Sam Shepard Biography

Samuel Shepard Rogers III, an American playwright, actor, and filmmaker, made significant contributions to film, theatre, and literature over a span of fifty years. With a background in education, Shepard developed a passion for the works of Samuel Beckett, jazz, and abstract expressionism during his college years. His journey into the world of theatre began in 1962 when he discovered the Off-Off-Broadway scene in New York City. Shepard’s first play, ‘Cowboys’, was completed in 1964, marking the start of his successful career. While initially focused on stage works, he expanded his repertoire by co-writing the script for the family-drama ‘Me and My Brother’ in 1969. Shepard also ventured into acting, earning recognition as a prominent character actor in both film and television, including an Oscar nomination for his role in ‘The Right Stuff’. Throughout his career, Shepard’s writing style evolved from absurdism to realism, showcasing his growth as an author and intellectual. His immense influence as a playwright and screenwriter was acknowledged with numerous accolades, including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 and ten Obie Awards for writing and directing, the highest number received by any writer or director.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Samuel Shepard Rogers III
  • Died At Age: 73
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: O-Lan Jones
    • Father: Samuel Shepard Rogers Jr.
    • Mother: Jane Elaine Schook
    • Siblings: Roxanne Rogers, Sandy Rogers
    • Children: Hannah Jane Shepard, Jesse Mojo Shepard, Samuel Walker Shepard
  • Quotes By Sam Shepard
  • Actors
  • Height: 6’2″ (188 cm), 6’2″ Males
  • Died on: July 27, 2017
  • U.S. State: Illinois
  • More Facts
  • Education: 1961 – Duarte High School, Mt. San Antonio College

Childhood & Early Life

Samuel Shepard Rogers III was born on November 5, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was the only son of Jane Elaine and Samuel Shepard Rogers, Jr. During his childhood, he was often referred to as Steve Rogers. His father was a teacher, farmer, and a US Air Force officer, while his mother was also a teacher. He had two sisters, Roxanne and Sandy Rogers. Shepard attended Duarte High School in California and later studied animal husbandry at Mt. San Antonio College.

Career as a Playwright and Screenwriter

After moving to New York, Shepard worked as a busboy at the Village Gate nightclub, where he was introduced to the world of professional theatre. He adopted the name “Sam Shepard” and became associated with Cook’s Theatre Genesis. He co-wrote the play “Cowboy Mouth” with Patti Smith and collaborated with Bob Dylan on the screenplay for “Renaldo and Clara”. Shepard joined Magic Theatre as the Playwright-in-residence and wrote several acclaimed plays, including the “Family Trilogy”.

Acting Career

Shepard made his first major appearance as an actor in the film “Days of Heaven” and received an Academy Award nomination for his role in “The Right Stuff”. He also starred in the film adaptation of his play “Fool for Love” and appeared in various television films. From 2015 to 2017, he was part of the main cast of the Netflix show “Bloodline”.

Major Works

One of Shepard’s most successful plays is “Buried Child”, which won him the Pulitzer Prize and an Obie Award. It depicts the disintegration of the American nuclear family and explores themes of disillusionment and the American Dream. The play has been performed worldwide and received critical acclaim.

Awards & Achievements

Shepard won ten Obie Awards and was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for “Buried Child”. He was also inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and received the Gold Medal for Drama at the American Academy of Arts and Letters Awards.

Personal Life

In his early days in New York, Shepard lived with fellow artist Charlie Mingus Jr. He was married to actress O-Lan Jones and had a son named Jesse Mojo Shepard. He also had a passionate affair with Patti Smith. Shepard later had a long-term relationship with actress Jessica Lange, with whom he had two children. They separated in 2009. Shepard passed away in 2017 at the age of 73.


Shepard was a member of the rock group Holy Modal Rounders and played guitar and drums. He also wrote a novel titled “The One Inside”.

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