Movie Producer and Paris Native Judd Payne remembering Shepard

Actor and Pulitzer Playwright Sam Shepard passed away last Thursday of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Shepard leaves behind a legacy of iconic work as well as a little ‘o award winning screenplay called “Paris, Texas.”

Samuel Shepard Rogers IV was born on November 5, 1943, in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was the eldest of three children. He began writing at a very early age as a way of escaping from what he called his “dysfunctional family.” He bounced around as his father was in the military finally landing in Duarte, CA where he graduated from high school in 1961. During these years he also worked as a stable hand at a horse ranch in Chino from 1958-1960. He then went on to study agriculture at Mount Antonio Junior College for a year thinking of becoming a veterinarian. However, when a traveling theater group, the Bishop’s Company Repertory Players came through town, he joined and left home. After touring from 1962-1963 with the group, he then moved to New York City and worked as a bus boy at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village.

I would like to say at this point, he was discovered and the rest is history, which is true. It was also just the beginning for Shepard. He went on to write play after play and eventually earned a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for “Buried Child.”

In the 80’s, Shepard made many movies most of us remember such as “Baby Boom,” “Steel Magnolia’s,” “Black Hawk Down” and others. What I didn’t realize, he co-wrote the movie “Paris, Texas” along with L. M. Kit Carson. The movie housed an all star cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski, and Hunter Carson. The film won the grand prize at the 1984 Cannes Festival. If you haven’t seen the movie I encourage you to give it a try. It has been deemed as “the film that made nowhere hip” by the Texas Observer.

I decided to reach out to movie producer and Paris native, Judd Payne for his fondest memory of Sam Shepard. “My favorite story working with Sam was when he and Jessica Lang cornered me at the after party for the premiere of “Walker Payne” in New York and made it very clear they did not like the music. In fact, they questioned why I, as the producer, could ever allow it to happen in the first place. All I could think about as they went on and on was the collaboration he had with Ry Cooder on Paris, Texas and how amazing the music was. Two legends letting me have it and I loved every moment. And for the record, I thought the music was pretty good despite their criticism.”

There is no doubt that the Sam Shepard’s of the world are far and few between. Over the years he wrote more than 55 plays, acted in more than 50 films and had more than a dozen roles on television.

I think Judd summed this article up best by stating, “Sam brought so much to his character in the movie and was a true professional. He was always prepared and when off screen liked to drink a little tequila, dance, and have a good time in the small South Carolina town where we were shooting. I’ll never forget working with one of the true greats.” 

Shepard was 73 years-old at the time of his passing.

Source:, Texas Observer