Sam Shepard 1943-2017

In the clip above, Sam Shepard is interviewed during the 2014 Sundance film festival where he had a new movie, the crime drama Cold in July. He died a few days ago at the age of 73, but the news wasn’t made public until today. I’m sure that several news sites will refer to him as the Bloodline star; that’s how it works. Our memory tends to be short. But Sam Shepard had a great, multifaceted career.

Born in Illinois, the young Sam Shepard worked at a ranch in his teens and later studied agriculture before dropping out and falling in love with theater. He started gaining fame as a writer, winning awards for his early off-Broadway plays in the late 1960s and also writing a few scripts, such as Zabriskie Point for Michelangelo Antonioni. In the 1970s, Shepard was named playwright-in-residence at a San Francisco theater, accompanied Bob Dylan on a 1975 concert tour (he also ended up co-writing the song “Brownsville Girl” with Dylan) and won the Pulitzer for the play “Buried Child”.

In the 1980s, Shepard was an accomplished playwright, but he also began to find success as an actor, starting with his role as a land baron in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978).  He was Oscar-nominated for his turn as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983) and starred in the movie adaptation of his play “Fool for Love”; Robert Altman directed the film in 1986. Over the years, Shepard often made the movies and TV shows where he had a supporting part look better.

Shepard also wrote short stories and essays. His plays were realistic and poetic, depicting outsiders. But as a movie actor, he was often cast as men of authority. When news came of his death today, both Hollywood and Broadway mourned him, including John Leguizamo:

Sam Shepard had a relationship with Jessica Lange that lasted 26 years; they had two kids. They acted in a few films together, perhaps most memorably in Country (1984):

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