YEAR: 1985

ROLE:  Eddie

DIRECTOR:  Robert Altman

US PREMIERE:  December 6, 1985

Plot Summary

The "fools" in the play are battling lovers at a run-down Mojave Desert motel. May is staying at the motel when an old flame, Eddie, shows up. Eddie tries to convince May to come back to him and live in a trailer on a farm in Wyoming. May vehemently refuses. She knows that if she goes back to Eddie, their relationship will repeat the same destructive cycle it has followed before.

Throughout the play the character of the Old Man, the father of both lovers, sits to the side and talks to May and Eddie and offers commentary on each character and about himself. It is revealed that the Old Man had led a double life, abandoning each family for different periods during each child's life. The two became lovers in their high school years and when their parents finally figured out what had occurred, Eddie's mother shot herself.

Film Details
Kim Basinger.....................May
Harry Dean Stanton.....Old Man
Randy Quaid..................Martin
Publicity Stills

March 2010: In an interview published last year, Sam Shepard said that Robert Altman's 1985 movie version of his play, "Fool for Love,"was largely a mistake. "On film, it comes across as kind of a quaint little Western tale of two people lost in a motel room,"said Shepard. "In the theater it was right in front of your face, it was so intense, it was kind of scary."

Shepard wrote it shortly after breaking up with his first wife O-Lan. This dramatization of his own loss and love provides us with an intensely powerful personal, durable and dark story that has the rhythmic quality of a musicalized fight drama.

Fool for Love is the first of Pulitzer prizewinner Sam Shepard's some 40 plays to be adapted to the screen.


Vincent Canby, NY Times:
''Fool for Love," has several exceptional things going for it, namely the performances by Mr. Shepard as Eddie, Kim Basinger as May and Harry Dean Stanton as the Old Man.  As has already been demonstrated by his appearances in ''Days of Heaven,'' ''Country'' and ''The Right Stuff,'' the camera likes Mr. Shepard. He has what's usually called ''presence,'' a psychic weight that has as much to do with emotional gravity as with his lanky Cooper-esque frame, his lean face and his crooked, uncapped teeth. Something more important is apparent in his performance as Eddie - a demonic charm that expresses Eddie's sadism as well as his completely guilt-free awareness of what he's doing to May.

Film critic Frederic Brussat:
"The ensemble acting in "Fool for Love" is outstanding. Sam Shepherd's Eddie is a loner whose longings can't be lassoed. Kim Basinger's May is a woman who says no to her aching libido and is trying desperately to transcend the psychic pain that has dogged her days. Harry Dean Stanton's Old Man is a father who remains self-absorbed and oblivious to the confusions of his offspring. And Randy Quaid's Martin comes across as a simple man who is bewildered by what he hears and sees."

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times:
Robert Altman's movie version of Shepard's play stars Shepard himself, in a strong performance as Eddie... Altman does a brilliant job of visualizing this particular backwater. From the opening aerial shots of the godforsaken motel, he creates a tangibly real, dusty, forlorn world. Some of his shots are so beautiful it's hard to figure how he obtained them.

Noel Murray, A.V. Club:
Shepard's play is magnificently imagined from a visual standpoint, as Altman restlessly picks over the neon-lit motel set, staging flashbacks in the same frame as the present action.

Kim Morgan, DVD Talk:
The incest isn't the main batch of fireworks for "Fool for Love". It's the relationship between Eddie and May and the writing and acting delivered by Shepard and Basinger... Altman creates a remarkable otherworld in the dusty landscape these people inhabit. Not only does it look like an authentic, old motel but something from an existential void—a resting place for losers or a supernatural last stop in life. Shot with a painterly touch, the picture ventures into a hybrid of Wim Wenders/ David Lynchian territory that's highly provocative.

Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune:
Altman`s ability to weave dreamlike sequences is well established, most notably in the confusing but haunting "Three Women." He`s given this play much the same dreamlike overlay to all of its very real violence. And Altman has served the play well in one other way. On stage, an audience made uptight by all of the door-slamming had to relieve itself with laughter, some of which no doubt was intended by playwright Shepard. But the film isn`t very funny. Stormy love affairs, whether based on straight or kinky relationships, are no laughing matter.

People magazine:
For this film Shepard found a kindred spirit in director Robert Altman, whose recent experiments with filmed drama have broken new ground. Their collaboration bashes its way into your head and heart. Like most of Shepard, though, Fool is also ornery, exasperating and often stifled by symbols... Shepard subtly reveals the fears that haunt his macho cowboy. He insults Basinger's klutz of a boyfriend, tersely done by Randy Quaid, and lassos objects (a jukebox, a bedpost) that replace the truths he can't get a fix on. Shepard uses his crooked front teeth, rawboned body and wild, low cunning to create a performance among the year's finest. He and Basinger ignite a sexual bonfire whose embers are haunting. Like it or not, understand it fully or not, this movie is going to shake you.

Time out: 
Stanton is his usual excellent self as the man who may be a spirit from the past. Shepard is perfect as the dumb hick in cowboy gear who likes lassoing the bedpost; and Basinger, as the faded girl in a red dress, brings a curious, tatty dignity to the role, and proves at last that she can act when not required to pout in her underwear. It's the best of Altman's series of theatre adaptations, capturing the original's dreamlike musings on the nature of inherited guilt.