miracle" Premiere at Eccles in Park City, Utah, United States. ***Exclusive*** (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
Image: With his sister Jane in 2003

The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Fonda and Hopper, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute’s ranking of the top 100 American films.

He went on to star in and direct The Hired Hand in 1971, among other films. He earned a second Oscar nomination, this time for best actor, for his portrayal of a Vietnam veteran and widowed beekeeper in the 1997 drama Ulee’s Gold.

Fonda, whose daughter Bridget is also an actor, courted controversy in his final years. He was a fierce critic of Donald Trump and made headlines for comments he made about one of the president’s sons.

Reacting to US immigration policies which saw migrant children separated from their parents at the border, he tweeted “we should rip” Mr Trump’s son “from his mother’s arms” and “put him in a cage with paedophiles”.

Peter Fonda, poses atop a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Glendale
Image: Peter Fonda was a symbol of 1960s counterculture

Tributes poured in. His sister Jane, 81, said in a statement: “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.”

Musician Roger McGuinn, frontman of the Byrds, whose music featured in the Easy Rider soundtrack, said: “I just lost a dear friend.”

Actor Cary Elwes tweeted: “RIP #PeterFonda. A legend not only on screen but for helping create the independent film industry. There will never be another like him.”

Comedian Kathy Griffin posted a thread to Twitter, recalling her first meeting with Fonda and calling him an “actor’s actor”.

She said he was not a “Hollywood phony” and would tell her to “keep doing my thing, man”.

Griffin added: “I loved it when he would call me ‘man’. I did! Every time I had the chance to run into him, he was the same guy. Not an ever-changing chamaeleon (sic) like so many Hollywood folks. Unbelievably giving and kind and comfortable.”

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