The theater community feels a deep loss today, but we who remember Sam Shepard best for his role as test pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film THE RIGHT STUFF do, too.
Yeager was an almost mythical character in that film --- the first real hero of the race for space who, ironically, didn’t get to space at all. Shepard’s interpretation combined a down-to-earth, clear-eyed realism with a powerful, dreamlike aura of astounding bravery that won him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. We who wear our deep respect for the astronauts and test pilots on our sleeves remember Shepard’s portrayal fondly.
He appeared in other films but most of his work was for the Broadway and off-Broadway stage. He wrote 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for one of them.
Apparently, he had been ill with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) for some time. He died at his Kentucky home at the age of 73. Over the years, we’ve seen the actual participants in the race for space pass into history as well. Sen. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury astronaut when he died in 2016.
This would be a great time to break out THE RIGHT STUFF, celebrate the bravery of those pilots, and watch Sam Shepard in an iconic role.