The actor-playwright talks about his new movie, cutting and cowboy boots
Shepard laughs more than you'd think,
considering the actor-playwright's
sun-cooked cowboy persona, which dons
the dusty, romantic despair of a desert
Namely, Shepard laughs at me. He has a
great dry chuckle that heh-heh-hehs
whenever I demonstrate my sweeping
ignorance of things cow, horse, rope and
ranch. This happens often.
remembered as Chuck Yeager in "The Right
Stuff," Shepard was in Austin on
Saturday to screen his film "Don't Come
Knocking" during South by Southwest. He
was disappointed that the movie wasn't
playing at the Paramount Theatre.
"That's one of the reasons I wanted to
do it," he says in a soft drawl. "That
beautiful big theater.
"Instead," he laughs, "it's in some
stockyard theater." (It screened at the
Shepard co-wrote "Don't Come Knocking"
with director Wim Wenders, their second
collaboration since "Paris, Texas."
lean, with striking blue eyes, Shepard,
62, cuts a suave figure in a black
leather blazer, blue jeans and fancy
cowboy boots. He sits down in the Four
Seasons hotel bar and orders iced tea.
He has written dozens of plays,
including "Fool for Love" and "True
West," and acted in more than 40 films.
those films is Terrence Malick's "Days
of Heaven." Shepard was having dinner
with Malick and Wenders that night. I
ask if I can come. He just laughs.
Yesterday I interviewed John C. Reilly.
He says hi. Do you have any words about
He's here? I didn't see him. He's a
remarkable actor. We had a lot of good
fun doing "True West" together (in 2000
on Broadway, with Philip Seymour
Hoffman). It was unique in that he and
Philip would switch roles every two
nights. The transformations were
amazing. Philip just won the Academy
Award, bless his heart.
How does "Don't Come Knocking" fit
into your body of work? It's set in a
familiar world of yours with a familiar
character, but it's steeped in
valediction and redemption much like
Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven."
I really don't think about any of my
work like that. I don't know how to
categorize it. I just go instinctively
with certain ideas and allow those ideas
to play themselves out. Because I'm the
same person, obviously there's going to
be similarities with what's done before.
But if anything, Wim and I were trying
to avoid similarities to "Paris, Texas."
Yet there are thematic similarities
between the two films.
Of course there are. The main characters
share the same sort of alienation and
strandedness and remoteness.
Is that where the wide-open settings
come into play, as metaphors for the
Yes. It's interesting to set characters
like that against an overwhelming
landscape, almost like he's lost in the
What kind of boots are those?
Leddy? Is that a famous brand?
Yeah, man! Where you from? (Laughs)
These are made in Fort Worth. They're
That's ostrich? I notice your belt
buckle's kind of elaborate, too.
I have cutting horses. I won this.
You won that? It's like a trophy?
Yeah. WHERE are you from?
Can you tell me what cutting is?
It's an activity with quarter horses
where you go in and separate cattle and
keep the calf from getting back into the
herd. It's an old art form.
You do that?
The buckle says you won it in 2003.
Is it gold, some valuable item?
It's Montana silver.
What's next for you?
I'm in the middle of a play right now.
One of yours that's currently being
staged or a new one you're writing?
I'm writing a play. I'm a playwright.
I know. (He laughs.) Your
(Pulitzer-winning) play "Buried Child"
is being staged right now.
It's a workshop production that I didn't
even know about. And someone's doing
"The Late Henry Moss." And I'm acting in
a new film in Shreveport. You follow
horse racing at all? Probably not. There
was a famous filly called Ruffian in the
'70s, an extraordinary horse. Every time
she ran she broke a track record. She
died in a match race against a colt,
snapped her leg. I'm playing her
Sounds perfect for you. Who's directing?
A guy from Quebec. I don't really know
his name. (Laughs) A French guy.