Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange’s Relationship Rewind: Inside Their ”Tumultuous” 27-Year Romance

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To many Sam Shepard wasn’t just an actor and a playwright, he was a god of American theater.

Earlier today news broke that the deity passed last Thursday at the age of 73 after succumbing to complications from his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. While many notable names in the theater world thought of him as an icon, a younger generation knew him as Robert Rayburn in Bloodline and Noah Calhoun’s dad in The Notebook. But he was known to his former partner of almost three decades, Oscar winnerJessica Lange, as simply “Sammy.” 

Mere hours before the playwright’s death was announced, the 68-year-old actress, who was with Shepard from 1982-2009, opened up to AARP The Magazine about her tumultuous relationship with the legend.

“I wouldn’t call Sammy easygoing and funny, but everybody has their dark side, and he always does it with a sense of humor,” the Feud: Bette and Joan actress told AARP.

But that’s not all the award-winning actress has same about her former flame…

In a 1991 interview with Vanity Fair, Lange got candid about her past and her current relationship with Shepard, saying, “He’s a great man, a natural man, which is rare. I’ve been with a lot of men and I’ve known a lot of men. And you know I’ve had romances with what you’d call famous men, and none compare to Sam in terms of maleness.”

Additionally, Lange talked about the early days of their romance to Variety in 1991: “Sam and I were so much in love, so wild about each other and being together. We were absolutely inseparable. We couldn’t even go to the grocery store without each other.”

The two first met on the set of their 1982 film, Frances. Despite Lange being involved with Mikhail Baryshnikov at the time, she began an onset affair with Shepard that she says “snowballed” in to love.

Leaving the famed ballet dancer for the writer, Lange and Shepard went on to have daughter Hannah Shepard in 1985 and son Samuel Walker Shepard in 1987. The two broke up in 2009 but did not announce that they had parted ways until 2011.

Even though they had quietly split the year before, Shepard gushed about his ex (and mentioned their passionate relationship) to The Guardian in 2010. “I mean, we have long periods of relative calm,” Shepard told the publication.

“We’re definitely an incredible match. But, you know, not without fireworks … although at this point, you know, she’s the only woman I could live with. Who could live with me! What other woman would put up with me?”

He continued, “I’d never met anybody like her. She was astounding. One of the great things about her, aside from her natural beauty, which was remarkable, was her humbleness.”

The Pulitzer prize winner went on, “I’ve never known her, ever, to lie about anything. And I couldn’t say that about…About myself. About anybody. Men lie all the time. Whereas Jessica has this absolute honesty. I think it’s a direct quality of the Midwest, of that background that she’s from.”

In addition to her two children with Shepard, Lange also had daughter Shura Baryshnikov with her ex. In the interview with AARP, Ryan Murphy‘s go-to girl also spoke of being a mother: “[Motherhood] opened my heart, made me a different person.”

“Every move you make is with someone else in mind. I loved being a mother more than anything else in the world, and being a grandmother is even more fun. There’s the chance to do it again. It’s in the perfect order of nature: You raise your children, and then the next generation comes along. They are the redemptive force in nature. Plus, it’s easier!”

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