Sam Shepard


  1. James Taylor, Two Lane Blacktop, 1971.    He turned down  director Monte Hellman   – “my wife was pregnant.”
  2. Kris Kristofferson, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, 1972.
  3. Richard Gere, Days of Heaven, 1978.    “Terrence Malick was looking for non-actors. I’d really admired Badlands and thought, well, this guy’s a real director, not a Hollywood   director, but real, ya know? He realised I wasn’t right… but called me up much later and asked if I wanted to be a dilapidated farmer. I said: Sure, sounds like me.”
  4. Scott Glenn, Urban Cowboy, 1979.    “I’m interested in working with film-makers.”
  5. Albert Finney, Shoot The Moon, 1981.   “Not interested in becoming an actor.”
  6. Jack Nicholson, Reds, 1981. A playwright as a playwright…?   Sam declined  and, anyway,  Nicholson felt  Eugene O’Neill was closer to him…  “I’m not saying I’m as dark as he was… but I’m a writer, I’m Irish, I’ve had problems with my family.” Warren Beatty (en route to a best director Oscar) knew all this when he  asked Nicholson to nominate  “an actor the public believed capable of taking Diane Keaton away from me.”  “There’s only one person,” said Jack. “Me!” 
  7. Frederic Forrest, Hammett, 1981.   A writer as a writer…!   Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas marvel grew out of asking Shepard to write (“No!”), OK, star as Dashiell Hammett. “We went through this series of absurd screen tests because Coppola wasn’t satisfied I was right…  So that didn’t work out like a lot of other ideas around that place. ”  Plus: Forrest had a contract at Coppola’s  Zoetrope combine… rapidly going under as, for instance, five years (40 script drafts!) went by on this biopic, and then Coppola re-shot the whole damn thing. Neither version was worth a nickel. The shoot lasted long enough for  co-stars Frederic Forest and Marlu Henner to fall in love, marry and divorce. 
  8. Harry Dean Stanton, Paris, Texas, 1983. “There are places where writing is acting and acting is writing,” said Sam.  “I’m not so interested in the divisions. I’m interested in the way things cross over.”  But not enough to accept German director Wim Wenders request to play  the sad, lost  Travis  in his own script. And he was right, HDS was better. “He is,” said Sam, “one of those actors who knows that his face is the story.”  The resuilt of Sam+Wim+HDS was one of the favourite  films of Akira Kurosawa, Chicago critic Roger Ebert and HDS, himself.
  9. Rutger Hauer, The Hitcher, 1985.     Before the Dutch star was chosen, the titular serial killer was described in the script(s)  as “skeletal” in nature  – just like Shepard, David Bowie, Terence Stamp, Harry Dean Stanton and Sting.
  10. Ryan O’Neal,   Fever Pitch, 1985.     No to director Richard Brooks.

  11. Mickey Rourke, 9 1/2  Weeks, 1985.  The playwright was first choice  for rampant John since proving he had The Right Stuffin 1983. Kim  Basinger reported kissing Rourke was like kissing an ash-tray. Among those missing that unique experience were Terri Garr, Andie MacDowell (she thought it was borderline sleaze; she was not wrong),  Demi Moore, Tatum O’Neal, Isabella Rossellini, Dominique Sanda, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver…  and Andie MacDowell, who thought it was borderline sleaze.  (Oh, it was way over the border!)  Shepard and Basinger  got it on in her next movie, his adaptation of his play, Fool for Love, 1985.
  12. Christophe(r) Lambert, HIghlander, 1985.   Once Sean Connery refused the lead (for the splashier role o of the 2,000-year-old Ramirez), finding the titular and immortal Connor MacLeod was not easy.  Kurt Russell actually won the role but his lover, Goldie Hawn, insisted he stay home; he dealt with Big Trouble in Little China, instead. So you can imagine the anguish of the six producers when, after also being turned down by Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Hulk Hogan, William Hurt, David Keith, Mickey Rourke, Sam Shepard, Marc Singer (the too busy top choice), Sting (also asked for a song), Patrick Swayze and Peter Weller… that they discovered that Australian director Russell Mulcahy’s choice  was the newe – Frwnch! – Tarzan
  13. Al Pacino, Revolution, 1986.     Pacino walked back in again. Silly man. (Silly film).

  14. Sam Waterson, September, 1986.

      Shepard, Walker and Waterston  

    © Rollins-Joffe Productions, 1987


    In his 2020 memoir,  Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen  called the film “a drama that asks the question: Can a group of tortured souls come to terms with their sad lives when directed by a guy who should still be writing mother-in-law jokes for Broadway columnists?”   The Bermanesque chamber piece was more of a chamber pot.  Woody Allen rewriting at lunch and again after dinner, while dropping actors including his lady Mia Farrow’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan. First to go was Annie Hall’sbrother, Christopher Walken, “too nervous,” said Woody, “for the passive, complex Peter.” Shepard took over but he was gone when Woody decided revisions were no longer enough – he had to re-shoot the entire film! Shepard, a playwright, himself, was furious and said Allen, like Robert Altman, had no understanding of actors. Another Sam came to the rescue, as he had for Interiors, Woody’s first collision with Bergmania in 1977. Only Farrow (pregnant  by the end) and Dianne Wiest stayed aboard. Denholm Elliott, too, but in a different role. Result: Woody’s biggest flop – grossing a mere $486,484. That would have  killed other directors’ careers, not Woody’s. He just carried making new films –   good, bad and otherwise – and in Europe when LA wouldn’t fund him – every… September.


  15. Will Patton, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson looked at his fellow Aussies Bryan Brown and Colin Friels for the villain Gene Hackman’s aide.  Plus Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn,  Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, John Heard, Stephen Lang, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Sam Shepard, James Spader, JT Walsh. Patton got the gig and  was cast as gay again in The Punisher, 2003.

  16. Jack Nicholson, Ironweed, 1987.     First choice for novelist William Kennedy’s hobo Francis Phelan

  17. John Lone, The Moderns, 1988.      Off for the   birth of his son:   Walker Samuel Shepard.

  18. Don Johnson, The Hot Spot, 1989.
    Robert Mitchum was the matrix for drifter Harry Madox – and first choice in 1962. Nearly 30 years later, it was to be Mickey Rourke and Debra Winger. Or Shepard, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Dennis Quaid, Tom Selleck, Patrick Swayze opposite Anne Archer, Jodie Foster, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Theresa Russell, Uma Thurman and ultimately, Virginia Madsen. Not necessarily for this movie… Replacing UK director Mike Figgis, Dennis Hopper totally changed the entire gig!  In a 2014 AV Club interview, Johnson explained how three days before shooting began Dennis “called a meeting. ‘OK, we’re not making that script. We’re making this one.’And he passed a script around the table that had been written for Robert Mitchum in the ’60s… based on a book called Hell Hath No Fury… Wow! The Figgis script was really slick and cool, and it was a heist movie. But this was real noir. The guy was an amoral drifter, and it was all about how women were going to take him down… And that was the movie that we ended up making. Hopper’s Last Tango In Texas was hailed by Chicago critic Roger Ebert as a superior work in an old tradition.” He wuz right!

  19. Kevin Costner, Revenge, 1990.      Making films like Annie, Beneath The Volcano, Prizzi’s Honour and, paradoxically, The Dead, helped keep John Huston alive. He was in a bad way when due to make Jim Harrison’s book with Shepard. Then, Costner got hold of the script. Huston didn’t want Costner. And vice-versa. While the ill Huston was laid up at Jack Nicholson’s Ventura ranch or Anjelica Huston’s Beverly Hills home, Costner – Mr Big since The Untouchable, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams – wanted to direct himself. Producer Ray Stark preferred Tony Scott. Costner directed himself, instead, in the seven-Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves. Huston died 1987.
  20. Keith Carradine,The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, 1991.     No to Edward Albee and actor Simon Callow’s debut as a director.
  21. Edward James Olmos,  Battlestar Galactica, TV, 2004-2009.      Sam (he of The Right Stuff), Harrison Ford, and Ed Harris were the somewhat lofty goals forthe 74 hours of Admiral William Adama.  Sam had the right stuff, not the right itch.Olmos (four years younger) was in by the fourth page of the scenario.




 Birth year: 1943Death year: 2017Other name: Casting Calls:  21