Sam Shepard biography
Date of Birth: November 5, 1943
Sam Shepard was not only a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, but an accomplished actor and a rock musician. Growing up on a ranch in California, he studied agriculture at San Antonio Junior College. Shepherd first gravitated towards music, and took up theater only after his father began drinking heavily and the family situation dissolved — he escaped by joining a touring theatrical group called the Bishop's Company Repertory Players.
In 1963 Shepard moved to New York, supporting himself by serving tables at the Village Gate, while performing in experimental off-Broadway venues. He took at stab at writing, beginning with some well-received one-acts, and went on to write and often direct scores of plays — usually about the haunted and violent agrarian poor.
Before he was 30, Shepard had over 30 plays produced in New York. In his works, Shepard has repeatedly examined the moral anomie and spiritual starvation that characterize the world of his drama. He won several Obies for his work, and in 1979, received a Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child. Sparse, intense works like True West, A Lie of the Mind, and Fool for Love have influenced a new generation of actors and writers.
As a film actor and scriptwriter, Shepard started his career in the 1960s and co-wrote the script for Michelangelo Antonioni's film Zabriski Point (1970). He appeared as a doomed farmer in Days Of Heaven (1978), acted in Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff (1983) as Chuck Yeager, wrote the script and played in Fool for Love (his own one-act play published in 1983, film in 1985) with Kim Basinger, and has had roles in many other films.
Shepard was a natural onscreen, winning fans in the early '80s with roles in films such as The Right Stuff for which he earned an Oscar nomination. He was divorced from his wife, O-Lan Jones, with whom he has a son, in 1984 after 15 years of marriage. For many years Shepard lived with Oscar-winning actress Jessica Lange, beginning in 1982. They lived on a farm in Virginia with their two children, Hannah and Samuel Walker.
In 1988, Shepard made his debut as a director with Far North. Other films include Thunderheart (1992), The Pelican Brief (1993) and Silent Tongue (1994), which he wrote and directed.
He was showered with nominations for his starring role of Dashiell Hammett in the T.V. film, Dash and Lilly (1999). Shepard has also starred in popular films such as The Notebook (2004), Brothers (2009), Safe House (2012), Darling Companion (2012) and Killing Them Softly (2012).
But writing has always been his first love. "I didn't go out of my way to get into this movie stuff. I think of myself as a writer." His writing has earned him a Best Adapted Screenplay BAFTA nomination for his work on Paris, Texas (1984).
Sam Shepard died July 27, 2017 from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.