Renowned playwright, actor and director Sam Shepard died July 27 at 73-years old, Broadway World reported. He had been diagnosed with ALS “for some time” and passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at his Kentucky home.
He’s survived by his children Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard and also his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.
“The family requests privacy at this difficult time,” a family spokesperson said in a statement.
Shepard’s acting career stretched over 50 years, and he was the author of over 44 plays as well as many books and memoirs. His work achieved much critical acclaim over the years, and he was once referred to as as “the most objectified male writer of this generation by The New Yorker.
Shepard started writing plays shortly after moving to New York City in 1963. He worked as a security guard and a busboy to support himself, and was encouraged to write by many in the industry, including Off Off Broadway pioneers Ellen Stewart and Ralph Cook.
Many of the plays Shepard wrote were about his experience growing up. His father, Samuel VI, was a pilot turned into a schoolteacher and struggled with alcoholism, Shepard told The New Yorker in 2015. His father was gone for multiple days at a time when he was a child.
In 1979, Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Buried Child. The play was presented in 1978 and was the launching pad for Shepard’s success. The play tells the story of the downward spiral of an American nuclear family. The family deals with much disappointment in trying to achieve the American Dream.
The Broadway production of the play in 1996 received five Tony Award nominations, including Best Play.
Other plays, such as 1980’s True West and 1985’s A Lie of the Mind are about the “adhesions that bruise even as they hold together families.”
Shepard’s Broadway success transitioned him into much success acting on the big screen.
One of his crowning achievements was when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Chuck Yeager in 1983’s The Right Stuff. Other roles include “Garrison” in the 2001 thriller Black Hawk Down and “Senator Reisman” in 2001’s Swordfish.
His last role on a movie screen was earlier this year in Never Here, a thriller that was released in June.
Shepard also starred in the Netflix original series Bloodline, where he depicted Robert Rayburn.
Through the years, Shepard gave back to the industry by teaching play writing and other subjects at workshops and schools. He was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986 and became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences later that year.