It's been quite a few years since Peter Fonda was in Berlin again, and it was his birthday. This is just enough to mention in the social columns of the local press at other celebrities, not "Captain America". Suddenly, hundreds of bikers from all over Germany appeared in front of his hotel, whose management suspected an incident of the Hell's Angels. All of them were harmless, bringing roses and a birthday cake, making a few rounds with their star, signing helmets and tanks. Anyway, that's what Peter Fonda said.
Once Easy Rider, always Easy Rider. Some actors just will not let go of their most famous role. Sean Connery, the real Bond, has tried in vain and with flying colors, and Peter Fonda has not gotten rid of the image of the cunning rebel on wheels for a long time, he was initially annoyed, then made his peace with it. But the grudge remained that hardly anyone wanted to see his other films for a long time. And there was a lot of that.
Rebellious only by his lifestyle
However, what does a rebel mean? Captain America, who rolled on the world's canvases for the first time in the Woodstock year, exactly half a century ago, was not one who stood up with a drawn fist and fluttering banner against the establishment, but rebellious simply by his lifestyle. Not an actor, but a casually observant, even more so by the "Stars and Stripes" -Insignien distributed on biking and clothes. One who with his buddy, played by Dennis Hopper, who also directed, simply crossed the expanse of the United States and let the day be good - a hate object for the established bourgeoisie and the lynching not trembling dregs of society. An independent film produced for little money by Fonda, which made the studio bosses suspicious, but a huge success - or even more: a legend.
And what did Daddy Henry Fonda say when he was presented with "Easy Rider"? "That will not be enough for the audience, son." So it has betrayed this later in a mirror interview. In any case, the relationship between the two was a constant topic in interviews. Peter Fonda did not avoid it, even though it was extremely private. A problematic relationship, that's not surprising for one who chose the title "Do not say Dad" for his autobiography. Henry, the Oscar nomination and award-winning actor, threw an oversized shadow on his son's first steps in his career. Even as a father, he was not exactly a cordially-caring creature, but dismissive and strict, if ever at home in his many professional commitments. Not that Peter Fonda did not love his dad, but there was not much that came back to his courtship for affection. Not to mention encouraging praise.
With "Ullee's Gold" he made a comeback
It was Peter Fonda considered in his Broadway debut in 1961 as a promising talent with the New York Critics Award, then he was 21. First film appearances followed, including in 1966 in "The Wild Angels" the lead role as leader of a motorcycle gang. The great success of "Easy Rider", as an actor, producer and - with an Oscar nomination - scriptwriter, Peter Fonda could never join, unlike Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper, although this already by his extensive drug use to a lesser extent.
But after decades, when Fonda was little more than a myth, at least in this country, but a tenacious memory of a cool guy on an uncomfortable chopper, he still managed a furious comeback as a beekeeper with problems in "Ullee's Gold". For this there was again an Oscar nomination in 1998, as the main actor. And he, who had been a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, now played a veteran who picks it up with a whole drug gang - and wins.
On Friday, Peter Fonda died at the age of 79, nine years after his Easy Rider buddy Dennis Hopper. A sequel, as he had often been suggested, he never wanted to turn. "It's not like 'Dallas' where Bobby gets shot and then it was just a dream," he had done in 2004 in the Tagesspiegel . Even as a consultant for a remake, he wanted to get involved: "I then always just advised: Let it be." But he was persuaded to play a role as an old-time biker in the 2007 roadmovie comedy "Wild Hogs". The film was released in German cinemas with another, more appropriate title: "Born to be Wild".
This article first appeared in the "Tagesspiegel" .