This news is bound to hit hard for a lot of different people: fans of plays, fans of films, fans of guys who look handsome in cowboy hats and/or pilot gear while appearing in films. A family spokesperson has confirmed to Variety that playwright, actor, director, and screenwriter Sam Shepard has died at the age of 73. Sam died at his home in Kentucky on Thursday from complications from ALS.
After dropping out of college for agriculture, Sam left for New York City and became involved in the Off Off Broadway theater scene in the early 60s and began writing plays. Sam Shepard was a legend in the theater world. He wrote forty-four plays, like Buried Child (for which he won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), Curse of the Starving Class, Fool for Love, True West (the play where John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman would occasionally switch parts), and Cowboy Mouth, which he wrote and performed in with Patti Smith.
And then Sam Shepard got into movies. If you’ve ever taken a high school or college film class, then the name Sam Shepard is no stranger to you. He co-wrote several films, including Paris, Texas, which is one of those movies that will either make you shrug or get weepy just thinking of how good it is. And he acted a lot. Sam was in Days of Heaven, Fool for Love, Crimes of the Heart, Steel Magnolias (Spud Jones!), The Notebook, the first two seasons of Bloodline. He also appeared as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, for which he was given an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Sam Shepard is survived by his three children, the first of which he had with O-Lan Jones, and the following two with Jessica Lange (Sam and Jessica ended their 30-year relationship ended almost eight years ago).
My first introduction to Sam Shepard was in Baby Boom, and that’s still my favorite Sam Shepard moment. He plays the handsome quiet veterinarian that Diane Keaton falls in love with when she bails on her fancy stuck-up snob life in Manhattan for her baby food company in Vermont. Any other actor might make you think “Why the hell is his leg up on the table like that?“, but not Sam Shepard. Sam Shepard doesn’t need a reason to do anything.
Rest in peace, Sam.