Sam Shepard, ‘Bloodline’ actor and Pulitzer-winning playwright, dead at 73

Sam Shepard at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Image: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Sam Shepard, Pulitzer-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor who played legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff and the Rayburn family patriarch in the Netflix drama series Bloodline, has died. He was 73.

Shepard died Thursday at his Kentucky home of complications from Lou Gehrigs disease, a family spokesman confirmed Monday morning.

Shepard was nominated for three Pulitzers, winning for the 1979 drama Buried Child. His plays explored the dark underside of American family life, portraying marriages, sibling rivalries and other family dynamics struggling to survive the fragile American dream.

His other Pulitzer nominations came for the Broadway productions True West and Fool for Love.

But Shepard was perhaps more widely known for his on-screen roles, including The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s 1983 adaptation of the Tom Wolfe historical novelization of the early days of the space program. Shepard was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for playing Yeager, the swashbuckling, larger-than-life flyboy who’s still considered the greatest test pilot in American history.

More recently, Shepard appeared on Netflix’s Bloodline, playing Robert Rayburn, the Florida resort owner and family patriarch under the constant pressure of his family’s many secrets, whose character died at the end of Season 1.

Sam Shepard

Image: Courtesy of boneau/Bryan-brown

Shepard also wrote several screenplays, including Paris, Texas and Robert Altmans Fool for Love. His novel The One Inside was published this past February.

Shepard is survived by three children, Jesse, Hannah and Walker, and two sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.

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