Wallace Shawn


Actor, Playwright

About

Also Known As
Wally Shawn
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
November 12, 1943

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 writi...

Family & Companions

Deborah Eisenberg
Companion
Writer.

Bibliography

"The Fever"
Wallace Shawn, Noonday (1991)
"Our Late Night"
Wallace Shawn (1975)
"A Thought in Three Parts"
Wallace Shawn
"The Hotel Play"
Wallace Shawn

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.

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 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 Andre 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 (Andre 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, 2007-12). 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).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Toy Story 4 (2019)
Voice
Marriage Story (2019)
Book Club (2018)
The Only Living Boy in New York (2017)
Maggie's Plan (2015)
Robo-Dog (2015)
The Double (2014)
Christmas at Cartright's (2014)
Don Peyote (2014)
Fear of Falling (2013)
A Master Builder (2013)
Admission (2013)
Jack and the Beanstalk (2010)
Furry Vengeance (2010)
Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Voice
New York City Serenade (2009)
Himself
The Windmill Movie (2008)
Himself
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008)
I Could Never Be Your Woman (2008)
Mia and the Migoo (2008)
Voice
Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King (2008)
Mr. Gibbles
Happily N'Ever After (2007)
Voice
Southland Tales (2007)
Tom and Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers (2005)
Barnacle Paul
Chicken Little (2005)
Voice
The Incredibles (2004)
Gilbert Huph
Melinda and Melinda (2004)
Karroll's Christmas (2004)
Disney's Teacher's Pet (2004)
Duplex (2003)
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Monte Walsh (2003)
Colonel Wilson
Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (2002)
Mr Gelb ("Greta")
Mr. Saint Nick (2002)
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
My Favorite Martian (1999)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Noah (1998)
Zack
The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998)
Just Write (1997)
Arthus Blake
Critical Care (1997)
Vegas Vacation (1997)
House Arrest (1996)
All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996)
Voice
Toy Story (1995)
A Goofy Movie (1995)
Voice
Clueless (1995)
Canadian Bacon (1995)
The Wife (1995)
Cosmo
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)
Horatio Byrd
Kalamazoo (1994)
Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)
The Double O'Kid (1993)
Cashpot
The Cemetery Club (1993)
The Meteor Man (1993)
Mom and Dad Save the World (1992)
Un-Becoming Age (1992)
Dr Block
Nickel & Dime (1991)
Shadows And Fog (1991)
We're No Angels (1989)
She's Out of Control (1989)
Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989)
The Moderns (1988)
Die Wholesale (1988)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Vizzini
Nice Girls Don't Explode (1987)
Ellen
Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
John Lahr
Radio Days (1987)
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Head Office (1986)
Heaven Help Us (1985)
The Bostonians (1984)
Crackers (1984)
Turtle
Micki & Maude (1984)
Dr Elliot Fibel
The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)
Lovesick (1983)
Deal Of The Century (1983)
Harold De Voto
Strange Invaders (1983)
Saigon - Year of the Cat (1983)
The First Time (1982)
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Wallace Shawn
A Little Sex (1981)
Atlantic City (1980)
Simon (1980)
All That Jazz (1979)
Manhattan (1979)
Jeremiah
Starting Over (1979)

Writer (Feature Film)

A Master Builder (2013)
Screenplay
Fear of Falling (2013)
Screenplay
The Fever (2007)
Screenplay
The Fever (2007)
Source Material (From Play: "Fever")
The Designated Mourner (1997)
Play As Source Material ("The Designated Mourner")
The Designated Mourner (1997)
Screenwriter
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

A Master Builder (2013)
Producer

Cast (Special)

How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days (1984)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Prime Gig (2001)
Blonde (2001)
The Third Pig (Do Not Use) (1996)
Voice
Just Like Dad (1996)

Life Events

1967

Wrote first play "Four Meals in May" for an Oxford drama contest

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

Appeared as the Huxtable family's neighbor on NBC's "The Cosby Show"

1987

Played memorable villain Vizzini in fairy tale comedy "The Princess Bride"

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

Appeared with Abigail Breslin in family film "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl"

2008

Cast in recurring role on Showtime's "The L Word"

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

2014

Played eccentric composer Winslow Elliott on "Mozart in the Jungle"

2017

Appeared in the romance drama "The Only Living Boy in New York"

2017

Made a guest appearance on "Mr. Robot"

2018

Played Dr. John Sturgis on "Big Bang Theory" spinoff "Young Sheldon"

2018

Returned as Rex for the long-anticipated video game "Kingdom Hearts III"

2019

Reprised Rex again for "Toy Story 4"

Photo Collections

My Dinner with Andre - Movie Poster
My Dinner with Andre - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

Simon (1980) - Epstein, Rats And Chickens Austin Pendleton as Becker leads the team at the comical “Institute For Advanced Concepts” in flattering professor Alan Arkin (title character) into believing he’s being brought on as a colleague, rather than a test subject, introducing Madeline Kahn as Dr. Mallory with a powerful pitch, in writer-director Marshall Brickman’s Simon, 1980.
Simon (1980) - Did You Get The Fluids? Madeline Kahn as scheming Dr. Malllory, with her colleagues at the unglued “Institute For Advanced Concepts” (William Finley, Austin Pendleton, and Wallace Shawn as Eric Van Dongen) confirms she’s collected bodily fluids from Alan Arkin, the unwitting title character, the professor they’re planning to brainwash, who believes he’s conducting his own research, with a sensory deprivation tank, in Marshall Brickman’s Simon, 1980.
Simon (1980) - Dare To Dream! At the unbridled “Institute For Advanced Concepts,” boss Becker (Austin Pendleton) introduces an idea, picked up by Hundertwasser (Max Wright), with help from Wallace Shawn, and Doris the computer (voice of Louise Lasser!), introducing Alan Arkin as the title character professor, director Marshall Brickman shooting on location at Columbia, in Simon, 1980.
My Dinner With Andre (1981) - The LIfe Of A Playwright Co-writer and co-star Wallace Shawn opens, narrating, playing very much himself, Louis Malle directing, on his way to meet friend Andre Gregory, in My Dinner With Andre, 1981.
My Dinner With Andre (1981) - Does It Have Bones? Playwright Wallace Shawn playing himself, continues his narration, finally seated with his old advocate Andre Gregory, also as himself, early in their encounter in a Manhattan restaurant, Louis Malle directing My Dinner With Andre, 1981.
My Dinner With Andre (1981) - Hitler's Architect Andre (Gregory) finishing his update on his activities since they last met, with playwright friend Wallace Shawn, both playing themselves as the quail arrives, Louis Malle directing his single-conversation feature, My Dinner With Andre, 1981.
Bostonians, The - Our Emancipation From the opening credits, scenes introducing Ransome (Christopher Reeve), cousin Olive (Vanessa Redgrave), Miss Birdseye (Jessica Tandy), Pardon (Wallace Shawn) and Dr. Prance (Linda Hunt), in the Merchant-Ivory production of Henry James' The Bostonians, 1984.
Bostonians, The - I Want To Make History Journalist Pardon (Wallace Shawn) trying to persuade Olive (Vanessa Redgrave) to introduce her blossoming feminist friend Verena (Madeleine Potter) to lecture circuit, Harvard men fawning, in the Merchant-Ivory production from Henry James' novel, The Bostonians, 1984.
Radio Days - Masked Avenger Woody Allen is the narrator and Seth Green is his younger self, recalling his quest for "Masked Avenger" paraphernalia, and his Rabbi (Kenneth Mars), mother (Julie Kavner) and father (Michael Tucker) in Radio Days, 1987.

Trailer

Family

William Shawn
Father
Editor, publisher. Worked at THE NEW YORKER; born in 1907; died on December 6, 1992; changed spelling of last name in 1932.
Cecille Shawn
Mother
Journalist. Married William Shawn on September 1, 1928.
Allen Shawn
Brother
Composer. Younger; collaborated with Shawn on an opera entitled "The Music Teacher".
Jamaica Kincaid
Sister-In-Law
Author. Married Allen Shawn in 1979.

Companions

Deborah Eisenberg
Companion
Writer.

Bibliography

"The Fever"
Wallace Shawn, Noonday (1991)
"Our Late Night"
Wallace Shawn (1975)
"A Thought in Three Parts"
Wallace Shawn
"The Hotel Play"
Wallace Shawn
"Marie and Bruce"
Wallace Shawn
"Aunt Dan and Lemon"
Wallace Shawn

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.