Mark Frechette (Mark Ernest Frechette)

Mark Frechette

Mark Frechette (December 4, 1947 – September 27, 1975) was an American film actor. He is best known for his lead role in the 1970 film Zabriskie Point, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, in which he was cast despite his lack of previous acting experience. He appeared in two other films made in Italy and Yugoslavia, Many Wars Ago (Uomini Contro, 1970) and La grande scrofa negra (1971). He tithed his $60,000 earnings from Zabriskie Point and other films to Mel Lyman’s commune. Frechette was selected from among thousands during a casting process that lasted nearly a year. He was discovered in Boston by Sally Dennison, Antonioni’s assistant and casting director, while in the middle of a violent shouting match at a Charles Street bus-stop. As Antonioni toured the U.S., experiencing culture clash first hand and shooting background footage, Dennison saw Frechette, a carpenter, scream and throw a flowerpot at a woman on the street. Another version centered on Frechette getting in a verbal argument with a person who was on the third floor of an apartment building above him, which is the one referred to in many interviews. “He’s twenty and he hates,” Dennison told Antonioni. The director immediately cast Frechette, a non-actor, in the film’s leading role as an innocent student pursued by the police for the murder of a policeman during a college uprising. Mark Frechette and Antonioni disagreed bitterly about the script during filming.

Despite the film’s being a critical and box office failure, Frechette enjoyed a period of considerable publicity, his face gracing the covers of Look Magazine  in November 1969 and Rolling Stone magazine on March 7, 1970. He also notably appeared on the cover of Sight and Sound, the March 1970 and September 1970 covers of Films and Filming alongside several other magazines. He also appeared in the November 1969 issue of Vogue (magazine) in a fashion shoot. He appeared on the Merv Griffin Show alongside Abbie Hoffman when the latter controversially wore the American Flag as a shirt and Frechette got in a fight with another guest, which was later discussed during his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show in April 1970 with his Zabriskie Point co-star Daria Halprin. He and Daria were romantically involved for a time after the film and were often referred to as the first counter-culture couple. He tried to recruit her to join the Fort Hill commune without success. On August 29, 1973, he and two members of the Fort Hill commune attempted to rob the New England Merchant’s Bank in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the trio, Christopher “Herc” Thien, was killed by police. Frechette and Sheldon T. Bernhard were arrested and pleaded guilty. Frechette was sentenced a term of six to fifteen years in prison. He was confined in the minimum security state prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

The Hungarian film director Dezso Magyar wrote in the March edition of the Filmkultura magazine: “[M]y first friend was Mark Frechette, protagonist of the film Zabriskie Point. We wanted to make a film, to adapt a part of ‘Sin and Punishment’ because we felt that America was like a Dostoyevsky-type world. Mark said that he would get the money in Boston. He phoned me every second day and always assured me that he almost had the money. One day he called me and said that he would bring the 5 million dollars the next day. Great! I was watching TV in the evening when it was announced that … Mark Frechette attempted to rob a bank at gunpoint … and was arrested.” Frechette died in prison on September 27, 1975, during an apparent weightlifting accident, when a 150-pound barbell fell on his neck and he suffocated. Prison officials did not suspect foul play. Friends thought he had been suffering from depression. He was 27 years old.


  • December, 04, 1947
  • USA
  • Boston, Massachusetts


  • September, 27, 1975
  • USA
  • Norfolk, Massachusetts

Cause of Death

  • weightlifting accident


  • Mount Feake Cemetery
  • Waltham, Massachusetts
  • USA

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