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R.I.P. Sam Shepard, award-winning actor and playwright

Photo: Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Photo: Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Sam Shepard, the award-winning and prolific actor and playwright who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Right Stuff (1983) and won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child in 1979, has died. The news was broken by Broadway World, and a representative of Shepard’s family tells The New York Times that Shepard died from complications of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 73.

Born in 1943 under the name Samuel Shepard Rogers III, Shepard adopted his stage name shortly after moving to New York in the early 1960s, where he first gained renown on the Off-Off-Broadway theater scene. He wrote his first screenplay, Me And My Brother, in 1968, followed by the screenplay for Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point in 1970. His film career began in earnest in the late ‘70s, when he took on the lead role in Terrence Malick’s Days Of Heaven (1978), and continued in parallel to his career as a playwright. In 1986, Robert Altman directed the first film based on one of Shepard’s plays, Fool For Love, with Shepard starring opposite Kim Basinger and Harry Dean Stanton. He recently played a supporting role on Netflix’s Bloodline, and starred in the indie thriller Never Here, which was released last month.

The author of 44 plays, Shepard was named “the greatest American playwright of his generation” by The New Yorker, won 10 Obie Awards, was nominated for two Tonys, an Emmy, and a Golden Globe, and received a PEN/Laura Pels Award naming him a master American dramatist in 2009. Over the decades, Shepard also worked extensively as a teacher, teaching theater and writing. He was married to actress O-lan Jones from 1969 to 1984, and lived with Jessica Lange for nearly 30 years before their split in 2009. He is survived by three children, Jesse, Hannah, and Walker Shepard.

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