Actor, playwright, and author, Sam Shepard, died on Thursday, July 27. According to public relations firm Boneau/Bryan-Brown confirmed Shepard’s death due to complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 73-years old.
Over his career, Shepard wrote 44 plays as well a number of short stories, memories, and essays. In 1979 he was awarded the Drama Pulitzer Prize for his play, Buried Child. True West and Fool for Love, two more of his plays also received Pulitzer Prize nominations. While a award winning writer, he was nominated in 1983 for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role portraying famous test pilot Chuck Yeager in the movie, The Right Stuff. The film chronicled the start of the NASA astronaut program, and Yeager was passed over for not being a college graduate. In a film that co-stared Ed Harris as John Glenn, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, and Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper, Shepard’s portrayal as the worlds fastest man was unforgettable.
Sam Shepard’s plays included The Rock Garden, Made Dog Blues, Inacoma, True West, Baby Boom, Cowboys, Operation Sidewinder, Suicide in B Flat, Curse of the Starving Class, and Fool for Love. Icarus’s Mother, and Cahiago, along with nine other plays won Obie Awards.
While he made a name for himself in film with The Right Stuff, Shepard also stared in a long list of films, including Black Hawk Down, Killing Them Softly, Fools for Love, The Notebook, In Dubious Battle, and Hamlet. His career in film began when he was cast opposite of Brooke Adams and Richard Here in Days of Heaven, a Terrence Malick film. Last month, his final film, Never Here, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Sam Shepard had also jumped onto Netflix with Bloodline, and stared in Klondike, a TV mini series. He received Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations in 1999 for his role in Dash and Lilly.
Earlier this year, in February, his novel The One Inside was published. Shepard was recognized for his outstanding body of works with an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Leters in 1986 and a Gold Medal award in 1992 from The Academy for Drama. The Theater Hall of Fame inducted Shepard in 1994 and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award recognized him in 2009 as a master of American dramatist.
He was originally from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, born there in 1943. Sam Shepard is survived by his children Jesse, his children with Jessica Lange, Walker and Hannah Shepard, and his sisters, Sandy Shepard and Roxanne Rogers. There has been no word on a public memorial and his funeral arrangements will be a private, family ceremony.
By Cletus Dillwood
Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy