Ed. note: A personal reminiscence of the recently departed actor by the biographer of his father, Henry Fonda. Scott Eyman contributes this anecdote to the blog:
I was drinking a Coke in the Green Room when Peter Fonda walked in with a drink – a martini with an olive in it.
“You’re killing yourself with that stuff,” he said, before launching into a disquisition about how, if you soaked bread with Coke and buried it, ants wouldn’t eat it.
“How long have you been on a health food kick?” I asked.
“Since I stopped dropping acid.”
He popped the olive in his mouth. “My greens,” he said.
Peter and I knew each other by this time. We’d already spent three hours talking about his father for my book “Hank and Jim.”
But when we went on stage to talk at the 2015 TCM Film Festival, he got emotional all over again. Talking about his dad always made Peter cry, for he loved Henry Fonda much more than Henry Fonda ever loved himself.
Peter’s father was closed off except when he was acting. His sister is clenched with grievance. But Peter was a child of the sun, open and exuberant and accepting about life’s polymorphous perversity. He was also highly intelligent – he was one of the few men I’ve known who talked in complete paragraphs.
We stayed in touch – Peter’s emails were as lengthy, as emotional and revealing as he was, even as his best acting – “The Hired Hand,” “Ulee’s Gold” – hearkened back to his dad’s laconic traits: don’t show, don’t emote. Be.
I thought the world of him. Knowing Peter, whatever he’s found in this new phase will be celebrated.
Thank you, Peter. For the movies. But especially for being you.
♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
More about the martini-drinking Fondas on artsmeme: