Born to be more than a famous actor’s child, actor Peter Fonda…
Remembering Peter Fonda in two iconic leading roles in the movies and much more.
Last weekend I was gutted to find out that the actor Peter Fonda had passed away. With Peter being the son of actor Henry, kid brother to actress Jane and father to actress Bridget in the Fonda family acting dynasty. Peter Fonda had also been one of my more famous Twitter followers for this blog after I’d written a post about one of his films earlier this year. This moment now felt almost unreal – even surreal – that this Oscar nominated actor had been in my life as a film blogger in just a moment of his day. This when he had clicked like, retweet and then followed me in response to my Easy Rider (1969) review.
Before I’d seen Fonda in this particular film, I’d reviewed one of his films and TV Shows in a couple of reviews. However these were in a much smaller, blink and miss it roles. Darlin’ Husband had spotted Peter when this actor had popped up on a motorcycle in his wee cameo in the film The Cannonball Run (1981). Here he starred alongside Roger Moore and Burt Reynolds. This small film appearance as a Hell’s Angel was a tribute to his many roles in those motorcycle themed films, Easy Rider and The Wild Angels (1966).
More recently, Darlin Husband and I had also seen his – all to brief appearance – in the third season of the TV Series, Californication (2007) alongside Evan Handler and David Duchovny. In his role, again a cameo playing himself he plays agent Sue Collini (Kathleen Turner)’s first client. However it was Peter’s leading film roles that I – and probably you – will remember more, with these two possibly his most well known…
Futureworld (1976), film gorillas
The first of Peter Fonda film appearances is a film that introduced me to Peter’s film career many years ago. This was in a sci-fi film from the 1970s and his leading role in Futureworld (1976). This film was the sequel to the sci-fi film Westworld (1973) which kicked off this film and TV franchise. Westworld (2019) is now a TV Series with an all star cast headed by Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris. But back in the 1970s, it had a film cast including James Brolin, Richard Benjamin and Yul Brynner. Brynner, was a robot android cowboy out for revenge towards Brolin’s tourist character in that theme park from hell, run by the Dalos cooperation.
In the original film set in the then near future of 1983, a holiday park for adults opens boasting of human like androids that you can interact with in all kinds of ways. These in three themed worlds based on Westerns, Roman times and Medieval life. However, the human like robots of the holiday park malfunction with a number of them killing tourists. Cue mayhem and carnage. This film was written and directed by Michael Crichton, the Jurassic Park author.
The film sequel is distinctly more guilty pleasure than the first of the series. But it’s still just as dark and ominous, if not more so than it’s predecessor. It was made three years after Westworld, but the film plot starts just two years after the theme park closed. The film tells of the reopening of this theme park, reportedly after the robots / androids have been “corrected”.
Two new sections of the park have been created along with the former Medieval and Roman worlds. One is named Spa World where you never age or have pain. The other is named Futureworld with gadgets a plenty and new experiences. The film was kind of reminiscent of other movies such as Brainstorm (1983) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) crossed with 1970s conspiracy movies.
Peter and Danner played a Newspaper reporter and TV Reporter respectively, who are asked to review the theme park. The pair stumbling upon a conspiracy, clones / duplicates of the visitors (including one of themselves and world leaders) and cover ups for dastardly deeds. It had many memorably chilling moments.
There is a dream device, which records your dreams with Danner wearing what looks like an early prototype of the Brainstorm gadget on her head. Her dream has Danner dancing with Brynner’s cowboy. This is one of the scenes, that I remember most vividly, (and this film is one on the review pile).
Easy Rider (1969)
Easy Rider (1969) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p], HD Retro Trailers
Easy Rider (1969) – or the one I reviewed earlier – is one of those early Indie films that divides critics. This film is a motorcycle themed Western with many comparisons of biker and cowboy themes in the plot. It also has strong anti- government and establishment themes. in an interview found on Sabotage, Peter explained the title.
Easy Rider is a term for a whore’s old man; not a pimp, but a dude who lives with a chick. Because he’s got the easy ride. Well, that’s what happened to America – Liberty became a whore and the whole country took an easy ride.
It is possibly remembered more for the behind the scenes shenanigans than the plot. With Peter starring with fellow luminaries and legends, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. Fonda co-wrote the movie with Hopper, and the latter also directed this movie. However some of this film’s dialogue was improvised by these actors. I’d heartily recommend it as a to watch film for the camaraderie between these protagonists.
The film tells of Billy and Wyatt, a pair of friends who after procuring some illicit drugs in Mexico head for Mardi Gras by motorbike. The pair meet up with a local lawyer, who becomes their passenger along the way . This character, George Hanson – played by Nicholson – decides to join them on their trip.
My favourite moments in this 1969 film – which celebrated its 50th anniversary just recently – are spent with these three characters, at the campfire as they bunk out for the night. In those now legendary scenes – inspired by possible drug use during the filming of these scenes – Fonda’s biker is seen to be enraptured by Nicholson’s drug induced rants. These rants on things as diverse as layman’s thoughts on hippie lifestyle and the existence of UFOs. My review on Easy Rider describes the film as ” a journey into the late 1960s culture of drugs, free love and communes” and can be read in full HERE.
I’d recommend this as one of those movies you must watch in your lifetime. If only for this scene, the film’s fantastically thought out soundtrack and those quirky characters in leading and supporting roles. The soundtrack has a song “Wasn’t Born to Follow” which Peter Fonda did in following his father and sister into movies, yet in a future world of human androids and motorcycle Westerns.