Sam Shepard (born November 5, 1943) is an American playwright, actor, and television and film director. He is author of several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs, and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child. Shepard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff (1983).
Born Samuel Shepard Rogers IV in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, he worked on a ranch as a teenager. His father, Samuel Shepard Rogers, Jr., was a teacher, farmer, and served in the United States Army Air Forces as a bomber pilot during World War II. His mother, Jane Elaine (née Schook), was a teacher and a native of Chicago, Illinois. After high school Shepard briefly attended college, but dropped out to join a travelling theater group. He avoided the draft during the Vietnam era by claiming to be a heroin addict. The year 1963 found him working as a busboy in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in New York City, New York. During this time Shepard was using illicit drugs. He was also a drummer for the eccentric late-1960s rock band The Holy Modal Rounders, featured in the movie Easy Rider (1969).
Shepard became involved in New York City's Off-Off-Broadway theater scene, beginning at the age of nineteen. Although his plays were staged at several Off-Off-Broadway venues, he was most closely connected with Theatre Genesis, housed at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan's East Village. He acted occasionally in those days, but his interests were almost strictly confined to writing, up until the late 1970s. Most of his writing was for the stage, but he had early screen-writing credits for Me and My Brother (1968) and Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970). His early science-fiction play, The Unseen Hand, influenced Richard O'Brien's stage musical Rocky Horror Show. After three years of living in England, in 1976 Shepard relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in California and was named playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco where many of his works received their premier productions. Notable work includes Buried Child (1978), Curse of the Starving Class (1978), True West (1980) and A Lie of the Mind (1985). He also continued with his collaboration with Bob Dylan that started with the surrealist film Renaldo and Clara (1978) and co-wrote with Dylan an epic, 11-minute song entitled "Brownsville Girl", included on Dylan's Knocked Out Loaded (1986) album and later compilations.