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Sam Shepard

Shepard on the set of the film Stealth (2005).
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III
November 5, 1943 (1943-11-05) (age 66)
Fort Sheridan, Illinois, United States
Occupation actor, author, playwright
Years active 1960s-present
Spouse(s) O-Lan Johnson Jones (1969-1984)
Domestic partner(s) Jessica Lange (1983-present)

Sam Shepard (born November 5, 1943) is an American playwright, actor, and television and film director. He is author of several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs, and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play, Buried Child. As a film actor, Shepard is perhaps best known for his Academy Award nominated portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983).


Early years

Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, he worked on a ranch as a teenager. His father, Samuel Shepard Rogers, Jr., was a teacher, farmer, and served in the United States Army Air Forces as a bomber pilot during World War II. His mother, Jane Elaine (née Schook), was a teacher and a native of Chicago, Illinois.[1][2] After high school Shepard briefly attended college, but dropped out to join a traveling theater group. He avoided the draft during the Vietnam era by claiming to be a heroin addict. The year 1963 found him working as a busboy in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in New York City, New York. During this time Shepard was using illicit drugs. He was also a drummer for the eccentric late-1960s rock band The Holy Modal Rounders, featured in the movie Easy Rider (1969).


Shepard became very much involved in New York City's Off-Off-Broadway theater scene, beginning at the age of nineteen. Although his plays were staged at several Off-Off-Broadway venues, he was most closely connected with Theatre Genesis, housed at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan's East Village. He acted occasionally in those days, but his interests were almost strictly confined to writing, up until the late 1970s. Most of his writing was for the stage, but he had early screen-writing credits for Me and My Brother (1968) and Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970). His early science-fiction play, The Unseen Hand, influenced Richard O'Brien's stage musical Rocky Horror Show. After three years of living in England, in 1976 Shepard relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in California and was named playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco where many of his works received their premier productions. Notable work includes Buried Child (1978), Curse of the Starving Class (1978), True West (1980) and A Lie of the Mind (1985). He also continued with his collaboration with Bob Dylan that started with the surrealist film Renaldo and Clara (1978) and co-wrote with Dylan an epic, 11-minute song entitled "Brownsville Girl", included on Dylan's Knocked Out Loaded (1986) album and later compilations.

Shepard began his acting career in earnest when he was cast as the handsome land baron in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978), opposite Richard Gere and Brooke Adams. This led to other important films and roles, most notably his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983), earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. By 1986, one of his plays, Fool for Love, was being made into a film directed by Robert Altman; his play A Lie of the Mind was Off-Broadway with an all-star cast including Harvey Keitel and Geraldine Page; he was living with Jessica Lange; and he was working steadily as a film actor—all of which put him on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

Throughout the years, Shepard has done a considerable amount of teaching on writing plays and other aspects of theatre. His classes and seminars have occurred at various theatre workshops, festivals, and universities. During the 1970s he served a stint as a Regents Professor at the University of California, Davis.

Shepard was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986.

In 2000, Shepard decided to repay a debt of gratitude to the Magic Theatre by staging his play The Late Henry Moss as a benefit in San Francisco. The cast included Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, and Cheech Marin. The limited, three-month run was sold out.

He performed Spalding Gray's final monologue Life Interrupted for its audio release through Macmillan Audio in 2006.

In 2007, Shepard was featured playing banjo on Patti Smith's cover of Nirvana's song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", on her album Twelve.

Although many artists have had an influence on Shepard's work, one of the most significant has been actor-director Joseph Chaikin, a veteran of the Living Theatre and founder of a group called the Open Theatre. The two have often worked together on various projects, and Shepard acknowledges that Chaikin has been a valuable mentor.


At the beginning of his playwriting career, Shepard did not direct his own plays. His earliest plays were directed by a number of different directors but most frequently by Ralph Cook, the founder of Theatre Genesis. Later, while living at the Flying Y Ranch in Mill Valley, just north of San Francisco, Shepard formed a successful playwright-director relationship with Robert Woodruff, who directed the premiere of Buried Child (1978), among other plays. During the 1970s, though, Shepard decided that his vision of his plays required that he should direct them himself. He has since directed many of his own plays, but with a few rare exceptions, he has not directed plays by other playwrights. He has also directed two films but apparently does not see film direction as a major interest.

Personal life

When Shepard first arrived in New York, he roomed with Charlie Mingus, Jr., a friend of his from high school and son of the famous jazz musician. Then he lived with actress Joyce Aaron. He later married actress O-Lan Jones (born O-Lan Johnson, alias O-Lan Johnson Dark, alias O-Lan Barna) from 1969 to 1984, with whom he has one son, Jesse Mojo Shepard (born 1970). After the end of his relationship with the singer and musician Patti Smith, Shepard met Academy-Award-winning actress Jessica Lange on the set of a movie they both starred in, Frances. He moved in with her in 1983, and they have been together ever since. They have two children, Hannah Jane (born 1985) and Samuel Walker Shepard (born 1987).[3] In 2005 Jesse Shepard wrote a book of short stories which was published in San Francisco, and his father appeared together with him at a reading to introduce the book.

Although he played the legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff, and went through an airliner crash in the film Voyager (1992), Shepard is known for his aversion to flying. According to one account, he vowed never to fly again after a very rocky trip on an airliner coming back from Mexico in the 1960s. However, he allowed the real Chuck Yeager to take him up in a jet plane in 1982 when he was preparing for his role as Yeager in The Right Stuff.

In the early morning hours of January 3, 2009, Shepard was arrested and charged with speeding and drunken driving in Normal, Illinois; his blood alcohol content was allegedly 0.175. Shepard was taken to the McLean County Jail, in Bloomington, IL, and posted bond after processing.[4] He pleaded guilty to both charges on February 11, 2009 and was sentenced to 24 months probation, alcohol education classes, and 100 hours of community service.[5]

Awards and honors

Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play, Buried Child.

For his portrayal of test pilot Chuck Yeager in the film The Right Stuff, Shepard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1983.

His screenplay for the 1984 Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas garnered him a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In 1986, Shepard was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy in 1992.

In 1994 he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Of his more than forty-five plays, eleven of them have won Obie Awards. He was nominated for two Tony Awards for Buried Child in 1996, and for True West in 2000.

For his performance as Dashiell Hammett in the 1999 TV movie Dash and Lilly he received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for "Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie".

He has also won a Drama Desk Award for his play A Lie of the Mind.

His most recent accolade was a 2008 SAG nomination for "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries" for his performance as Frank Whiteley in Ruffian.


The Sam Shepard papers at the Wittliff collections of Southwestern Writers, Texas State University, were donated by the author and comprise some 26 boxes of material.[6]




  • Seven Plays, Dial Press, 1984, 368 pages, ISBN 0-553-34611-3
  • Fool For Love and Other Plays, Bantam, 1984, 320 pages, ISBN 0-553-34590-7
  • The Unseen Hand: and Other Plays, Vintage, 1996, 400 pages, ISBN 0-679-76789-4
  • Cruising Paradise, Vintage, 1997, 255 pages, ISBN 0-679-74217-4
  • Great Dream Of Heaven Vintage, 2003, 160 pages, ISBN 0-375-70452-3
  • Rolling Thunder Logbook, Da Capo, 2004 reissue, 176 pages, ISBN 0-306-81371-8
  • Motel Chronicles, City Lights, 1983, ISBN 0-87286-143-0
  • Hawk Moon, Black Sparrow Press, 1973.






External links

Simple English

Sam Shepard
File:Sam Shepard
Shepard on the set of the film, Stealth (2005).
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III
November 5, 1943 (1943-11-05) (age 67)
Fort Sheridan, Illinois, United States
Occupation actor, author, playwright
Years active 1960s-present
Spouse O-Lan Johnson Jones (1969-1984)
Partner Jessica Lange (1983-present)

Sam Shepard (born November 5, 1943) is an American playwright, actor, and television and film director.


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