Shepard also enjoyed a connection with the rock’n’roll world. He occasionally played drums for psychedelic folk outfit The Holy Modal Rounders in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And in 1971 he worked with then-partner Patti Smith on a play based on their relationship, Cowboy Mouth. The production opened and closed the same night. He also collaborated with Bob Dylan on the surreal Renaldo and Clara film released in 1978.
Shepard wrote many of his most acclaimed plays after he became playwright-in-residence at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 1975. These included Buried Child, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978 and picked up five Tony Award nods. During this period Shepard also decided that he needed to direct his own plays as well as write them.
He also kept his hand in as an actor, making his on-screen debut in the 1978 romantic drama Days of Heaven. Shepard later picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the test pilot Chuck Yeagar in 1983’s The Right Stuff. In 1986 Shepard assumed the leading role in the film of his play Fool for Love, directed by Robert Altman.