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Sam Shepard Dead: Playwright and Actor Dies at 73

Playwright, actor and director Sam Shepard died on Thursday, July 27, a family spokesperson confirms to Us Weekly. He was 73.

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Shepard died peacefully at his home in Kentucky of complications from ALS. He was surrounded by his children, Jesse, Hannah and Walker, and his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers. “The family requests privacy at this difficult time,” family spokesman Chris Boneau tells Us.

Funeral arrangements will remain private. Plans for a public memorial have not yet been determined.

Sam Shepard
Sam Shepard poses for a portrait during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on January 18, 2014.

Shepard was the author of 44 plays, in addition to several books. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his stage play Buried Child. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of World War II pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 historical drama The Right Stuff.

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The Illinois native’s plays included True West, Fool for Love, Curse of the Starving Class and A Lie of the Mind, among many others. He was best known for using surrealist elements and focusing on the outskirts of American society in his shows.

Shepard made his acting debut opposite Richard Gere and Brooke Adams in the 1978 film Days of Heaven. He later starred in movies including Resurrection, Steel Magnolias, Baby BoomNever Here and The Notebook.

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Sam Shepard and Loretta Greco
Sam Shepard and Loretta Greco at ‘An Evening With Sam Shepard at Magic Theatre’ on February 11, 2013.

Loretta Greco, the artistic director at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, where Shepard was playwright-in-residence in the ’70s and ’80s, released a statement after the news of his passing. “Sam changed the face of American theatre forever. With over 40 plays, he is our field’s most raucous trailblazer and the reason most of us make theatre,” Greco said. “Actors kill for the chance to play roles crafted by Sam — and we directors are humbled by the odyssey. Sam was my kind of writer: Primal. Restless. Rhythmic. And wickedly funny. He wanted us to feel his plays. He would say, when asked about the meaning of his work, that if he knew the answers he wouldn’t need to write anymore. Thankfully, he spent a lifetime digging at the mythic bones out back for hints of what it is to be human and we are all the richer for it. We will miss him dearly.”

Shepard is survived by his three children. He shared son Jesse, 47, with ex-wife O-Lan Jones, and daughter Hannah, 31, and son Walker, 30, with actress Jessica Lange, whom he dated for nearly 30 years until 2009.

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