Sam Shepard on Why He Prefers Writing Plays: “You can travel farther in language than you can in any film”
You really won’t see Sam Shepard in a blockbuster movie (okay, he was in Stealth, but that’s about it), so seeing Shepard’s name in the credits of a film is probably a good indication that the movie is at least well-written. That’s because Shepard has always been as much of a writer as an actor and finds himself drawn to quality scripts. In a conversation with The Guardian, he talks about how he values the strength of a film script and why he primarily writes for theater these days.
Shepard admits that he chooses his roles based on how a character is written. He explains, “I think it’s based on the character. So many contemporary scripts are written by committee and they’re pretty obviously written by committee. Within the first three to five pages, you can tell how many writers were on this sucker. If there’s one writer, it’s very distinct and usually they have a hold of something. The people I enjoy working with now are what they used to call ‘auteurs’: people who write their own material, then shoot it, and they’re very rare. I mean, there’s a handful of them.”
While Shepard has only written two films in the past twenty years (Silent Tongue and Don’t Come Knocking), he has written more than a half dozen plays during that same period. He admits he is more comfortable with the immediacy and unlimited options presented by actors on a stage. He says, “It’s all handmade, theatre – we’re not so dependent on technological stuff. That’s what I love about it. On stage, you’re not limited at all because you’re free in language: language is the source of the imagination. You can travel farther in language than you can in any film.”
Sam Shepard is in the upcoming film, Out of the Furnace, also starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck