ABOUT SAM
 
Films about Sam
  This So-Called Disaster
   
  Shepard & Dark - More info
   
Children
Son Jesse Mojo Shepard - born May 1970 - More info
Daughter Hannah Jane Shepard - born January 13, 1986 - More info
Son Samuel 'Walker' Shepard - born June 14, 1987 - More info
 
Homes
Sante Fe, New Mexico: 1983-1986
Charlottesville, Virginia: 1986-1995
Stillwater, Minnesota: 1995-2004 - More info
One Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village: 2005-2010
Midway, Kentucky  (Horse farm)
Sante Fe, New Mexico
 
BIOGRAPHY

Sam Shepard ranks as one of America's most celebrated dramatists. He has written nearly 50 plays and has seen his work produced across the nation, in venues ranging from Greenwich Village coffee shops to regional professional and community theatres, from college campuses to commercial Broadway houses. His plays are regularly anthologized, and theatre professors teach Sam Shepard as a canonical American author. Outside of his stage work, he has achieved fame as an actor, writer, and director in the film industry. With a career that now spans nearly 40 years, Sam Shepard has gained the critical regard, media attention, and iconic status enjoyed by only a rare few in American theatre. Throughout his career Shepard has amassed numerous grants, prizes, fellowships, and awards, including the Cannes Palme d'Or and the Pulitzer Prize. He has received abundant popular praise and critical adulation. While the assessment of Shepard's standing may evidence occasional hyperbole, there can be little doubt that he has spoken in a compelling way to American theatre audiences, and that his plays have found deep resonance in the nation's cultural imagination.

Samuel Shepard Rogers IV was born on November 5, 1943 in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. In the early years, Sam, the eldest of three children, led a rather nomadic life living on several military bases. His father was an army officer and former Air Force bomber during World War II while his mother was a teacher. His childhood experience of living in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father would often provide the recurrent dark themes in his writing as well as a preoccupation with the myth of the vanishing West. His writing commonly incorporated inventive language, symbolism, and non-linear storytelling while being populated with drifters, fading rock stars and others living on the edge.

The family finally settled in Duarte, CA where Sam graduated from high school in 1961. In his high school years he began acting and writing poetry. He also worked as a stable hand at a horse ranch in Chino from 1958-1960. Thinking he might become a veterinarian, Sam studied agriculture at Mount Antonio Junior College for a year; but when a traveling theater group, the Bishop's Company Repertory Players came through town, Sam joined up and left home. After touring with them during 1962-1963, he moved to New York City and worked as a bus boy at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village.

Sam began focusing his efforts on writing a series of of avant-garde one-act plays and eventually found his way to the off-off-Broadway scene to Theatre Genesis, a ragtag group that met in an upstairs room at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. There he had his first two plays produced on a double bill - "Cowboys" (1964) and "The Rock Garden" (1964). After the University of Minnesota offered him a grant in 1966, he won OBIE Awards for "Chicago," "Icarus' Mother" and "Red Cross" - an unprecedented feat to win three in the same year. In 1967, Sam wrote his first full-length play, "La Turista," an allegory on the Vietnam War about two American tourists in Mexico, and was honored again with his fourth OBIE.

After receiving an OBIE for "Melodrama Play" (1968) and "Cowboys #2" (1968), Sam received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. He put his music skills taught to him by his father to use by playing drums and guitar in the rock band, the Holy Modal Rounders, in which he played for the next few years while continuing to write plays. In 1969 he married O-lan Jones Dark and together they had a son, Jesse Mojo Shepard. At this time, Sam made tentative steps toward screenwriting, having his first teleplay, "Fourteen Hundred Thousand" (NET, 1969), broadcast on television. He got a taste of Hollywood when he was one of several screenwriters on Michelangelo Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" (1970). In 1971, after a high-profile relationship with singer-poet Patti Smith - despite being married to actress O-Lan Jones Dark - Sam and his family moved to London, where he spent three years writing more plays, including "The Tooth of the Crime" (1972). The play crossed the Atlantic for a U.S. production in 1973, winning the young playwright yet another OBIE.

In 1974, Sam returned to the United States, where he was set up as the playwright in residence at the Magic Theater in San Francisco, a post he held for the next ten years. Meanwhile, he joined Bob Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue," the singer-songwriter's traveling band of musicians who covered the northern hemisphere in the mid-1970s. He was originally hired to write a movie about the tour, but instead produced a book later on called "The Rolling Thunder Logbook". He then entered the cinema world with the lead role in Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" (1978), which served to raise his profile. It was a lucky stroke. The screenplay was written by Rudolph Wurlitzer, who was also on Dylan's tour. Despite his branching out into other avenues, playwriting remained Sam's stock and trade.

Returning to the theater, Sam wrote some of his finest work, including several plays that later proved to be his most famous and revered. He produced the first two of a series of plays about families tearing themselves apart, which debuted off-Broadway. "Curse of the Starving Class" debuted off-Broadway in 1978 followed by "Buried Child" the same year. Though both plays added to his OBIE collection, "Buried Child" earned the playwright the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979. He also began his collaboration with actor-writer-director Joseph Chaikin of the Open Theater, with both contributing to "Tongues" (1978) and "Savage/Love" (1979).

For the next installment of his family tragedy series that he started with "Curse of the Starving Glass," Sam wrote "True West" (1980), using a more traditional narrative to depict a rivalry between two estranged brothers. First performed at the Magic Theater in San Francisco, "True West" was revived on numerous occasions and starred several high-profile actors over the years, including Gary Sinese, John Malkovich, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly. Meanwhile, thanks to his performance in "Days of Heaven," Sam began landing other roles in features with greater regularity. Tall, lanky and brooding, his weathered good looks served him well on screen. In 1980 he co-starred with Ellen Burstyn in "Resurrection" followed by a very small role in "Raggedy Man" a year later and then a more substantial role in the biopic "Frances" (1982). That would prove to be an important film on a personal note because it introduced him to his future companion, Jessica Lange. Two years later, he ended his marriage with O-lan Jones.

Despite being involved in theater for almost two decades at this point, Sam had shied away from directing anything he wrote. That changed with "Fool for Love" (1983), which depicted a pair of quarreling lovers at a Mojave Desert motel and earned him his 11th overall OBIE award, but his first for Best Direction. He next landed perhaps his most widely recognized film role, playing Chuck Yeager in the epic drama about the birth of America's space program, "The Right Stuff" (1983). This would earn him an Academy Award nominiation. His restrained and minimalist performance - which mirrored the real life Yeager - was hailed by critics and audiences, including the man he portrayed on film. After starring opposite Jessica in the rural drama, "Country" (1984), Sam took his prose collection - "Motel Chronicles" - and incorporated it a screenplay for Wim Wenders'  "Paris, Texas" (1984), which won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He next adapted his own play, "Fool for Love" (1985), for director Robert Altman, in which he also took the leading role of Eddie.

Sam made another triumphant return to the stage as writer and director with "A Lie of the Mind" (1986), a gritty three-act play about two families suffering the consequences of severe spousal abuse. It was first staged off-Broadway at the Promenade Theater. Once again, the playwright earned several awards and accolades, including a Drama Desk Award and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best New Play. As his career progressed, Sam began exploring other avenues of creative expression with more frequency, which left less time to focus on the theater. While early in his career he had at least one play - if not several - released just about every year, he began writing fewer plays by the late 1980s. After producing the lesser-known "A Short Life of Trouble" (1987), he co-starred in Beth  Henley's quirky drama "Crimes of the Heart" (1986) with Diane Keaton and again with the Oscar-winning actress in the romantic comedy "Baby Boom" (1987). Sam then made his feature directorial debut with "Far North" (1988) starring his long-time companion.

In 1989 he took on a small, but very noticeable role in the successful comedy-drama, "Steel Magnolias" about six Southern belles with backbones as tough as nails.  After writing the blackmail drama "Simpatico" (1993) for the stage, he made a return behind the camera for the metaphysical Western-cum-Greek tragedy, "Silent Tongue" (1994). After his induction into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994,  he reunited with Chaikin for "When the World Was Green" (1996), a play commissioned for the Olympic Arts Festival in Atlanta and reprised for the Signature Theater Company's 1996-97 season that showcased several of his plays. In 1996 his restaging of "Buried Child" on Broadway with direction by Gary Sinese earned a Tony Award nomination. Meanwhile, he published "Cruising Paradise: Tales" (1997), a collection of 40 short stories that explored the themes of solitude and loss.

As the new millennium approached, Sam found himself in demand more as an actor, which gave him greater exposure to audiences, but unfortunately also limited his stage output for a spell. Through the 90s, he appeared in about fourteen films, some television productions, including three westerns - "The Good Old Boys" and "Streets of Laredo" in 1995 and then "Purgatory" in 1999. A&E's biopic, "Dash and Lilly" was well received the same year. He began the decade with Volker Schlöndorff's "Voyager" (aka Homo Faber), in which he gave an impressive performance opposite Julie Delpy. That was followed by three mediocre films, "Bright Angel" and "Defenseless" in 1991 and then "Thunderheart" with Val Kilmer in 1992. During the next two years he co-starred in two substantial mainsteam films - "Pelican Brief" (1993) in the role of Julia Roberts' lover and "Safe Passage (1994) as Susan Sarandon's husband. In 1997 he was back on screen in the romantic drama, "The Only Thrill", co-starring for the third time with Diane Keaton.

Following a  role in "Snow Falling on Cedars" (1999) and a screen adaptation of "Simpatico" (1999), Sam played the Ghost of Hamlet's father in the contemporary adaptation of "Hamlet" (2000), which he followed with a supporting role in "All the Pretty Horses" (2000). Returning to playwriting, Sam then wrote "The Late Henry Moss" (2001), which debuted at the Magic Theater. Continuing to act more than write, he was seen in numerous onscreen projects, including the exciting war film, "Black Hawk Down" (2001), "Swordfish" (2001) and "The Pledge" (2001) starring Jack Nicholson.

As time wore on and the world became more darkly complex, Sam's writing started becoming more political as a reflection of the times. With "The God of Hell" (2004), the playwright sought to tackle what he deemed "Republican fascism". On the big screen he had a small role in "The Notebook" (2004). Remarkably,  he returned to performing on stage for the second time in his career ("Cowboy Mouth" being the first in 1971) and co-starred with Dallas Roberts in the Caryl Churchill cloning drama, "A Number", which opened Off-Broadway in November 2004.

It was time to team up once more with Wim Wenders as scriptwriter and lead actor for "Don't Come Knocking" (2005) in which Jessica plays his old girlfriend. He was then cast as the commander of a top secret Navy squadron in "Stealth" (2005), followed by a supporting role in the Mexican Western, "Bandidas" (2006) opposite Penelope Cruz and Selma Hajek. After narrating the endearing "Charlotte's Web" (2006), Sam earned a SAG nomination for his performance in "Ruffian" (ABC, 2007). The same year he played Frank James in the brooding and beautiful film, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".

Then it was back to the theater scene with two plays written for Irish actor Stephen Rea - "Kicking a Dead Horse" (2007) and "Ages of the Moon" (2009). Both premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and were then transported across the Atlantic to off-off Broadway. Three smaller films followed with a perfect role in Jim Sheridan's "Brothers" (2009) in which he gives a fine portrayal of a taciturn military father.

2010 began with the publication of Sam's collection of short stories, "Day out of Days". For onscreen productions, he had the lead role in Mateo Gil's film, "Blackthorn", in which he played Butch Cassidy.

The following year brought the end of his long-time relationship with actress Jessica Lange with whom he had two children. He began spending more time in New Mexico with an internship at the Sante Fe Institute. On the big screen, his biggest role in 2011 was playing a CIA agent in "Safe House" with Denzel Washington.

In March 2012, Sam shared the stage with Patti Smith at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. When summer rolled around, he headed to New York City where his new play, "Heartless" premiered at the Signature Theatre. In the fall a documentary called, "Shepard & Dark", directed by Treva Wurmfeld, entered  the film festival circuit.

Three major films premiered in 2013 - the Huckleberry Finnish "Mud" with Matthew McConaughey, the gritty Jeff Nichols' thriller, "Out of the Furnace" and the Tracy Letts dysfunctional stage-to- screen drama, "August: Osage County". In June the Wittliff Collections at Texas State opened a new literary exhibition to showcase the Shepard archives. Called "The Writer’s Road: Selections from the Sam Shepard Papers", the exhibition was slated to run through February 2014. A book was also published by Texas State in conjunction with the exhibit called "Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark". Sam spent most of November in Ireland preparing for his new play, "A Particle of Dread", which premiered at the Londonderry: City of Culture festival.

Discovery Channel's "Klondike" mini-series debuted in January 2014 followed by Sam's appearance at the Sundance Film Festival to promote the Jim Mickle indie film, "Cold in July".