Shepard had been unwell for some time, according to reports (Image: Getty Images North America)
  • Shepard had reportedly been ill for some time and died on Sunday at his home in Kentucky
  • The award winning writer has written over 40 plays in his lifetime

Stars have paid tribute to US playwright and actor Sam Shepard following his death at the age of 73.

The star, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in The Right Stuff in 1983, died at his home in Kentucky on July 27.

A spokesman for the family said he died from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease.

Born in 1943, Shepard grew up on a California ranch and went on to become an actor and prolific playwright, penning more than 40 plays.

Shepard wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child in 1979.

A production of the play, starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, finished a run at London's Trafalgar Studios earlier this year.

The actor was highly regarded for his dark plays (Image: AFP)

He was also nominated for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play "True West" and the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play "Fool for Love".

The star's films included Black Hawk Down, Fool For Love, The Notebook and he recently appeared in Netflix series Bloodline.

He also starred in Steel Magnolias, Bright Angel, Voyager, Safe Passage and The Good Old Boys.

Shepard was in a relationship with actress Jessica Lange for almost 30 years and they had two children together.

In an interview with Vanity Fair from 1991, Lange opened up about their relationship.

The actress said: "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.”

Shepard had another child with his former wife O-Lan Jones and also previously dated singer Patti Smith.

He is survived by his children - Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard, and sisters Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.