Sam Shepard is a Pulitzer-winning playwright (“Buried Child”) and Oscar-nominated movie star (“The Right Stuff”). Johnny Dark works the deli counter in a supermarket. What are these guys doing in the same documentary? “Shepard & Dark,” set to open on September 25, is about their friendship, which began when they met in Greenwich Village in 1963 and has lasted 50 years.
In many ways, the story of these unlikely compadres is highly unusual. Their lives converged in the late ’60s when Dark married a free-spirited older woman and Shepard married her daughter, the actress O-Lan Jones. All four lived together for more than a decade, until Shepard hooked up with Jessica Lange, leaving his 12-year-old son to be raised by Jones and Dark.
But “Shepard & Dark” also aims for something universal: a meditation on long-term friendship, illuminated by excerpts from a lifetime of correspondence. If those snippets intrigue you, check out “Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark,” a complement to the film that will be published on November 1. — John Birmingham