Yesterday was a sad day for anyone with a love of theatre, literature or the performing arts. Sam Shepard, one of the veterans of 20th century high-intellectualism passed away at the age of 73.
Whilst the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright may be best known for Chicago, which he penned in his early-twenties, he remains a hulking figure in the critique of modern-day America – specifically, in his analysis of the breakdown of the American nuclear family unit.
Blessed with a disarmingly handsome face, Shepherd also distinguished himself as an exemplary actor, screenwriter and director.
His biggest gift to the world, however, was his near 50 plays. In every piece of work, Shepherd was committed to creating new dialogues to explore our society’s conception of “tradition”.
His razor-sharp prose often explored the binaries between past and present, progress and stagnation, as well as the relationships between parental figures and their charges.
One need only look at his 1978 Pulitzer prize-winner, Buried Child to understand his stance on how the so-called American Dream disillusioned vast swathes of the population.
Certainly, in a world plagued by economic slowdown and the ascension of Donald Trump to president, his withering critique of such edifices is as resonant as ever.
Sam Shepard died yesterday following complications from the motor neurone disease ALS. And his passing sent shockwaves around Hollywood. The actor Matthew McConaughey was captured holding back tears after being informed of the playwright’s death whilst on the red carpet.
Matthew McConaughey was captured trying to hold back tears after being informed of his co-star, Sam Shepherd’s passing.
The 47-year-old star was in the process of being interviewed on the red carpet during the premiere of Hollywood’s latest fantasy flick, Dark Tower, when a journalist from the Associated Press approached him to ask how he was processing Shepherd’s death.
The unfortunate news had clearly not reached McConaughey yet as he was startled by the reporter’s question. He appeared spooked as he queried, “Sam Shepard moved on?”.
In the video, the Wolf of Wall Street actor can be seen clutching his forehead and attempting to hold back tears as he looks away to say, “gosh, damn it”. He then asks the reporter about the cause of death, to which the reporter responds, “I don’t know”.
McConaughey starred alongside Shepherd in Jeff Nichols’ film, Mud. The coming-of-age drama which premiered in 2012 featured McConaughey as the protagonist, Mud with Shepherd playing the role of Mud’s father figure.
Talking to the reporter, McConaughey can be heard saying,
“Look, I’m not going to trivialise that situation, I just heard about it for the first time […] But I always told Jeff Nichols this, look in Mud, the whole trailer for Mud could be Sam Shepard sitting in that green chair telling the boy about who Mud is. It would be about a two-and-a-half minute trailer, but it would have been really badass.”
Becoming emotional again, the actor gives the reporter a thumbs up before pointing to the sky and saying, “we lost one of the great ones. Great writer, great mind. All right, see you in the next one, Sam.”
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Sam Shepherd.