Sam Shepard, Pulitzer-Winning Playwright and Actor, Is Dead at 73


Sam Shepard, the celebrated avant-garde playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, died on Thursday at his home in Kentucky. He was 73.

A spokesman for the Shepard family said the cause was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

One of the most important and influential early writers in the Off Broadway movement, Mr. Shepard captured and chronicled the darker sides of American family life in plays like “Buried Child,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979, and “Curse of the Starving Class” and “A Lie of the Mind.”


Dallas Roberts, left, and Mr. Shepard in Caryl Churchill’s play “A Number,” at the New York Theater Workshop in 2004.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

He was widely regarded as one of the most original voices of his generation, winning praise from critics for his searing portraits of spouses, siblings and lovers struggling with issues of identity, failure and the fleeting nature of the American dream. He was nominated for two other Pulitzers, for “True West” and “Fool for Love,” which both received Broadway productions.

Mr. Shepard was also an accomplished actor, nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in “The Right Stuff.” His most recent work was in the Netflix show “Bloodline,” where he appeared as the character of Robert Rayburn. He also appeared on New York stages, winning strong reviews for his performance in the Off Broadway production of Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” in 2004.

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