Sam Shepard, actor and playwright, is dead at 73

Sam Shepard, the award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, has died of complications from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 73.

The Fort Sheridan, Ill. native launched his celebrated career Off-Broadway in the 1960s with early plays that were often absurdist and surreal in style. But he is also known for more realistic dramas that reveal the dark side of the American life.

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Sam Shepard in 2014.

(Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Among them is the well-known “Buried Child,” for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979. Shepard wrote the work, he has said, “to destroy the idea of the American family drama.”

John Malkovich (right with Jeff Perry) starred in the original Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1982 production of “True West,” directed by Gary Sinise.

John Malkovich (right with Jeff Perry) starred in the original Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1982 production of “True West,” directed by Gary Sinise.

(Michael Brosilow)

Other plays with dark streaks include “Curse of the Starving Class” and “A Lie of the Mind.”

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Shepard also starred as an FBI agent in “Thunderheart.”

Shepard mined a similar vein in “Fool for Love,” about a desperate — and a desperately inappropriate — couple, and “True West,” about brawling brothers.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Shepard was also a busy film actor who made nearly 70 movies. He left memorable marks in high-profile films like “Days of Heaven,” “Paris, Texas,” and “Country,” which starred his partner of nearly 30 years Jessica Lange.

Shepard earned a 1983 supporting actor Academy Award nomination for playing pilot Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff.”

His most recent acting work was in the Netflix TV series “Bloodline.”

He is survived by three children, Jesse, Hannah and Walker; and two sisters.

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