One of the most gifted playwrights of his generation, Sam Shepard made his reputation exploring the dark underbelly of the American family. In plays such as Curse of the Starving Class (1976), Buried Child (1979)—which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama—and True West (1981) he probed the fractures and loneliness that pervade individuals and their family relationships. Shepard grew up in a strict military family; he dropped out of college and became involved in the off-off-Broadway theater scene. Influenced by the counterculture, his plays grapple with sin and redemption through a brutal lyricism. Shepard has also enjoyed a prolific film career as an actor and screenwriter—for Paris, Texas (1985) and Fool For Love (1984), among others—while his rugged western looks and laconic style hark back to Gary Cooper. In 1983, the year of this portrait, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the pilot Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.