Wallace Shawn

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Wallace Shawn
Wallace Shawn.jpg
Shawn in September 2005
Born Wallace Michael Shawn
(1943-11-12) November 12, 1943 (age 70)
New York City, New York, US
Occupation Actor, voice actor, playwright, essayist
Years active 1967–present
Notable work(s) My Dinner with Andre, The Princess Bride, The Designated Mourner

Wallace Michael "Wally" Shawn (born November 12, 1943) is a U.S. actor, playwright, and essayist. His best-known film roles include Wally Shawn in My Dinner with Andre (1981), Vizzini in The Princess Bride (1987), and Rex the toy dinosaur in the Toy Story animated film series. He also starred in a variety of T.V. shows, including Gossip Girl.

His plays include The Designated Mourner, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and Grasses of a Thousand Colors; he also cowrote the screenplay for My Dinner with Andre with Andre Gregory, and scripted Vanya on 42nd Street, a film adaptation of Anton Chekov's play Uncle Vanya.

Early life[edit]

Shawn was born into a prominent Jewish family in New York City, where he continues to reside. He is the son of William Shawn, the long-time editor of The New Yorker, and journalist Cecille Shawn (née Lyon); his brother, Allen, is a composer.[1] Shawn attended The Putney School, a private liberal arts high school in Putney, Vermont, and graduated with an A.B. in history from Harvard College. He studied economics and philosophy at Oxford, originally intending to become a diplomat; he also traveled to India as an English teacher, on a Fulbright program. Since 1979, Shawn has made a living primarily as an actor.

Career[edit]

Playwright[edit]

Shawn at the Miami Book Fair International in 1991

Shawn's early plays, such as Marie and Bruce (1978), portrayed emotional and sexual conflicts in an absurdist style, with language that was both lyrical and violent. In a conversation with Andre Gregory, parts of which were used to create My Dinner with Andre, Shawn referred to these plays as depicting "my interior life as a raging beast." Critical response was extremely polarized: some critics hailed Shawn as a major writer, while John Simon called Marie and Bruce "garbage" and described Shawn as "one of the unsightliest actors in this city".[2] His play A Thought in Three Parts caused a minor uproar in London in 1977 when the production was investigated by a vice squad and attacked in Parliament due to allegedly pornographic content.[3]

His later plays became more overtly political, drawing parallels between the psychology of his characters and the behavior of governments and social classes. Among the best-known of these are Aunt Dan and Lemon (1985) and The Designated Mourner (1997). Shawn's political work has invited controversy, as he often presents the audience with several contradictory points of view, such as Aunt Dan and Lemon, which Shawn described as a cautionary tale against fascism. The monologue The Fever, originally created by Shawn to be performed for small audiences in apartments, describes a person who becomes sick while struggling to find a morally consistent way to live when faced with injustice, and harshly criticizes the record of the U.S. in supporting oppressive anticommunist regimes. In 1997 Shawn discussed the political nature of Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever, and The Designated Mourner in an interview. In this interview Shawn talked extensively with Patrick Mcgrath about the thematic developments between the three plays, as well as his own views on Marxist, communist and socialist politics, their relevance to American liberalism, and how government and individual responsibilities for finding solutions to the dichotomy between rich and poor in the world take hold in the characters presented in his plays.[4] Shawn's four plays have been adapted into films: The Designated Mourner (basically a film version of David Hare's stage production), Marie and Bruce, My Dinner With Andre, and The Fever. Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave stars in The Fever (2004),[5] which first aired on HBO on June 13, 2007.

Shawn has also written political commentary for The Nation, and in 2004 he published the one-issue-only progressive political magazine Final Edition, which features interviews with and articles by Jonathan Schell, Noam Chomsky, Mark Strand, and Deborah Eisenberg. Shawn is credited as translator of Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, which opened at Studio 54 in Manhattan on March 25, 2006. He appears briefly in voiceover during "Song about the Futility of Human Endeavor." He published his first nonfiction work, Essays, on September 1, 2009. It is a collection of essays that expresses his perceptions of politics and other subjects that reflect an aspect of his life.

Acting[edit]

Shawn's involvement with theater began in 1970 when he met Andre Gregory, who has since directed several of his plays. As a stage actor, he has appeared mostly in his own plays and other projects with Gregory. He made his film debut in 1979, playing Diane Keaton's former husband in Woody Allen's Manhattan and an insurance agent in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. His best-known film roles include Earl in Strange Invaders (1983) and Mr. Hall in Clueless (1995). After seeing his performance in My Dinner With Andre (1981), casting director Janet Hirshenson was so fond of his delivery of the word "inconceivable" that she cast him as the evil Vizzini in The Princess Bride (1987). Other recent roles include Baron Von Westphalen on the 2005 film Southland Tales, in Gossip Girl as Cyrus Rose, and in The Haunted Mansion as Ezra.

His rare noncomedic film roles include two collaborations with Andre Gregory and Louis Malle: the semiautobiographical dialogue My Dinner with Andre, and a combined production-and-backstage-drama of Uncle Vanya titled Vanya on 42nd Street. Shawn quite often appears on television, where he has appeared in many genres and series. He has had recurring roles as the Grand Nagus Zek on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stuart Best on Murphy Brown, Jeffrey "Jeff" Engels on The Cosby Show, Dr. Howard Stiles on Crossing Jordan, Arnie Ross on Taxi, and a reprisal of his role as Mr. Hall in the television series Clueless, based on the film. He appeared in the 1985 music video for Chaka Khan's "This is My Night." On February 4, 2010, he appeared as Dr. Alan Rubin in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He appeared in Vegas Vacation (1997) as Marty.

Voice acting[edit]

Shawn is also a voice actor for animated films and T.V. series, including the role of the timid Rex in the Toy Story franchise, Mr. Huph in The Incredibles, Principal Mazur in A Goofy Movie, Bertram in Family Guy, and Munk in Happily N'Ever After. In The Fox and the Hound, he was originally to voice Boomer, but was replaced by Paul Winchell. Shawn also replaced Jon Lovitz as Calico in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Coincidentally, Lovitz and Shawn both appeared in I Could Never Be Your Woman.

Personal life[edit]

Shawn is the son of William Shawn, the long-time editor of The New Yorker, and journalist Cecille Shawn (née Lyon). His brother, Allen, is a composer.[6]

In June 2013, Shawn and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[7][8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Wallace was honored with the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a Master American Dramatist in 2005.

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[edit]

Year Award
1982[9] Best Screenplay My Dinner with Andre Yes
1994[10] Best Actor Vanya on 42nd Street 2nd

Chlotrudis Awards[edit]

Year Award
1995[11] Best Actor Vanya on 42nd Street Yes

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1979 Manhattan Jeremiah
1979 Starting Over Workshop Member
1979 All That Jazz Assistant Insurance Man
1980 Simon Eric Van Dongen
1980 Atlantic City Waiter Credited as Wally Shawn
1981 Cheaper to Keep Her Mugger
1981 My Dinner with Andre Wally Shawn Also Screenwriter
1981 Strong Medicine Uncredited
1982 A Little Sex Oliver
1983 How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days Professor Silverfish
1983 Lovesick Otto Jaffe
1983 The First Time Jules Goldfarb
1983 Strange Invaders Earl
1983 Deal of the Century Harold DeVoto
1983 Saigon: Year of the Cat Frank Judd
1984 Crackers Turtle
1984 The Hotel New Hampshire Freud
1984 The Bostonians Mr. Pardon
1984 Micki + Maude Dr. Elliot Fibel
1985 Heaven Help Us Father Abruzzi
1985 Head Office Mike Hoover
1987 The Bedroom Window Henderson's Attorney
1987 Radio Days Masked Avenger
1987 Nice Girls Don't Explode Ellen
1987 Prick Up Your Ears John Lahr
1987 The Princess Bride Vizzini
1988 The Moderns Oiseau
1989 She's Out of Control Dr. Fishbinder
1989 Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills Howard
1989 We're No Angels Translator
1991 Shadows and Fog Simon Carr
1992 Unbecoming Age Dr. Block
1992 Nickel & Dime Everett Willits
1992 Mom and Dad Save the World Sibor
1993 The Cemetery Club Larry
1993 The Meteor Man Mr. Little
1993 Eligible Dentist
1994 Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Horatio Byrd
1994 Vanya on 42nd Street Vanya
1995 The Wife Cosmo
1995 Napoleon Echidna
1995 Canadian Bacon Canadian Prime Minister
1995 A Goofy Movie Principal Mazur Voice Only
1995 Clueless Mr. Wendell Hall
1995 Just Like Dad Stan Speigel
1995 Toy Story Rex Voice Only
1996 All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 Labrador MC Voice Only
1996 House Arrest Victor "Vic" Finley
1997 Vegas Vacation Marty
1997 Just Write Arthur Blake
1997 Critical Care Furnaceman
1998 Blind Men
1998 Noah Zack
1999 The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man
1999 My Favorite Martian Coleye
1999 Toy Story 2 Rex Voice Only
2000 The Prime Gig Gene
2001 The Curse of the Jade Scorpion George Bond
2001 Monsters, Inc. Rex Uncredited
Voice Only
2002 Sun Gods Spaulding
2002 Love Thy Neighbor Clinic Doctor
2002 Personal Velocity: Three Portraits Mr. Gelb
2002 Mr. St. Nick Mimir
2003 Monte Walsh Colonel Wilson
2003 Duplex Herman
2003 The Haunted Mansion Ezra
2004 Teacher's Pet Principal Crosby Strickler Voice Only
2004 Melinda and Melinda Sy
2004 The Incredibles Gilbert Huph Voice Only
2004 Karroll's Christmas Zeb Rosecog
2005 Chicken Little Principal Fetchit Voice Only
2006 The 12th Man Marty
2006 Southland Tales Baron Von Westphalen
2006 Air Buddies Billy Voice Only
2007 Happily N'Ever After Munk Voice Only
2007 I Could Never Be Your Woman Math Teacher Uncredited
2007 New York City Serenade Himself
2008 Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Mr. Gibson
2008 Mia and the Migoo Migoo English-Language Version Only
Voice Only
2009 Capitalism: A Love Story Himself Documentary
2010 Jack and the Beanstalk Broker / Booker / Lancelot Squarejaw
2010 Furry Vengeance Dr. Christian Burr
2010 Toy Story 3 Rex Voice Only
2010 Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore Calico Voice Only
2011 The Speed of Thought Sandy
2011 Vamps Dr. Van Helsing
2011 Tower Heist Mr. McBurns
2011 Hawaiian Vacation Rex Short Film
Voice Only
2011 Small Fry Rex Short Film
Voice Only
2012 Partysaurus Rex Rex Short Film
Voice Only
2012 A Late Quartet Gideon Rosen
2012 Vamps Dr. Van Helsing
2013 Admission Clarence
2013 Wally and Andre Shoot Ibsen Halvard Solness Also Screenwriter
2013 Toy Story of Terror! Rex TV Special
Voice Only
2013 The Double Mr. Papadopoulos
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1982–1983 Taxi Arnie Ross Episode: "Love Un-American Style"
Episode: "Arnie Meets the Kids" (as Arnie)
1987–1991 The Cosby Show Jeffrey "Jeff" Engels Episode: "Cliff's Mistake" (as Jeffrey Engels)
Episode: "The Day the Spores Landed" (as Jeff Engels)
Episode: "Cliff's Nightmare" (as Jeffrey Engels; voice)
Episode: "The Moves" (as Jeff Engels)
Episode: "Olivia's Field Trip" (as Jeffrey Engels)
1992 The Double 0 Kid Cashpot Video
1992 Civil Wars Riley Baker
1992 One Life to Live Professor Marvel
1993 Matrix Mr. Gonley
1993 The Pink Panther The Little Man 1 episode (voice)
1994 The Nanny Charles Haste 1 episode
1995 Kalamazoo Bobby Short
1995 Something Wilder Roof Inspector 1 episode
1996 Toy Story Treats Rex Voice only
1996–1997 Clueless Mr. Hall 17 episodes
1994–1997 Murphy Brown Stuart Best 4 episodes
1997 King of the Hill Philip Ny 1 episode
Voice only
1998 The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story Tarzan the Chimp Video
Voice only
1998 The Lionhearts 5 episodes
1999 Homicide: Life on the Street Frank Hopper 1 episode
1993–1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Grand Nagus Zek 7 episodes
1999 Cosby Mr. Fleming 2 episodes
2000 Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Rex Video
Voice only
2000 Teacher's Pet Principal Crosby Strickler Voice only
2001 Ally McBeal Mr. Dune 1 episode
2001 Blonde I.E. Shinn
2001 Three Sisters Dean Webb 1 episode
2003 Stanley Mr. Goldberg 1 episode
Voice only
2002–2004 Teamo Supremo Gauntlet 1 episode
Voice only
2004 Sex and the City Martin Grable 1 episode
2005 Fat Actress Dr. Sigmund von Oy 1 episode
2005 Stargate SG-1 Arlos Season 9, episode 4: The Ties That Bind
2005 Desperate Housewives Lonny Moon 1 episode
2001–2006 Crossing Jordan Dr. Howard Stiles 8 episodes
2001–2011 Family Guy Bertram 3 episodes
Voice only
2006 Tom and Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers Purple Pirate Paul / Narrator Video
Voice only
2006 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Film Professor 1 episode
2008 The Return of Jezebel James Garson Leeds 1 episode
2008 Cashmere Mafia Animal Handler 1 episode
2008 Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King Mr. Gibbles Video
Voice only
2009 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Professor Roy Batters 1 episode
2009 Life on Mars The Sorcerer 1 episode
2008–2009 The L Word William Halsey 5 episodes
2009 ER Teddy Lempell 1 episode
2010 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Dr. Alan Rubin 1 episode
2010 Damages Sterling Biddle 1 episode
2008–2013 Gossip Girl Cyrus Rose 11 episodes
2011 Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness Taotie Voice only
2011 Eureka DoD psychological assessor Warren Hughes 3 episodes
2012 Fish Hooks Rat King Episode: Guys' Night Out (Voice Only)
2013-2014 The Good Wife Charles Lester 2 episodes
2013 Adventure Time Rasheeta Episode: Puhoy
Video games
Year Title Role Notes
1996 Toy Story Rex Voice only
Toy Story Activity Center Rex Voice only
2004 The Incredibles Gilbert Huph Voice only
2006 Family Guy Video Game! Bertram Voice Only
2008 The Princess Bride Game Vizzini Voice only
2010 Toy Story 3: The Video Game Rex Voice only
2012 Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse Bertram Voice only
Writer
Year Title Role Notes
1981 My Dinner with Andre
1997 The Designated Mourner Play
Written by
2004 Marie and Bruce Screenplay
The Fever Play
Screenplay
2009 Essays Book collection of essays, by Haymarket Books
2010 Tea Time Short
Script
Himself
Year Title Role Notes
1995 Charlie Rose TV series
1 episode
Showbiz Today TV series
1 episode
2001 As You Wish: The Story of 'The Princess Bride'
E! True Hollywood Story TV series
1 episode
2005 Now TV series
2 episodes
Clueless: The Class of '95
2007 Strange Culture
Up Close with Carrie Keagan TV series
1 episode
2008 USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland
The Windmill Movie
2009 Capitalism: A Love Story
Made in Hollywood TV series
1 episode
2010 MindFlux
2012 Up with Chris Hayes TV series
1 episode

Plays[edit]

Play Name Year
Four Meals in May 1967
The Family Play 1970
The Hotel Play 1970
The Hospital Play 1971
Our Late Night 1975
A Thought in Three Parts 1976
Marie and Bruce 1978
Aunt Dan and Lemon 1985
The Fever 1990
The Designated Mourner 1997; film directed by David Hare, 1998
The Threepenny Opera 2006
Grasses of a Thousand Colors 2008

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]