Sam Shepard, one of America’s greatest playwrights who had a successful side career as an actor, died on Thursday from complications of ALS. He was 73.
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, Rogers moved to the New York City in the early-1960s. He quickly became involved in the Off-Off-Broadway community, adopting the pen name of Sam Shepard. It is here that he began his playwriting career, with his first play, Cowboys, being put up in 1964.
Shepard would win six Obie Awards between 1966 and 1968, which caught the attention of Hollywood producers. He became a screenwriter on such films as Me and My Brother and Zabriskie Point.
He would also partner with rock legends Patti Smith (who was his lover at the time) for 1971s Cowboy Mouth, and Bob Dylan, for whom he would write the film Renaldo and Clara in 1978.
Shepard would have an acting role in the latter, and it, along with a role in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven the same year began his film acting career in earnest. His resume would range from Oscar worthy fare like The Right Stuff (which earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Chuck Yeager), Frances, Steel Magnolias, Black Hawk Down and August: Osage County to more middle-and-low-brow fare such as Baby Boom, The Pelican Brief, Swordfish, Bandidas and Stealth.
In 1979, Shepard would write Buried Child, which would win him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A number of his plays would be adapted for the screen, most notably Fool for Love. The 1982 play was adapted for the screen by Robert Altman in 1985, and Shepard played the lead opposite Kim Basinger. Other Shepard plays adapted to the big screen include True West, Simpatico, and Curse of the Starving Class. The 2003 documentary This So-Called Disaster: Sam Shepard Directs the Late Henry Moss documented Shepard attempting to stage that play.
Shepards most recent acting work was on the Netflix TV show Bloodline. His final film work was Never Here, which premiered last month at the Los Angeles Film Festival.