Sam Shepard, a prolific playwright and actor, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979, has died from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He was 73.
His death last Thursday in Kentucky, from complications related to ALS, was confirmed today by family spokesperson Chris Boneau.
His family was by his side.
Shepard sidelined plans to be a veterinarian and landed in New York City in 1963 when he was just 19.
He worked odd jobs while honing his skills as a writer and built a reputation as an edgy writer of Off-Broadway plays that were often rootless and bleak.
In many ways, he drew his inspiration form his own life growing up in a military family led by a father who was hard drinking. He described him as a “dedicated alcoholic” with a “short fuse,” in a 2003 interview.
He is known for such works as True West and Fool for Love. Both were nominated for Pulitzers. He finally won in 1979 for “Buried Child.” He was hailed as one of the best writer of his time in New York magazine.
Yet, he was largely unknown until he started acting. He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in 1983 movie “The Right Stuff,” about the original American astronauts.
He also appeared in “Steel Magnolias,” “Black Hawk Down” and most recently, Netflix’s “Bloodline.” At one time, he was called the heir to Gary Cooper.
Since his tragic death, numerous celebrities have paid tributes.
Director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter: “Sam Shepard. Whenever he came on-screen, you knew you were in good hands. A frame from Days of Heaven. May he rest in love.”
Antonio Banderas shared: “Jeanne Moreau, Sam Shepard thank you for enlighten us at 24 frames per second. RIP”
“May you rest In peace, Mr. Shepard. Your works and performances have enriched, haunted and enlightened so very many of my days,” said a fan in a coda on his life.
Shepard is survived by three children, Hannah and Samuel by ex-partner Jessica Lange, and son Jesse, with partner O-Lan Jones. He’s also survived by sisters Roxanne and Sandy Rogers.
Funeral services will be private and Boneau asked fans to respect the family’s privacy.