Hollywood's last lone ranger continues to dodge the shots

Sam Shepard, enigmatic author and actor, gave a rare audience in London last week.

He Hardly ever gives interviews, lives deep in Virginia, thinks Hollywood stinks, and does not possess a fax machine. So the packed audience at the Battersea Arts Centre on Friday night were doing their utmost to negotiate Sam Shepard's elusive personality in the short time allotted.

He'd walked in to do the reading of his own works at about the same time as his long- time partner Jessica Lange stumbled onto her own stage in the West End to do A Streetcar Named Desire.

While Lange donned Fifties costume to play the unstable Blanche DuBois, Shepard carried a whiff of the ranch and the untamed West. His plain leather jacket, lean figure and capable hands echoed the voices in the plays he read from: ordinary people fighting tiny power struggles in the heartland of America.

The audience were tense in their draughty seats, aching to question the man seen by many as today's equivalent of Sir Walter Raleigh - Pulitzer Prize winning author and actor, ex-lover of rock legend Patti Smith, ex- rancher, ex-greyhound racer, looks to die for, member of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder tour, father of Jessica Lange's eldest children.

But he hadn't spilled the beans before and he wasn't going to spill them in Battersea. He sprawled in his chair, his cow licks tracing ironic question marks over his high forehead, and dodged the guns with laconic ease. What's he being drawn to write about now? "It's the same stuff - I don't like to say, puts a hex on it." What's the challenge in creating a new work? "It's inherent in the material." Has his approach to writing changed in the last decade? "How do you answer something like that?"

He was relaxing, trading stories with the audience about his truck (a Dodge Turbo Diesel "strong enough to pull a tree right out of the ground" he drawled) when he was hit in the solar plexus by the American girl who asked if his writing resolved his personal problems.

"I don't think writing is anything to do with resolving anything," he retorted. "The amazing thing about writing is it's an adventure, things start to open up, they don't start to get more resolved. I just don't look at it as being able to put things in the package and therefore it's OK - if I start trying to resolve something in my work I shut the door on it; it stops."

Another earnest American, a peace campaigner, wanted to know if he planned to protest about "America". "Ah don't have any faith in American politics on either side, to tell you the truth," Shepard told her to a wave of applause. "I'm a writer, not a politician, but I tell you what, nobody in America is going to solve the shit that's happening there now."

What did he think of Hollywood, asked a woman at the front. "Everybody knows what Hollywood is. You've read Day of the Locusts," said Shepard. "So why carry on making films for them?" asked another man. "Shameful isn't it?" Shepard drawled.

He fielded his last question pretty much as his lover was being raped by her brother-in-law at the Theatre Royal. Each half of that unusual Hollywood couple, baring their souls on stage, in their own different way.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine