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Wallace Shawn

Wallace Shawn

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Also Known As: Wally Shawn Died:
Born: November 12, 1943 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor, playwright, screenwriter, translator, shipping clerk, teacher, Xerox machine operator

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Having proved himself as an endearing and often hilarious character player on both the big screen and on television, actor Wallace Shawn was also noted for his work as a serious and provocative playwright. Shawn announced his arrival with his OBIE-winning play "Our Late Night" (1975), which led to a small, but memorable film debut in Woody Allen¿s "Manhattan" (1979). But it was his writing and performance in the art-house hit "My Dinner with Andre" (1981) that captured the attention of Hollywood at large. From there he enlivened a number of movies in relatively minor parts before essaying his most remembered character, the maniacal Sicilian Vizzini, in "The Princess Bride" (1987). Shawn segued over to television for recurring roles on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated, 1993-99), while carving out yet another career path in animation with the voice role of the insecure Rex in "Toy Story" (1995), which he reprised in the 1999 and 2010 sequels. Always capable of elevating even the most mundane of material ¿ as he did with "My Favorite Martian" (1999) and "The Haunted Mansion" (2003) ¿ Shawn was a favorite among filmmakers and audiences, while continuing to...

Having proved himself as an endearing and often hilarious character player on both the big screen and on television, actor Wallace Shawn was also noted for his work as a serious and provocative playwright. Shawn announced his arrival with his OBIE-winning play "Our Late Night" (1975), which led to a small, but memorable film debut in Woody Allen¿s "Manhattan" (1979). But it was his writing and performance in the art-house hit "My Dinner with Andre" (1981) that captured the attention of Hollywood at large. From there he enlivened a number of movies in relatively minor parts before essaying his most remembered character, the maniacal Sicilian Vizzini, in "The Princess Bride" (1987). Shawn segued over to television for recurring roles on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated, 1993-99), while carving out yet another career path in animation with the voice role of the insecure Rex in "Toy Story" (1995), which he reprised in the 1999 and 2010 sequels. Always capable of elevating even the most mundane of material ¿ as he did with "My Favorite Martian" (1999) and "The Haunted Mansion" (2003) ¿ Shawn was a favorite among filmmakers and audiences, while continuing to earn considerable acclaim as an award-winning playwright.

Born on Nov. 12, 1943 in New York City, Shawn was raised by his father, William Shawn, the longtime editor of The New Yorker, and his mother, Cecile, a journalist. After attending high school at The Putney School, a private liberal arts school in rural New Hampshire, Shawn studied history at Harvard University before tackling finance and philosophy at the University of Oxford. In between, he traveled to India on a Fulbright Scholarship, where he spent time as an English teacher. While at Oxford, Shawn began writing plays, making his debut as a playwright with "Four Meals in May" (1967), which he wrote for the university¿s drama contest. Shawn set up shop back in New York, where he earned a living teaching English, Latin and drama while continuing to write plays. He finally had his first produced play with "Our Late Night" (1975), which staged at New York City¿s Public Theater and won him the 1975 OBIE Award for Best New Play. Meanwhile, Shawn made his acting debut in his own stage translation of Machiavelli's "The Mandrake" (1977). Two years later, he made a brief, but indelible first impression on screen, playing Diane Keaton's ex-husband in Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (1979), whom the protagonist (Allen) dismisses as a "homunculus."

That same year, Shawn appeared as an insurance agent in Bob Fosse¿s "All That Jazz" (1979), before writing and starring in one of his rare dramatic films, "My Dinner with Andre" (1981), a thinly-veiled autobiographical drama centered around an extended conversation over dinner between friends (Shawn and co-writer André Gregory) that became a surprise art-house hit and announced Shawn as both a writer and performer worthy of note. Shawn went on to become a movie fixture of sorts, acting in as many as five films a year by the mid-1980s and logging parts in "Strange Invaders" (1983), "Micki & Maude" (1984) and "Heaven Help Us" (1985). He typically made the most of even the most thankless of parts, as he did in a brief, but memorable bit as the radio superhero Masked Avenger in Woody Allen's "Radio Days" (1987), famously intoning "Beware, evildoers! Wherever you are!" Shawn next delivered arguably his most beloved and lasting performance in Rob Reiner¿s classic fairy tale "The Princess Bride" (1987), in which he played the Sicilian criminal mastermind Vizzini, who kidnaps Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) with a master swordsman (Mandy Patinkin) and a hulking giant (André the Giant), only to meet his "inconceivable" match in a battle of wits with a mysterious man in black (Cary Elwes).

Having already made his presence known on the small screen with guest shots on "Taxi" (ABC, 1978-1983) and a recurring role as the Huxtables¿ neighbor on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992). Following another OBIE Award win for the rather unpleasant stage drama "The Fever" (1991), Shawn became a favorite of "Star Trek" fans with his oft-hilarious guest stints as the Ferengi Grand Nagus Zek, the financial kingpin of the avaricious aliens and a frequent thorn in the side of Quark (Armin Shimmerman) throughout the series run of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (syndicated, 1993-99). He next reunited with André Gregory to star opposite Julianne Moore in "Vanya on 42nd Street" (1994), an experimental drama in which life starts to imitate Anton Chekhov¿s classic Uncle Vanya with Shawn playing the title role. In "Clueless" (1995), he played a nerdy high school teacher who finds happiness with another teacher (Twink Caplan), thanks to a nice but superficial student (Alicia Silverstone), a role he reprised on the short-lived sitcom version that ran on ABC during the 1996-97 season. Though the show moved to UPN for another two seasons, Shawn bowed out of the role to pursue other projects, including voicing the insecure Rex the Tyrannosaurus in the animated hit "Toy Story" (1995).

All throughout his acting career, Shawn continued to write for the stage, with his play "The Designated Mourner" (1996) premiering in London with Mike Nichols and Miranda Richardson in the lead roles. Director David Hare turned the production into a feature film the following year. Meanwhile, Shawn's always welcome presence enlivened a series of middling comedies, including "Vegas Vacation" (1997) and "My Favorite Martian" (1999), while reprising his voice role as the inept Rex for "Toy Story 2" (1999). Back on television, Shawn enjoyed a couple of episodes on "Cosby" (CBS, 1996-2000) and recurring stint as Dr. Howard Stiles on the crime drama "Crossing Jordan" (NBC, 2001-07). Following a cameo appearance as Rex in "Monsters, Inc" (2001), Shawn did his best as a supporting performer in "Duplex" (2003) and "The Haunted Mansion" (2003). A reunion with Woody Allen in "Melinda and Melinda" (2004) was followed by voicing the demanding boss of Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) in the animated hit "The Incredibles" (2004). He next portrayed megalomaniacal industrialist Baron von Westphalen in the dark sci-fi comedy "Southland Tales" (2006), before landing recurring roles on "The L Word" (Showtime, 2004-09) and "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007- ). Back to voice work, Shawn once again reprised Rex the Green Dinosaur for "Toy Story 3" (2010), while giving life to Calico in "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" (2010).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Maggie's Plan (2015)
2.
 Robo-Dog (2015)
3.
 Don Peyote (2014)
4.
 Double, The (2014)
6.
 Fear of Falling (2013)
7.
8.
 Admission (2013)
9.
 Toy Story 3 (2010)
10.
 Furry Vengeance (2010)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in New York's upper East Side
1965:
Traveled to India as an English teacher on a Fulbright program
1967:
Wrote first play "Four Meals in May" for an Oxford drama contest
:
Supported himself working as English, Latin, and drama teacher in New York
1975:
First produced play, "Our Late Night" at NYC's Public Theater
1977:
Commissioned by stage director Wilford Leach to write translation of Machiavelli's "The Mandrake"
1977:
Stage acting debut, a small part in "The Mandrake"; discovered by Woody Allen's casting director Juliet Taylor
1979:
Made film debut playing Diane Keaton's ex-husband in "Manhattan"; first film with writer-director Woody Allen
1981:
Screenwriting debut (with Andre Gregory), "My Dinner With Andre"; directed by Louis Malle; also co-starred
1982:
Played Marilu Henner's love interest on ABC sitcom "Taxi"
1985:
Wrote play "Aunt Dan and Lemon" that opened at Royal Court Theatre in London
1987:
Played memorable evil Vizzini in fairy tale comedy "The Princess Bride"
1987:
Appeared as the Huxtable family's neighbor on NBC's "The Cosby Show"
1993:
Landed recurring role as Ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (Syndicated)
1994:
Reunited with Andre Gregory for Louis Malle film "Vanya on 42nd Street"
1994:
Began playing recurring character of Stuart Best, a former news anchor on CBS sitcom "Murphy Brown"
1995:
Hilariously played debate teacher Mr. Hall in Amy Heckerling's teen comedy "Clueless"
1995:
Voiced Rex, an inept and insecure Tyrannosaurus figure in Pixar animated film "Toy Story"
1996:
Reprised role of debate teacher Mr. Hall for short-lived ABC sitcom "Clueless"
1996:
Wrote play "The Designated Mourner"; the following year, was adapted into a film directed by David Hare
1999:
Again voiced Rex in animated sequel "Toy Story 2"
2000:
Starred with Deborah Eisenberg in NYC premiere of "The Designated Mourner"
2001:
Re-teamed with director Woody Allen for "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"
2001:
Landed recurring role as psychiatrist Dr. Howard Stiles on NBC's "Crossing Jordan"
2004:
Voiced Gilbert Huph, Bob Parr's boss in Pixar animated feature "The Incredibles"
2005:
Again collaborated with writer-director Woody Allen for "Melinda and Melinda"
2007:
Portrayed a megalomaniacal industrialist in Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales"
2008:
Cast in recurring role on Showtime's "The L Word"
2008:
Appeared with Abigail Breslin in family film "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl"
2008:
Played recurring role on The CW teen drama "Gossip Girl" as Leighton Meester's stepfather
2009:
Appeared in Michael Moore documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story"
2010:
Reprised voice of Rex the green dinosaur in "Toy Story 3"
2010:
Voice character of Calico in animated sequel "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore"
2013:
Cast opposite Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in "Admission," directed by Paul Weitz
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Education

Harvard University: Cambridge , Massachusetts -
University of Oxford: Oxford , England -
University of Oxford: Oxford , England -
The Putney School: Putney , Vermont -

Notes

"Actor-playwright Wallace Shawn once told an interviewer: 'I actually believe that what we Americans are doing in the world is wrong. So, even though I have this moderately affable personality in person, I have no interest in leaving an American audience feeling great. I don't think they SHOULD feel great.'"

--From Lawrence Christon, "Wallace Shawn Turns Up the Heat", Los Angeles Times Calendar, May 12, 1991.

"We Americans have the nerve and effrontery not only to savagely protect our interests, but to insist that we be paid and complimented at the same time for being warm-hearted and humanitarian. We are used to reading about the crimes of the Russians or the Chinese and enjoying the feeling that so many terrible things that were being done in the world were not our fault. Now that we're living in this New World Order with just one superpower, that kind of fantasy may be less available to us." --From Lawrence Christon, "Wallace Shawn Turns Up the Heat" in Los Angeles Times Calendar, May 12, 1991.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Deborah Eisenberg. Writer.

Family close complete family listing

father:
William Shawn. Editor, publisher. Worked at THE NEW YORKER; born in 1907; died on December 6, 1992; changed spelling of last name in 1932.
mother:
Cecille Shawn. Journalist. Married William Shawn on September 1, 1928.
brother:
Allen Shawn. Composer. Younger; collaborated with Shawn on an opera entitled "The Music Teacher".
sister-in-law:
Jamaica Kincaid. Author. Married Allen Shawn in 1979.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Our Late Night"
"A Thought in Three Parts"
"The Hotel Play"
"Marie and Bruce"
"Aunt Dan and Lemon"
"The Fever" Noonday
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