New York Times reported Monday morning that the actor, screenwriter and playwright passed away peacefully in his Kentucky home last Thursday. A Shepard family spokesman told the Times that the cause of death was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Shepard's star never soared to blockbuster heights, but his career is certainly the envy of any actor and writer. Not only was he nominated for a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar for his part in 1983 astronaut drama "The Right Stuff," he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play "Buried Child."
Yes, Ryan Gosling's "Notebook" dad was also one of the most accomplished playwrights of his generation, authoring 44 plays, plus 26 writing credits on IMDb, some of which were adaptations of his plays.
Most recently, Shepard played the patriarch of the complicated Rayburn family on the first season of critically acclaimed crime drama "Bloodline," which fizzled out with critics by its third and final season. He also had a small, but pivotal role in 2013 Julia Roberts-Meryl Streep drama "August: Osage County." Other film credits include "Midnight Special," "Mud" and "Out of the Furnace" and "Black Hawk Down."
Shepard had three children, two of which he shared with longtime partner Jessica Lange ("American Horror Story"), who he split with in 2009.
Hollywood stars immediately took to Twitter to mourn the loss.
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
RIP Sam Shepard. Ride on, genius.— marc maron (@marcmaron) July 31, 2017
Earlier this year I worked on Sam Shepard's True West. His words and characters gave an actor countless gifts to play with.— Ethan Embry (@EmbryEthan) July 31, 2017
He was a master.
A great man of the theater has passed. Thank you, Sam Shepard. RIP.— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) July 31, 2017
God no!— Ron Perlman (@perlmutations) 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
First became a Sam Shepard fan as a playwright when I was in Buried Child @BU_SOT Tremendously talented actor as well. Gone too soon. RIP— Michael Chiklis (@MichaelChiklis) July 31, 2017