Playwright/actor Sam Shepard dies at 73
By Maria Puente
July 31, 2017
Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of plays, screenplays, stories and memoirs, whose rugged good looks and laconic style made for a memorable screen presence as an actor, has died, according to reports. He was 73.
His death was reported first by Broadway World and then by The New York Times, which cited an unnamed spokesman for his family. His New York agent, Patrick Herold of ICM Partners, would not confirm the death and declined to comment, according to his office.
Shepard was one of those rarities: an award-winning stage dramatist and a movie star, screenwriter and director.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child, which launched his career as a playwright. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983's The Right Stuff, a role that seemed to embody Shepard's own laconic personality.
The author of nearly 50 plays, according to his website, Shepard's work firmly established him in the canon of American theater. It also made him one of America's most famous playwrights, regularly anthologized and taught in universities and drama schools across the country.
His personal life, including marriages and liaisons with some of Hollywood's most interesting and beautiful women, also helped contribute to his fame: From 1969 to 1984, he was married to O-Lan Jones, with whom he has a son, Jesse Mojo Shepard, born in 1970, also an author.
Shepard met two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange on the set of the 1982 film Frances, in which they both appeared (Lange was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, her first nomination). He moved in with her in 1983, and they were together for nearly 30 years; they separated in 2009. They have two children, Hannah Jane, born in 1985, and Samuel Walker Shepard, born 1987.
Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, seated in cockpit.
Shepard's last movie, according to his IMDb page, is Never Here, a psychological thriller starring Mireille Enos that premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. It's due for a theatrical release later this year, followed by a pay-TV debut on Starz in early 2018, according to Deadline.
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers IV in Fort Sheridan, Ill., Shepard grew up on military bases in a dysfunctional family, which provided grist for recurrent dark themes in his writing and a preoccupation with the myth of the vanishing West.
After settling in Duarte, Calif., Shepard began acting and writing in high school, then spent a year studying agriculture with the idea of becoming a vet. In 1962, a touring theater company visited town and he joined up, spending nearly two years touring with the company. Eventually, he moved to New York where he began writing plays, first performing with an obscure off-off-Broadway group but eventually gaining recognition for his writing and winning prestigious OBIE awards.
SHEPARD, Sam (Samuel Shepard Rogers)
Born: 11/5/1943, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, U.S.A.
Died: 7/30/2017, Midway, Kentucky, U.S.A.
Sam Shepard’s westerns – director, writer, singer, actor:
Days of Heaven – 1978 (farmer)
Silent Tongue – 1993 [director, writer]
The Good Old Boy – 1995 (Tarnell
Streets of Laredo (TV) – 1995 (Pea Eye Parker)
Purgatory (TV) – 1999 (Sheriff Forest/Wild Bill Hickok)
All the Pretty Horses – 2000 (J.C. Franklin)
Don’t Come Knocking – 2005 (Howard Spence) [also singer]
Bandidas – 2006 (Bill Buck)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Bob Ford – 2007 (Frank James)
Blackthorn – 2011 (James Blackthorn/Butch Cassidy) [also singer]
Klondike (TV) -2014 (Father Judge)