In Memoriam: Sam Shepard, 1943-2017, American Icon, Golden Globe Nominee

by Ana Maria Bahiana July 31, 2017
Actor, playwright and filmmaker Sam Shepard, Golden Globe nominee

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Sam Shepard, playwright, actor, author, filmmaker and Golden Globe nominee has died on July 27, 2017, at his home in Kentucky, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 73 years old.

A versatile and talented artist, Shepard became known both as Obie-and-Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and a charismatic character actor in films ad TV shows as diverse as Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven and Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, Phillip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff and the Netflix series’ Bloodline.  In 2000 Shepard was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, for his portrayal of author Dashiell Hammett in the Kathy Bates-directed Dash and Lily.

Born in 1943 in Ford Sheridan, Illinois, the son of an ex-World War II bomber pilot and a teacher, Shepard worked as a ranch hand and studied agriculture before falling in love with the theater and joining a traveling company. He ended up in New York at the dawn of counterculture and experimental theater, and thrived in that scene, touring with Bob Dylan and writing profusely.  By 1975, he was the playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre, where he created many of his notable works, including his Family Trilogy. One of the plays in the trilogy, Buried Child (1978), won him a Pulitzer Prize.

That same year Shepard debuted on screen in Malick’s Days of Heaven. That career also flourished, with Shepard working both as actor and screenwriter (Paris, Texas, True West, Far North – which he also directed- and adapting his own Buried Child for a 2016 picture directed by David Horn).

“I can’t help but draw from personal experiences”, Shepard told us in an interview from 2012. “That’s the life force of the artistry of it”.