Sam Shepard, an actor and prolific writer, was best known for his roles in the Academy Award-winning film “The Right Stuff,” “Black Hawk Down,” and “The Notebook” as well as notably winning the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for his play, “Buried Child.”
But, sadly, on July 30, the 73-year-old passed away after years of struggling with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which is a progressive, degenerative disease that eventually causes the loss of motor control, resulting in the loss of breathing and eating abilities in those who suffer from it.
Sam Shepard delivered a remarkable performance in "The Right Stuff." It remains one of my favorites. Remembering him today. pic.twitter.com/HKSh0lo0m0
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) August 1, 2017
Most people might remember that in 2014, a popular social media trend called the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” gained momentum across the country, raising awareness and funds for the incurable disease.
However, in Shepard’s case, he kept his health struggle under wraps from the public eye.
A source reportedly close to Shepard told People that even those who worked with him had no idea he was so sick, saying the last time he or she saw the actor was at a 2015 party:
“He was walking with a cane, but he looked good. He was talking with people, really friendly. He looked like a movie star. He was so charming.”
In the same sentiment, Director Camille Thoman, who worked with the 73-year-old on his upcoming film, “Never Here,” from 2015 to 2016, said he never once let on he was struggling:
“Shortly after the film wrapped it became clear [he was sick], but while he was on set I had no idea. He had a tremendous impact on our set and on me personally because he’s such an extraordinary person to be around. He definitely set a bar. Having him around made everyone want to do their very best.”
The source told People that he passed away after living “peacefully in Kentucky,” which was one of the reasons he wished to keep his disease a secret.
Sad to say goodbye to commanding actor and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard, 1943-2017. The man had the right stuff. pic.twitter.com/0rJfUgPK7j
— Marshall Julius (@MarshallJulius) July 31, 2017
However, he might not have kept it a total secret.
His old friend and editor, LuAnn Walther, told People that Shepard battled ALS for a “couple years” before passing:
“Sam was very private and shied away from publicity, and hence he was quiet about this too. Even in these last years when it was hard, he was just constantly writing.”
In his last published novel, “The One Inside,” Shepard seemingly detailed the horrific effect ALS had on his body.
Per People, he wrote of a man who wasn’t able to get out of bed, feeling like his “limbs weren’t connected to ‘the motor’ driving his body”:
“It’s so cold. Something in his body refuses to get up. They won’t take direction — won’t be dictated to — the arms, legs, feet, hands. Nothing moves. Nothing even wants to. The brain isn’t sending signals.”
His chilling words revealed just a glimpse into what living with ALS is like — and, like his other bodies of work, will go down in history for his rawness and honesty writing.