Acclaimed American playwright, actor, writer, and director Sam Shepard has passed away at the age of 73. Following a battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, the beloved performer will be well remembered for his half century’s worth of work on both the stage and the screen.
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III on November 5, 1943 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, Shepard was raised by his father, Samuel Shepard Rogers, Jr. – who was a teacher, farmer, and United States Army Force bomber pilot who served in World War II – and mother, Jane Elaine – a teacher and native of Chicago. Growing up, Shepard lived under the influence of his alcoholic father and worked as a local ranch hand as a teenager, before going to college where his chief artistic influences included Samuel Beckett, jazz, and abstract expressionism.
Later in life, Shepard made a name for himself as the writer of forty-four plays and several books, including short stories, essays, and memoirs. Most famously, Shepard was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his work in writing Buried Child in 1979 – a piece of abstract art that sought to examine the disillusionment and collapse of a national mythology in 1970s rural America.
Shepard was also well known for his work on the big screen, and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his turn in the 1983 historical drama, The Right Stuff. Viewers may also remember Shepard for numerous other roles, most notably his work in Days of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and August: Osage County – as well as the Netflix original drama series, Bloodline.
Shepard was also the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction alike, and served as the screenwriter for such iconic feature films as Paris, Texas and Fool for Love. He was also a frequent supporting actor in the films of contemporary American filmmaker Jeff Nichols, with whom he shared a certain flare for telling highly-emotional stories of the American dream in decline – specifically in Mud and Midnight Special.
While Shepard also directed the feature-length films Far North in 1988 and Silent Tongue in 1993, respectively, it was his body of work as a playwright and actor for which the man will likely be best remembered in the future. Boasting an impressive resume of work that saw Shepard turned into a star of the stage and screen, the loss of Shepard is sure to be felt for a long time to come.
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