Sam Shepard, the acclaimed playwright, author, and actor, has died at the age of 73.
According to Broadway World, Shepard had been suffering from ALS. He passed away peacefully at his home in Kentucky on Sunday.
Described by New York as the “greatest American playwright of his generation,” Shepard was known for works such as Buried Child, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1978, as well as True West, Fool For Love, and A Lie of the Mind. In 2009, he received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist.
As Broadway World notes, Shepard’s plays were known for “their bleak, poetic, often surrealist elements, black humor and rootless characters living on the outskirts of American society. His style evolved over the years, from the absurdism of his early Off-Off-Broadway work to the realism of Buried Child and Curse of the Starving Class.”
Shepard was also a renowned actor and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Chuck Yeasayer in 1983’s The Right Stuff. He also appeared in films like Terrence Mallick’s Days of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, Steel Magnolias, The Pelican Brief, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and served as the narrator of Charlotte’s Web. In 1986, Robert Altman helmed a theatrical adaptation of Fool For Love with Shepard cast in the lead role.
In the early 1970s, Shepard had a brief romantic relationship with Patti Smith and they remained close friends throughout his life. In 2007, he even played banjo on Smith’s cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for her album Twelve.
Watch Shepard discuss his writing process in a PBS profile: