miércoles, 9 de agosto de 2017

Sam Shepard / The man who conquered Broadway, Hollywood and Jessica Lange

Sam Shepard
Poster by T.A.


Sam Shepard

(1943 - 2017)

Sam Shepard ranks as one of America's most celebrated dramatists. He has written nearly 50 plays and has seen his work produced across the nation, in venues ranging from Greenwich Village coffee shops to regional professional and community theatres, from college campuses to commercial Broadway houses. His plays are regularly anthologized, and theatre professors teach Sam Shepard as a canonical American author. Outside of his stage work, he has achieved fame as an actor, writer, and director in the film industry. With a career that now spans nearly 40 years, Sam Shepard has gained the critical regard, media attention, and iconic status enjoyed by only a rare few in American theatre. Throughout his career Shepard has amassed numerous grants, prizes, fellowships, and awards, including the Cannes Palme d'Or and the Pulitzer Prize. He has received abundant popular praise and critical adulation. While the assessment of Shepard's standing may evidence occasional hyperbole, there can be little doubt that he has spoken in a compelling way to American theatre audiences, and that his plays have found deep resonance in the nation's cultural imagination.

Samuel Shepard Rogers IV was born on November 5, 1943 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. In the early years, Sam, the eldest of three children, led a rather nomadic life living on several military bases. His father was an army officer and former Air Force bomber during World War II while his mother was a teacher. His childhood experience of living in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father would often provide the recurrent dark themes in his writing as well as a preoccupation with the myth of the vanishing West. His writing commonly incorporated inventive language, symbolism, and non-linear storytelling while being populated with drifters, fading rock stars and others living on the edge.

The family finally settled in Duarte, CA where Sam graduated from high school in 1961. In his high school years he began acting and writing poetry. He also worked as a stable hand at a horse ranch in Chino from 1958-1960. Thinking he might become a veterinarian, Sam studied agriculture at Mount Antonio Junior College for a year; but when a traveling theater group, the Bishop's Company Repertory Players came through town, Sam joined up and left home. After touring with them during 1962-1963, he moved to New York City and worked as a bus boy at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village.

Sam began focusing his efforts on writing a series of of avant-garde one-act plays and eventually found his way to the off-off-Broadway scene to Theatre Genesis, a ragtag group that met in an upstairs room at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. There he had his first two plays produced on a double bill - "Cowboys" (1964) and "The Rock Garden" (1964). After the University of Minnesota offered him a grant in 1966, he won OBIE Awards for "Chicago," "Icarus' Mother" and "Red Cross" - an unprecedented feat to win three in the same year. In 1967, Sam wrote his first full-length play, "La Turista," an allegory on the Vietnam War about two American tourists in Mexico, and was honored again with his fourth OBIE.

After receiving an OBIE for "Melodrama Play" (1968) and "Cowboys #2" (1968), Sam received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. He put his music skills taught to him by his father to use by playing drums and guitar in the rock band, the Holy Modal Rounders, in which he played for the next few years while continuing to write plays. In 1969 he married O-lan Jones Dark and together they had a son, Jesse Mojo Shepard. At this time, Sam made tentative steps toward screenwriting, having his first teleplay, "Fourteen Hundred Thousand" (NET, 1969), broadcast on television. He got a taste of Hollywood when he was one of several screenwriters on Michelangelo Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" (1970). In 1971, after a high-profile relationship with singer-poet Patti Smith - despite being married to actress O-Lan Jones Dark - Sam and his family moved to London, where he spent three years writing more plays, including "The Tooth of the Crime" (1972). The play crossed the Atlantic for a U.S. production in 1973, winning the young playwright yet another OBIE.

In 1974, Sam returned to the United States, where he was set up as the playwright in residence at the Magic Theater in San Francisco, a post he held for the next ten years. Meanwhile, he joined Bob Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue," the singer-songwriter's traveling band of musicians who covered the northern hemisphere in the mid-1970s. He was originally hired to write a movie about the tour, but instead produced a book later on called "The Rolling Thunder Logbook". He then entered the cinema world with the lead role in Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" (1978), which served to raise his profile. It was a lucky stroke. The screenplay was written by Rudolph Wurlitzer, who was also on Dylan's tour. Despite his branching out into other avenues, playwriting remained Sam's stock and trade.

Returning to the theater, Sam wrote some of his finest work, including several plays that later proved to be his most famous and revered. He produced the first two of a series of plays about families tearing themselves apart, which debuted off-Broadway. "Curse of the Starving Class" debuted off-Broadway in 1978 followed by "Buried Child" the same year. Though both plays added to his OBIE collection, "Buried Child" earned the playwright the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979. He also began his collaboration with actor-writer-director Joseph Chaikin of the Open Theater, with both contributing to "Tongues" (1978) and "Savage/Love" (1979).

For the next installment of his family tragedy series that he started with "Curse of the Starving Glass," Sam wrote "True West" (1980), using a more traditional narrative to depict a rivalry between two estranged brothers. First performed at the Magic Theater in San Francisco, "True West" was revived on numerous occasions and starred several high-profile actors over the years, including Gary Sinese, John Malkovich, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly. Meanwhile, thanks to his performance in "Days of Heaven," Sam began landing other roles in features with greater regularity. Tall, lanky and brooding, his weathered good looks served him well on screen. In 1980 he co-starred with Ellen Burstyn in "Resurrection" followed by a very small role in "Raggedy Man" a year later and then a more substantial role in the biopic "Frances" (1982). That would prove to be an important film on a personal note because it introduced him to his future companion, Jessica Lange. Two years later, he ended his marriage with O-lan Jones.

Despite being involved in theater for almost two decades at this point, Sam had shied away from directing anything he wrote. That changed with "Fool for Love" (1983), which depicted a pair of quarreling lovers at a Mojave Desert motel and earned him his 11th overall OBIE award, but his first for Best Direction. He next landed perhaps his most widely recognized film role, playing Chuck Yeager in the epic drama about the birth of America's space program, "The Right Stuff" (1983). This would earn him an Academy Award nominiation. His restrained and minimalist performance - which mirrored the real life Yeager - was hailed by critics and audiences, including the man he portrayed on film. After starring opposite Jessica in the rural drama, "Country" (1984), Sam took his prose collection - "Motel Chronicles" - and incorporated it a screenplay for Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas" (1984), which won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He next adapted his own play, "Fool for Love" (1985), for director Robert Altman, in which he also took the leading role of Eddie.

Sam made another triumphant return to the stage as writer and director with "A Lie of the Mind" (1986), a gritty three-act play about two families suffering the consequences of severe spousal abuse. It was first staged off-Broadway at the Promenade Theater. Once again, the playwright earned several awards and accolades, including a Drama Desk Award and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play. As his career progressed, Sam began exploring other avenues of creative expression with more frequency, which left less time to focus on the theater. While early in his career he had at least one play - if not several - released just about every year, he began writing fewer plays by the late 1980s. After producing the lesser-known "A Short Life of Trouble" (1987), he co-starred in Beth Henley's quirky drama "Crimes of the Heart" (1986) with Diane Keaton and again with the Oscar-winning actress in the romantic comedy "Baby Boom" (1987). Sam then made his feature directorial debut with "Far North" (1988) starring his long-time companion.

In 1989 he took on a small, but very noticeable role in the successful comedy-drama, "Steel Magnolias" about six Southern belles with backbones as tough as nails. After writing the blackmail drama "Simpatico" (1993) for the stage, he made a return behind the camera for the metaphysical Western-cum-Greek tragedy, "Silent Tongue" (1994). After his induction into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994, he reunited with Chaikin for "When the World Was Green" (1996), a play commissioned for the Olympic Arts Festival in Atlanta and reprised for the Signature Theater Company's 1996-97 season that showcased several of his plays. In 1996 his restaging of "Buried Child" on Broadway with direction by Gary Sinese earned a Tony Award nomination. Meanwhile, he published "Cruising Paradise: Tales" (1997), a collection of 40 short stories that explored the themes of solitude and loss.

As the new millennium approached, Sam found himself in demand more as an actor, which gave him greater exposure to audiences, but unfortunately also limited his stage output for a spell. Through the 90s, he appeared in about fourteen films, some television productions, including three westerns - "The Good Old Boys" and "Streets of Laredo" in 1995 and then "Purgatory" in 1999. A&E's biopic, "Dash and Lilly" was well received the same year. He began the decade with Volker Schlöndorff's "Voyager" (aka Homo Faber), in which he gave an impressive performance opposite Julie Delpy. That was followed by three mediocre films, "Bright Angel" and "Defenseless" in 1991 and then "Thunderheart" with Val Kilmer in 1992. During the next two years he co-starred in two substantial mainsteam films - "Pelican Brief" (1993) in the role of Julia Roberts' lover and "Safe Passage (1994) as Susan Sarandon's husband. In 1997 he was back on screen in the romantic drama, "The Only Thrill", co-starring for the third time with Diane Keaton.

Following a role in "Snow Falling on Cedars" (1999) and a screen adaptation of "Simpatico" (1999), Sam played the Ghost of Hamlet's father in the contemporary adaptation of "Hamlet" (2000), which he followed with a supporting role in "All the Pretty Horses" (2000). Returning to playwriting, Sam then wrote "The Late Henry Moss" (2001), which debuted at the Magic Theater. Continuing to act more than write, he was seen in numerous onscreen projects, including the exciting war film, "Black Hawk Down" (2001), "Swordfish" (2001) and "The Pledge" (2001) starring Jack Nicholson.

As time wore on and the world became more darkly complex, Sam's writing started becoming more political as a reflection of the times. With "The God of Hell" (2004), the playwright sought to tackle what he deemed "Republican fascism". On the big screen he had a small role in "The Notebook" (2004). Remarkably, he returned to performing on stage for the second time in his career ("Cowboy Mouth" being the first in 1971) and co-starred with Dallas Roberts in the Caryl Churchill cloning drama, "A Number", which opened Off-Broadway in November 2004.

It was time to team up once more with Wim Wenders as scriptwriter and lead actor for "Don't Come Knocking" (2005) in which Jessica plays his old girlfriend. He was then cast as the commander of a top secret Navy squadron in "Stealth" (2005), followed by a supporting role in the Mexican Western, "Bandidas" (2006) opposite Penelope Cruz and Selma Hajek. After narrating the endearing "Charlotte's Web" (2006), Sam earned a SAG nomination for his performance in "Ruffian" (ABC, 2007). The same year he played Frank James in the brooding and beautiful film, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".

Then it was back to the theater scene with two plays written for Irish actor Stephen Rea - "Kicking a Dead Horse" (2007) and "Ages of the Moon" (2009). Both premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and were then transported across the Atlantic to off-off Broadway. Three smaller films followed with a perfect role in Jim Sheridan's "Brothers" (2009) in which he gives a fine portrayal of a taciturn military father.

2010 began with the publication of Sam's collection of short stories, "Day out of Days". For onscreen productions, he had the lead role in Mateo Gil's film, "Blackthorn", in which he played Butch Cassidy.

The following year brought the end of his long-time relationship with actress Jessica Lange with whom he had two children. He began spending more time in New Mexico with an internship at the Sante Fe Institute. On the big screen, his biggest role in 2011 was playing a CIA agent in "Safe House" with Denzel Washington.

In March 2012, Sam shared the stage with Patti Smith at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. When summer rolled around, he headed to New York City where his new play, "Heartless" premiered at the Signature Theatre. In the fall a documentary called, "Shepard & Dark", directed by Treva Wurmfeld, entered the film festival circuit.

Three major films premiered in 2013 - the Huckleberry Finnish "Mud" with Matthew McConaughey, the gritty Jeff Nichols' thriller, "Out of the Furnace" and the Tracy Letts dysfunctional stage-to- screen drama, "August: Osage County". In June the Wittliff Collections at Texas State opened a new literary exhibition to showcase the Shepard archives. Called "The Writer’s Road: Selections from the Sam Shepard Papers", the exhibition was slated to run through February 2014. A book was also published by Texas State in conjunction with the exhibit called "Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark". Sam spent most of November in Ireland preparing for his new play, "A Particle of Dread", which premiered at the Londonderry: City of Culture festival.

Discovery Channel's "Klondike" mini-series debuted in January 2014 followed by Sam's appearance at the Sundance Film Festival to promote the Jim Mickle indie film, "Cold in July". The following year he took on another television role as the patriarch of the Chandler family in the Netflix series "Bloodline". In 2016 he appeared in another Jeff Nichols film, "Midnight Special" and also pleased Meg Ryan by starring in her directorial debut "Ithaca".

In February of 2017 he published his last book, "The One Inside", a collection of vignettes, surrealism, short story and thinly veiled memoir.

On July 27, 2017 Sam Shepard passed away at age 73 on his farm in Midway, Kentucky. He died of complications of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Sam Shepard's plays are performed on and off Broadway and in all the major regional American theatres. They are also widely performed and studied in Europe, particularly in Britain, Germany and France, finding both a popular and scholarly audience. A leader of the avant-garde in contemporary American theatre since his earliest work. Sam's plays are not easy to categorize. They combine wild humor, grotesque satire, myth and a sparse, haunting language to present a subversive view of American life. His settings are often a kind of nowhere, notionally grounded in the dusty heart of the vast American Plains; his characters are typically loners, drifters caught between a mythical past and the mechanized present; his work often concerns deeply troubled families.

Before he was thirty, Shepard had over thirty 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.

Sam began his career as a playwright in New York in 1964 with the Theatre Genesis production of two one-act plays, COWBOYS and THE ROCK GARDEN at St. Mark's Church-in-the Bowery. Their lack of conventional structure and the manic language of their long monologues offend critics from uptown papers. Some find the plays derivative of Samuel Beckett and other European dramatists. But Michael Smith of THE VILLAGE VOICE hails them as "distinctly American" and "genuinely original," and declares their author full of promise.

By 1980, he was the most produced playwright in America after Tennessee Williams.

Over the past forty years, Sam has written over 45 plays, eleven of which have won Obie Awards. In 1979 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for BURIED CHILD. In 1986 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1992 he received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy. He was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1994."No one knows better than Sam Shepard that the true American West is gone forever, but there may be no writer alive more gifted at reinventing it out of pure literary air." ...Frank Rich, The New York Times

"Mr. Shepard is the most deeply serious humorist of the American theatre, and a poet with no use whatsoever for the 'poetic.' He brings fresh news of love, here and now, in all its potency and deviousness and foolishness, and of many other matters as well." ...Edith Oliver, The New Yorker

"If plays were put in time capsules, future generations would get a sharp-toothed profile of life in the U.S. in the past decade and a half from the works of Sam Shepard." ...Time Magazine

"Sam Shepard is one of the most gifted writers ever to work on the American stage." ...Marsha Norman, Pulitzer-Award-winning author

"One of our best and most challenging playwrights... His plays are a form of exorcism: magical, sometimes surreal rituals that grapple with the demonic forces in the American landscape." ...Newsweek

"His plays are stunning in their originality, defiant and inscrutable." ..Esquire

"Sam Shepard is phenomenal.... The best practicing American playwright." ...The New Republic

Sam Shepard
Poster by T.A.

Sam Shepard obituary

Playwright, actor and director who exposed the gap between myth and reality in American life

Sam Shepard, who has died aged 73 from complications of ALS, a form of motor neurone disease, excelled as an actor, screenwriter, playwright and director. In each of those disciplines he challenged and reimagined mythic American archetypes. He wrote nearly 50 plays; the most coruscating of them, such as the Pulitzer prize-winning Buried Child (1978), True West (1980) and Fool for Love (1983), established him as one of the visionaries of US theatre and created a fresh vernacular for exploring the disparity in American life between myth and reality, past and present, fathers and sons.
He took flawed macho heroes who might have staggered out of an Anthony Mannwestern, and broken, overheated families redolent of a Tennessee Williams clan, and forced them into claustrophobic hothouse scenarios; the result was like Beckett performed in cowboy duds. He found in the process a large audience receptive to this blend of stormy psychodrama, pitiless analysis and bruised romanticism. By the age of 40, he had become the second most widely performed US playwright after Williams.
He was fascinated by the violence that arose in American life from feelings of inadequacy. “This sense of failure runs very deep – maybe it has to do with the frontier being systematically taken away, with the guilt of having gotten this country by wiping out a native race of people, with the whole Protestant work ethic,” he said in 1984. “I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the source of a lot of intrigue for me.”
To articulate the charged, often oedipal confrontations that littered his work, and its friction between progress and tradition, he forged a genuinely original writing voice. His runaway soliloquies made urgent, rhythmic poetry out of the banal. “I drive on the freeway every day,” says Austin, the screenwriter grappling with notions of authenticity in True West. “I swallow the smog. I watch the news in colour. I shop in the Safeway … There’s no such thing as the west any more! It’s a dead issue!” But he could be just as eloquent with silence, as he proved in his screenplay (co-written by LM Kit Carson) for Paris, Texas (1984). Wim Wenders’s plangent masterpiece reshaped the western as a modern road movie in which the wandering loner, played by Harry Dean Stanton, is mute for almost the first hour of the film.
As an actor, Shepard was a softer presence, cast early on for his wan, arresting handsomeness and his connotations of nobility. Later, as he grew craggier, his presence was typically used to denote grizzled tradition. He was fey as the dying farmer caught unwittingly in a love triangle in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven(1978). His finest acting work was as the pilot Chuck Yeager in Philip Kaufman’s mighty adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff (1983). Shepard evoked achingly the determination of Yeager, who had been the first person to fly at supersonic speed, to set a new altitude record even if it meant jeopardising his life. Burned and battered at the end of the movie, he falls to earth with a bang but gathers up his dignity along with his tattered parachute. The performance, which brought him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, marked the point where his acting began to blur with his writing to create “the intrepid artist-cowboy of popular imagination”, as John J Winters put it in his book Sam Shepard: A Life (2017).
This impression persisted in films such as the Cormac McCarthy adaptation All the Pretty Horses (2000), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) and the Mississippi melodrama Mud (2012). Recently Shepard starred in the Netflix series Bloodline (2015), as the patriarch in a tempestuous family scarred by murder and double-crossing. The impression that he was having a whale of a time was enhanced by the suspicion that the programme makers had raided Shepard’s own thematic larder in cooking up the show’s heady gumbo. No wonder he looked at home.
He was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and raised largely in southern California, the son of Samuel Shepard Rogers, a teacher, farmer and former US army pilot, and Jane (nee Schook), also a teacher. The family moved around, living in Utah and Florida before settling for a while in Duarte, California, where his father owned an avocado farm. Sam was educated at Duarte high school, Los Angeles, and at Mt San Antonio College, where he studied agriculture.

Though he claimed to have been a rabble-rouser, classmates later recalled a “nice, polite, quiet” boy. He did, however, clash repeatedly with his alcoholic father, and left home after intervening in a parental argument. He had various odd jobs and briefly joined a travelling theatre troupe. Ending up in New York, he worked as a waiter and started knocking out one-act plays for the off-off-Broadway circuit.
These immediately earned him notoriety. A double-bill of Cowboys and The Rock Garden caused an uproar by its profane language; a scene from the latter was excerpted in Kenneth Tynan’s 1969 revue Oh! Calcutta! Shepard’s work was said to have caused a significant cancellation of subscriptions at some of the venues that staged it. But along with controversy came acclaim: between 1966 and 1968 he won six Obie awards for plays including Icarus’s Mother and La Turista.
His own emerging creative life brought him into the orbit of other artists of that time. He became friendly with the Rolling Stones. Along with Allen Ginsberg, he was one of the writers of Robert Frank’s film Me and My Brother (1969). Less happily, he also co-wrote Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970). “Antonioni wanted to make a political statement about contemporary youth, write in a lot of Marxist jargon and Black Panther speeches,” he said. “I couldn’t do it. I just wasn’t interested.” Shepard’s name ended up being one of five credited for the script.
He also drummed for the Holy Modal Rounders and married the actor O-Lan Jones, with whom he had a child. At the same time, he fell into a seven-month relationship with the musician Patti Smith, and co-wrote with her the 1971 semi-autobiographical play Cowboy Mouth, in which they both starred. Another of his plays, Back Bog Beast Bait, was included on the same bill and featured Jones as a character based on Smith.
When Shepard and Jones moved briefly to London to escape that imbroglio, he met the director Peter Brook, who introduced Shepard to the teachings of the spiritual philosopher GI Gurdjieff and encouraged him to think more closely about character in his writing. Upon returning to the US, he went on tour with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder revue, where he began a brief relationship with Joni Mitchell; her song Coyote was said to have been written about him (“He pins me in a corner and he won’t take no/ He drags me out on the dance floor/ And we’re dancing close and slow”). Out of his friendship with Dylan came a screenwriting credit on the singer’s film Renaldo and Clara (1978) and a co-writing one on his song Brownsville Girl.
Unsettled by life on the road, and with Brook’s advice in his ears, Shepard took up the post of playwright-in-residence at the Magic theatre in San Francisco and produced the plays that were to mark his most celebrated period and define him forever in audiences’ minds. Curse of the Starving Class, which had its premiere at the Royal Court in London in 1977, concerns a debt-ridden, alcoholic former pilot trying to offload his Californian farm.
In Buried Child, a dysfunctional family is haunted by the memory of a dead son and dominated by Dodge, the gone-to-seed patriarch marinated in booze. Shepard’s own father pitched up at one performance and began berating the actors on stage. “He took it personally and he was drunk,” the playwright said. “He was kicked out and then was readmitted once he confessed to being my father. And then he started yelling at the actors again.”
True West, about two warring brothers, dramatised what Shepard saw as an essential divide in human nature. “I think we’re split in a much more devastating way than psychology can ever reveal … It’s something we’ve got to live with.” (In a notable 2000 Broadway staging admired by Shepard, the connection between the characters was amplified by having the actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C Reilly swap roles on alternate nights.)
Fool for Love (1983) was a feverish, motel-bound drama about incestuous half-siblings; Shepard also adapted it and starred in Robert Altman’s 1985 film version. Completing the playwright’s most distinguished period, A Lie of the Mind (1985) examined an abusive marriage. It, too, was haunted by yet another drunk, domineering father.
During this time, Shepard’s career as an actor was picking up. Though he made only a mild impression in Frances (1982), a biopic of the actor Frances Farmer, it was important for another reason: he fell in love with its star, Jessica Lange, with whom he was in a relationship for 26 years. They appeared together in the rural dramas Country (1984) and Crimes of the Heart (1986), while Shepard directed her in Far North (1988), one of only two movies he directed. The other, Silent Tongue (1993), was a mystical western starring River PhoenixRichard Harris and Alan Bates.
He starred with Diane Keaton in the comedy Baby Boom (1987) and alongside Julia Roberts in the weepie Steel Magnolias (1989) and the thriller The Pelican Brief (1993). He was a good choice to play the Ghost to Ethan Hawke’s Prince in a modern-day Hamlet (2000) by Michael Almereyda, who also directed a revealing documentary about Shepard, This So-Called Disaster (2003), which followed the preparations for a staging of his play The Late Henry Moss. Other films included Black Hawk Down (2001), The Notebook (2004), Killing Them Softly (2012), an adaptation of Tracy Letts’s play August: Osage County (2013) and the thriller Cold in July (2014).
Shepard continued writing, acting and directing throughout the rest of his life, branching out also into short fiction – in collections such as Cruising Paradise (1996) and Day Out of Days: Stories (2010) – and a novel, The One Inside, published this year. Asked in 2016 if he felt he had achieved something substantial, he replied: “Yes and no. If you include the short stories and all the other books and you mash them up with some plays and stuff, then, yes, I’ve come at least close to what I’m shooting for. In one individual piece, I’d say no. There are certainly some plays I like better than others, but none that measure up.” For all the messy domestic histrionics that litter his work, he seemed ultimately to be grappling with solitude. Writing, he said in 2010, “is almost a response to that aloneness which can’t be answered in any other way.”
He is survived by his son, Jesse, from his marriage to Jones, and two children, Hannah and Walker, from his relationship with Lange.



  • 1973: Hawk Moon, PAJ Books
  • 1983: Motel Chronicles, City Lights
  • 1984: Seven PlaysDial Press, 368 pages
  • 1984: Fool for Love and Other Plays, Bantam, 320 pages
  • 1996: The Unseen Hand: and Other Plays, Vintage, 400 pages
  • 1996: Cruising Paradise, Vintage, 255 pages
  • 2003: Great Dream of Heaven, Vintage, 160 pages
  • 2004: Rolling Thunder Logbook, Da Capo, 176 pages, reissue
  • 2004: Day out of Days: Stories, Knopf, 304 pages
  • 2013: Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark, Texas, 400 pages

2017: The One Inside, Knopf, 172 page


As actor



Brand X (1970)Unknown

Renaldo and Clara (1978)RodeoAlso co-writer

Days of Heaven (1978)The Farmer

Resurrection (1980)Cal Carpenter

Raggedy Man (1981)Bailey

Frances (1982)Harry York

The Right Stuff (1983)Chuck Yeager

Country (1984)Gilbert "Gil" Ivy

Fool for Love (1985)EddieAlso writer

Crimes of the Heart (1986)Doc Porter

Baby Boom (1987)Dr. Jeff Cooper

Steel Magnolias (1989)Spud Jones

Bright Angel (1990)Jack

Voyager (1991)Walter FaberAlso narrator

Defenseless (1991)Detective Beutel

Thunderheart (1992)Frank Coutelle

The Pelican Brief (1993)Thomas Callahan

Safe Passage (1994)Patrick Singer

The Only Thrill (1997)Reece McHenry

Curtain Call (1998)Will Dodge

Purgatory (1999)Sheriff Forrest/Wild Bill Hickok

Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)Arthur Chambers

Hamlet (2000)Ghost

All the Pretty Horses (2000)J.C. Franklin

The Pledge (2001)Eric Pollack

Swordfish (2001)James Reisman

Black Hawk Down (2001)William F. Garrison

Leo (2002)Vic

Blind Horizon (2003)Sheriff Jack Kolb

The Notebook (2004)Frank Calhoun

Don't Come Knocking (2005)Howard SpenceAlso co-writer

Stealth (2005)George Cummings

Bandidas (2006)Bill Buck

Walker Payne (2006)Syrus

The Return (2006)Ed Mills

Charlotte's Web (2006)Narrator (voice)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)Frank James

The Accidental Husband (2008)Wilder Lloyd

Felon (2008)Gordon Camrose

Brothers (2009)Hank Cahill

Fair Game (2010)Sam Plame

Inhale (2010)James Harrison

Blackthorn (2011)Butch Cassidy

Darling Companion (2012)Sheriff Morris

Safe House (2012)Harlan Whitford

Killing Them Softly (2012)Dillon

Mud (2012)Tom Blankenship

Savannah (2013)Mr. Stubbs

August: Osage County (2013)Beverly Weston

Out of the Furnace (2013)Gerald "Red" Baze

Cold in July (2014)Ben Russell

Ithaca (2015)Willie Grogan

Midnight Special (2016)Calvin Meyer

In Dubious Battle (2016)Mr. Anderson

Never Here (2017)Paul Stark


1995The Good Old BoysSnort YarnellTelevision film
1996Lily DalePete DavenportTelevision film
1999Streets of LaredoPea Eye Parker3 episodes
1999PurgatorySheriff Forrest / Wild Bill HickokTelevision film
1999Dash and LillyDashiell HammettTelevision film
2000One KillMajor Nelson GrayTelevision film
2000Great PerformancesNarrator (voice)Episode: "Kurosawa"
2001After the HarvestCaleb GareTelevision film
2001Shot in the HeartFrank Gilmore, Sr.Television film
2007RuffianFrank WhiteleyTelevision film
2010Tough Trade(Role unknown)Pilot
2014KlondikeFather Judge3 episodes
2015–2017BloodlineRobert Rayburn7 episodes

As writer



Me and My Brother (1969)Co-writer

Zabriskie Point (1970)Co-writer

Oh! Calcutta! (1972)Sketch contributions

Renaldo and Clara (1978)Co-writer

Savage/Love (1981)Short film

Tongues (1982)Short film

Paris, Texas (1984)Co-writer

Fool for Love (1985)

Far North (1988)Also director

Silent Tongue (1994)Also director

Curse of the Starving Class (1994)

Simpatico (1999)

Don't Come Knocking (2005)Co-writer

Fool for Love (2007)Short film


ITV Saturday Night Theatre (1974)Episode: "Geography of a Horse Dreamer"

American Playhouse (1984)Episode: "True West"

Den sultende klasses forbannelse (1986)Norwegian adaptation of Curse of the Starving Class

Auténtico oeste (1991)Spanish adaptation of True West

Loucos Por Amor (1991)Portuguese adaptation of Fool for Love

O Verdadeiro Oeste (1995)Portuguese adaptation of True West

Pazzo d'amore (1996)Italian adaptation of Fool for Love

True West (2002)Adaptation of True West

See You in My Dreams (2004)Adapted from Cruising Paradise and Motel Chronicles

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