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Sam Shepard (5 November 1943 – 27 July 2017)

If Sam Shepard had never gone into acting, he still would have left a lasting legacy in so many other areas. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, an author, a screenwriter, an occasional drummer during the late Sixties with The Holy Modal Rounders, and a two-time movie director. And he co-wrote the Bob Dylan song, Brownsville Girl. Shepard was a true virtuoso, comfortable in a variety of disciplines and able to excel in pretty much all of them.

He made a name for himself in the Sixties, writing a series of plays that won him award after award and a degree of brand-name recognition. He had a way of depicting the emotional and psychological lives of “normal” people in a way that was sincere and affecting, and several of his plays were adapted into movies, often to critical acclaim. He continued to write plays and work in the theatre even though he could have settled into acting as a single career, but Shepard always seemed to be a restless man who was always looking to be creative. As an actor, Shepard was often a calm, purposeful presence in his movies, portraying men of honour and sincerity, and his quiet, stoic demeanour was always a plus. He appeared in supporting roles for the most part, but showed when he was given a leading role that he could carry a movie and often with an ease that some of his more experienced peers couldn’t match. But even though he had tremendous skill as an actor, an innate quality that was unique to him, he didn’t quite see it that way. Let’s leave the last word to Shepard (he’d probably have appreciated it): “I didn’t go out of my way to get into this movie stuff. I think of myself as a writer.”

1 – Days of Heaven (1978)

2 – Resurrection (1980)

3 – The Right Stuff (1983)

4 – Fool for Love (1985)

5 – Crimes of the Heart (1986)

6 – Thunderheart (1992)

7 – Don’t Come Knocking (2005)

8 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

9 – Brothers (2009)

10 – Blackthorn (2011)