Sam Shepard fixes on staying in the present
Source: Chicago Sun-Times - October 6, 2011


At age 68, screen legend Sam Shepard is willing to share his life secrets.

The notoriously private actor, who shuns most interviews, actually opens up in a surprising way. "Iíll tell you the great secret that Iíve learned at this age. Itís about staying in the present. Itís not an easy trick. The Dalai Lama seems to do well at it ó and we can all aspire to do what heís doing," Shepard says during a phone interview from his Kentucky farm.

"Not many other people seem to do well at staying in the present, and you have to remind yourself. I think the problem is that life tries to make us not stay in whatís happening to us right now. What Iíve learned now is that itís very easy with age to get lost in the past or project oneself into the future. To stay in the present is the most difficult thing at all, but well worth it., if possible. Thatís the aim."

The native of north suburban Fort Sheridan is aiming for box office with his film "Blackthorn," opening Friday. Itís set in Bolivia, where Butch Cassidy is calling himself James Blackthorn. Longing for one last sight of his home, he joins forces with a young robber while gangs and lawmen try to hunt them down.

Q: Were you a fan of the Paul Newman and Robert Redfordís "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?"

Sam: To be honest, I thought the original movie was something of a cartoon. I thought it was two movie stars having a good time, to tell you the truth. It was also very enjoyable, but Iím just not sure how evocable of what those characters were in that version. The film ďBlackthornĒ was true to the real legend while wrapped up in one of the best scripts Iíve read in the last 10 years.

Q: What surprised you about the real Butch Cassidy legend?

Sam: I did a lot of research at a library in Archer, Texas, and found quite a bit of material about the original gang. I donít think a lot of people know that Butch Cassidy was actually a Mormon from Utah. He was also a great horseman at a young age. When he was a teenager, he didnít seem too close to his father, but he did admire a man in town who broke horses. His name was Butch. Thatís why he took on that nickname. At a young age, this man was breaking wild colts and it turns out this guy was also stealing cattle. He talked Butch into stealing horses and cattle. Itís where he got his beginning as an outlaw and figured out how easy it was to make money.

Q: Many women to this day say that the veterinarian you played in "Baby Boom" is the perfect sensitive guy. Did you wreck things for other guys who might be a tad less sensitive?

Sam: (Laughing) Iíve never heard that before. Wow! I didnít know. I had so much fun doing that movie. Every film Iíve done with Diane Keaton has been fun. We have an extraordinary bond. Sheís this fantastic combination of brilliance in comedy and intelligence. A dream! I just did another film with her about a woman who rescues a dog off the freeway and then I lose the dog. Itís a brilliant comic script about us searching for the dog and meeting all these whacked-out characters.Ē

Q: What do you remember from your days in Fort Sheridan?

Sam: I was born near Fort Sheridan, but we were immediately shipped out. My mother was on the trail of my father, who was an Air Force pilot, and eventually we settled in California. ... Essentially, I grew up out in the Mojave Desert near Arizona. Iím not sure I ever felt at home anywhere but in my truck. I was never attracted to the Hollywood buzz or the party scene. Thatís why I spend a lot of time at my place in Kentucky these days.

Q: Youíve done so many iconic films. Do you have a favorite?

Sam: I donít really have a favorite. Some of them were great to shoot and not such great movies. Sometimes it was the other way around. I do like "The Right Stuff" because there are so many great actors in it and I had a great time. The funny thing is I didnít do any of the flying. I hate flying. Flying on a jet isnít even my cup of tea. I have courage on horses, but Iím chickens ó when it comes to flying.