Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor Sam Shepard died on Thursday (27th July) at his home in Kentucky. He was 73.
According to Chris Boneau, a spokesperson for Shepard’s family, the actor passed away from complications related to ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was with his family at the time of his death.
“The family requests privacy at this difficult time,” added Boneau.
For the uninitiated, ALS (or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. According to the ALS Association, the disease usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and approximately 20,000 Americans can have the disease at any given time.
Best known for his Pulitzer-winning play “Buried Child” (1979), the accomplished playwright has written 44 plays, starred in more than 50 films, and had more than a dozen roles on television. Some of Shepard’s most notable acting works include “The Right Stuff” (which earned him an Oscar nomination), “Steel Magnolias”, “Black Hawk Down”, and most recently, Netflix’s “Bloodline.”
Shepard is survived by his 2 sisters – Sandy and Roxanne Rogers – and his 3 children: 47-year-old Jesse Mojo (from his marriage to O-Lan Jones), as well as 31-year-old Hannah Jane and 30-year-old Samuel Walker (from his longtime relationship with Jessica Lange).
Upon hearing the news, many celebrities and fans expressed their grief. “I loved Sam. He has been a huge part of my life, who I am, and he will remain so. I will let others talk about the importance and beauty of his work in theatre and film,” his good friend actor Ed Harris told PEOPLE.
Some of Shepard’ famous friends have taken to social media to mourn the star. See their heartfelt tweets here:
A hero of theatre. A hero of writing. A hero of acting. A hero of mine. Sam Shepard RIP.
— Nikolaj CosterWaldau (@nikolajcw) July 31, 2017
Sam Shepard is one of the greats. These eyes saw so much, and he wrote of what he saw with fearless, timeless honesty. RIP maestro. pic.twitter.com/pIY4FWxXtZ
— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) July 31, 2017
Jeanne Moreau, Sam Shepard thank you for enlighten us at 24 frames per second. RIP pic.twitter.com/fPi6HTLnzp
— Antonio Banderas (@antoniobanderas) July 31, 2017
R.I.P. Sam Shepard – cowboy poet dramatist of the American family shadow. A legend.
— RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) July 31, 2017
I read every play at age 14.
When my solo show was at NYTW I got to use his dressing room from "A Number."
Sam Shepard is my hero.
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) July 31, 2017
"I hate endings. Just detest them." — Sam Shepard pic.twitter.com/itu4IGaZnW
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) July 31, 2017
Rest in peace, Sam Shepard. You’ll be missed, always.