A sad day for Hollywood, movies, the arts in general: Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Sam Shepard, who was also a movie star and the husband of Jessica Lange, has died at a 73. In Paris, French actress Jeanne Moreau has also died, at age 89. She was one married to Hollywood director William Friedkin.
Shepard was a unique combination of actor and playwright, and excellent at both vocations. His plays like “Buried Child,” “True West,” “Fool for Love,” and “A Lie of the Mind” were off Broadway staples, and launched dozens of acting careers. Some of the material was obtuse and difficult, some of it was accessible and took right off. No matter: it was clear that Shepard was in a league of his own. His Pulitzer was for “Buried Child” in 1979.
Movies: what a career. The first time a lot of us saw him was in Terrence Malick’s1 1978 masterpiece, “Days of Heaven.” Then he had an enviable run through the 80s with “Frances” (where he met Lange), “”Resurrection,” “Raggedy Man,” “The Right Stuff,” “Country,”and cinched his career as a romantic leading man with Diane Keaton in “Baby Boom.” He never stopped working after that. I was lucky to spend a lot of time with him more recently when he was in the movie of “August: Osage County.” He was quite lovely and brilliant.
Shephard and Lange separated (not sure if they were divorced) but he was devoted to her. They each showed up at the others’ events right up to the end. He and Lange at one point lived in Virginia near Sissy Spacek and Jack Fisk, and they were all great friends while they raised their kids. It was a nice counterpoint to a Hollywood life that they all eschewed.
Before all this Hollywood hoopla, Shepard was part of a great scene of artists and writers in downtown New York including Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. He’s sort of the hero of Smith’s memoir, :Just Kids,” although he told me in 2015 that he’d never read it. Instead he read the sequel. Sam also told me he was working on an autobiography. Here’s hoping he finished it before his untimely death from ALS.
More on Jeanne Moreau later. She was a superstar.