Sam Shepard, Esteemed Playwright and Actor, Dies at 73

He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play, 'Buried Child,' was nominated for an Oscar for his role in 'The Right Stuff' and recently appeared on Netflix's 'Bloodline.'

Sam Shepard, the respected Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist and Oscar-nominated actor, has died. He was 73.

Shepard died Thursday from complications from ALS at his home in Kentucky, according to his spokesman.

“The family requests privacy at this difficult time,” said spokesman Chris Boneau. Funeral arrangements remain private, and plans for a public memorial have not been determined.

Shepard won the Pulitzer in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar in 1984 for his role in The Right Stuff as Chuck Yeager. He was in a romantic relationship with Jessica Lange from 1982 to 2009.

In 2015, he appeared on Netflix's dark family drama Bloodline as patriarch Robert Rayburn, which marked one of his final on-camera appearances.

His first New York plays, Cowboys and The Rock Garden, were produced by Theatre Genesis in 1963.

For his playwriting, Shepard won the Drama Critics' Circle Award and Outer Critics Circle Award in 1986 for his play A Lie of the Mind. He won 11 Obie Awards for the off-Broadway plays La Turista, Forensic and the Navigators and Melodrama Play, The Tooth of Crime, Action, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, Fool for Love and the trilogy Chicago, Icarus' Mother and Red Cross.

True West and Fool for Love were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Revivals of Buried Child (1996) and True West (2000) were both nominated for Tony awards. His final play, A Particle of Dread, premiered in 2014 at New York's Signature Theatre. 

Shepard made his screen acting debut in Bob Dylan's movie Renaldo and Clara. His film acting credits also include Steel Magnolias, playing the husband of the beauty shop owner; Terence Malick's Days of Heaven, for which his movie career took off; Resurrection; Frances; Country; Fool for Love; Crimes of the Heart; Baby Boom; Bright Angel; Defenseless; Hamlet; The Notebook; Black Hawk Down; Don’t Come Knocking; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Brothers; Safe House; Mud; August: Osage County; Cold in July; Midnight Special; Ithaca; In Dubious Battle; and You Were Never Here.

He wrote the screenplays for Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point; Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas, which won the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival; and Wenders' Don't Come Knocking. He also directed for film, including 1988's Far North and 1992's Silent Tongue.

Shepard also played drums in a band he formed called The Holy Modal Rounders, who were featured in Easy Rider, and he accompanied Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

Two volumes of his prose and poetry were published, Hawk Moon and Motel Chronicles. His novel, The One Inside, was published in February by Knopf.

Shepard directed his plays at San Francisco's Magic Theater and at the Royal Court in London. He was also active in the University of California, Davis Drama Workshop.

Samuel Shepard Rogers III was born in Illinois on Nov. 5,1943, and grew up in Cody, Wyo., and Duarte, Calif. After a brief try at college, he dropped out to join a theater troupe. He began writing plays when pursuing an acting career in New York. Cowboys was based on his roommate and himself. His Western persona — jeans, boot, Western shirt — bespoke his upbringing.

Shepard taught playwriting, leading classes and seminars at workshops and universities, including a turn as a Regents Professor at UC Davis.

He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986 and received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy in 1992. In 1994, Shepard was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. In 2009, he received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist.

In 1999, Shepard received Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations for his performance in Dash and Lilly.

He is survived by his children, Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard; and his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.

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