He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff.” He was also the author of forty-four plays, as well as several books, including short stories, essays, and memoirs. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play “Buried Child.”
As BroadwayWorld notes, “Shepard’s plays are chiefly known for their bleak, poetic, often surrealist elements, black humor and rootless characters living on the outskirts of American society.”
In 2009, he received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a master American dramatist. Shepard was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986. Shepard was also a dedicated teacher of the arts, and he led classes and seminars at a variety of venues throughout his career.
Shepard was already an established name in the theater when he began appearing in movies, and he first major credited role was as The Farmer in Terrence Malick’s 1978 opus “Days of Heaven.” While always remaining steadfast in his affection for the stage, he went on to star in such films as “Resurrection,” “Country,” “Baby Boom,” and “Steel Magnolias.”
In his later years, he starred in a variety of features, including roles in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Snow Falling on Cedars,” and “Mud.” His last film, “Never Here,” was directed and written by Camille Thoman and debuted at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival. He also had a recurring role on the television series “Bloodline.”
His screenwriting credits include co-writing turns on such lauded features as “Zabriskie Point,” “Paris, Texas,” and “Fool for Love.” While he directed a pair of features, “Far North” and “Silent Tongue,” he was far more prolific on the stage side of things.
His 50-year friendship with Johnny Dark (stepfather to his first wife, O-Lan Jones) was the subject of the 2013 documentary “Shepard & Dark” by Treva Wurmfeld.
He is survived by his three children.