Wallace Shawn

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Wallace Shawn
Wallace Shawn 2014 (cropped).jpg
Shawn at Pen America/Free Expression Literature, May 2014.
BornWallace Michael Shawn
(1943-11-12) November 12, 1943 (age 70)
New York City, New York, United States
OccupationActor, voice actor, playwright, essayist
Years active1967–present
Notable work(s)My Dinner with Andre, The Princess Bride, The Designated Mourner
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Wallace Shawn
Wallace Shawn 2014 (cropped).jpg
Shawn at Pen America/Free Expression Literature, May 2014.
BornWallace Michael Shawn
(1943-11-12) November 12, 1943 (age 70)
New York City, New York, United States
OccupationActor, voice actor, playwright, essayist
Years active1967–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 TV series, including Gossip Girl, and repeat appearances as Grand Nagus Zek in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–99).

His plays include The Designated Mourner, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and Grasses of a Thousand Colors. He also co-wrote the screenplay for My Dinner with Andre with Andre Gregory, and he scripted Vanya on 42nd Street, a film adaptation of Anton Chekov's play Uncle Vanya. His latest film from June 2014 was A Master Builder based on the play by Henrik Ibsen.[1]

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.[2] 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.



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".[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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),[6] 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 voice-over 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.


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. His latest film opened in New York in June 2014 titled A Master Builder playing opposite Julie Haggerty and Andre Gregory.[7]

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.[2]

In June 2013, Shawn and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Chelsea Manning.[8][9]

Shawn's longtime companion is the fiction writer and actress Deborah Eisenberg.

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]

1982[10]Best Screenplay My Dinner with AndreYes
1994[10]Best Actor Vanya on 42nd Street2nd


1979Starting OverWorkshop Member
1979All That JazzAssistant Insurance Man
1980SimonEric Van Dongen
1980Atlantic CityWaiterCredited as Wally Shawn
1981Cheaper to Keep HerMugger
1981My Dinner with AndreWally ShawnAlso screenwriter
1981Strong MedicineUncredited
1982A Little SexOliver
1983How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three DaysProfessor Silverfish
1983LovesickOtto Jaffe
1983The First TimeJules Goldfarb
1983Strange InvadersEarl
1983Deal of the CenturyHarold DeVoto
1983Saigon: Year of the CatFrank Judd
1984The Hotel New HampshireFreud
1984The BostoniansMr. Pardon
1984Micki + MaudeDr. Elliot Fibel
1985Heaven Help UsFather Abruzzi
1985Head OfficeMike Hoover
1987The Bedroom WindowHenderson's Attorney
1987Radio DaysMasked Avenger
1987Nice Girls Don't ExplodeEllen
1987Prick Up Your EarsJohn Lahr
1987The Princess BrideVizzini
1988The ModernsOiseau
1989She's Out of ControlDr. Fishbinder
1989Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly HillsHoward
1989We're No AngelsTranslator
1991Shadows and FogSimon Carr
1992Unbecoming AgeDr. Block
1992Nickel & DimeEverett Willits
1992Mom and Dad Save the WorldSibor
1993The Cemetery ClubLarry
1993The Meteor ManMr. Little
1993Eligible Dentist
1994Mrs. Parker and the Vicious CircleHoratio Byrd
1994Vanya on 42nd StreetVanya
1995The WifeCosmo
1995Canadian BaconCanadian Prime Minister
1995A Goofy MoviePrincipal MazurVoice only
1995CluelessMr. Wendell Hall
1995Just Like DadStan Speigel
1995Toy StoryRexVoice only
1996All Dogs Go to Heaven 2Labrador MCVoice only
1996House ArrestVictor "Vic" Finley
1997Vegas VacationMarty
1997Just WriteArthur Blake
1997Critical CareFurnaceman
1998Blind Men
1999The Diary of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man
1999My Favorite MartianColeye
1999Toy Story 2RexVoice only
2000The Prime GigGene
2001The Curse of the Jade ScorpionGeorge Bond
2001Monsters, Inc.RexUncredited
Voice only
2002Sun GodsSpaulding
2002Love Thy NeighborClinic Doctor
2002Personal Velocity: Three PortraitsMr. Gelb
2002Mr. St. NickMimir
2003Monte WalshColonel Wilson
2003The Haunted MansionEzra
2004Teacher's PetPrincipal Crosby StricklerVoice only
2004Melinda and MelindaSy
2004The IncrediblesGilbert HuphVoice only
2004Karroll's ChristmasZeb Rosecog
2005Chicken LittlePrincipal FetchitVoice only
2006The 12th ManMarty
2006Southland TalesBaron Von Westphalen
2006Air BuddiesBillyVoice only
2007Happily N'Ever AfterMunkVoice only
2007I Could Never Be Your WomanMath TeacherUncredited
2007New York City SerenadeHimself
2008Kit Kittredge: An American GirlMr. Gibson
2008Mia and the MigooMigooEnglish language version only
Voice only
2009Capitalism: A Love StoryHimselfDocumentary
2010Jack and the BeanstalkBroker/Booker/Lancelot Squarejaw
2010Furry VengeanceDr. Christian Burr
2010Toy Story 3RexVoice only
2010Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty GaloreCalicoVoice only
2011The Speed of ThoughtSandy
2011Tower HeistMr. McBurns
2011Hawaiian VacationRexShort film
Voice only
2011Small FryRexShort film
Voice only
2012Partysaurus RexRexShort film
Voice only
2012A Late QuartetGideon Rosen
2012VampsDr. Van Helsing
2013Toy Story of Terror!RexTV special
Voice only
2013The DoubleMr. Papadopoulos
2014Don PeyotePsychotherapist
2014A Master BuilderHalvard SolnessAlso screenwriter
1982–1983TaxiArnie RossEpisode: "Love Un-American Style"
Episode: "Arnie Meets the Kids" (as Arnie)
1987–1991The Cosby ShowJeffrey "Jeff" EngelsEpisode: "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)
1992The Double 0 KidCashpotVideo
1992Civil WarsRiley Baker
1992One Life to LiveProfessor Marvel
1993MatrixMr. Gonley
1993The Pink PantherThe Little Man1 episode (voice)
1994The NannyCharles Haste1 episode
1995Something WilderRoof Inspector1 episode
1996Toy Story TreatsRexVoice only
1996–1997CluelessMr. Hall17 episodes
1994–1997Murphy BrownStuart Best4 episodes
1997King of the HillPhilip Ny1 episode
Voice only
1998The Jungle Book: Mowgli's StoryTarzan the ChimpVideo
Voice only
1998The Lionhearts5 episodes
1999Homicide: Life on the StreetFrank Hopper1 episode
1993–1999Star Trek: Deep Space NineGrand Nagus Zek7 episodes
1999CosbyMr. Fleming2 episodes
2000Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure BeginsRexVideo
Voice only
2000Teacher's PetPrincipal Crosby StricklerVoice only
2001Ally McBealMr. Dune1 episode
2001BlondeI. E. Shinn
2001Three SistersDean Webb1 episode
2003StanleyMr. Goldberg1 episode
Voice only
2002–2004Teamo SupremoGauntlet1 episode
Voice only
2004Sex and the CityMartin Grable1 episode
2005Fat ActressDr. Sigmund von Oy1 episode
2005Stargate SG-1ArlosSeason 9, episode 4: "The Ties That Bind"
2005Desperate HousewivesLonny Moon1 episode
2001–2006Crossing JordanDr. Howard Stiles8 episodes
2001–2011Family GuyBertram3 episodes
Voice only
2006Tom and Jerry: Shiver Me WhiskersPurple Pirate Paul/NarratorVideo
Voice only
2006Law & Order: Criminal IntentFilm Professor1 episode
2008The Return of Jezebel JamesGarson Leeds1 episode
2008Cashmere MafiaAnimal Handler1 episode
2008Scooby-Doo and the Goblin KingMr. GibblesVideo
Voice only
2009Law & Order: Special Victims UnitProfessor Roy Batters1 episode
2009Life on MarsThe Sorcerer1 episode
2008–2009The L WordWilliam Halsey5 episodes
2009ERTeddy Lempell1 episode
2010The Daily Show with Jon StewartDr. Alan Rubin1 episode
2010DamagesSterling Biddle1 episode
2008–2013Gossip GirlCyrus Rose11 episodes
2011Kung Fu Panda: Legends of AwesomenessTaotieVoice only
2011EurekaDoD psychological assessor Warren Hughes3 episodes
2012Fish HooksRat KingEpisode: "Guys' Night Out" (voice only)
2013-2014The Good WifeCharles Lester2 episodes
2013Adventure TimeRasheetaEpisode: "Puhoy"
2013Uncle GrandpaUle Gapa (Voice)Episode: "Belly Bros"
2014Phineas and FerbSaulEpisode: "Phineas and Ferb Save Summer"
Voice only
Video games
1996Toy StoryRexVoice only
Toy Story Activity CenterRexVoice only
2004The IncrediblesGilbert HuphVoice only
2006Family Guy Video Game!BertramVoice only
2008The Princess Bride GameVizziniVoice only
2010Toy Story 3: The Video GameRexVoice only
2012Family Guy: Back to the MultiverseBertramVoice only
1981My Dinner with Andre
1997The Designated MournerPlay
Written by
2004Marie and BruceScreenplay
The FeverPlay
2009EssaysBook collection of essays, by Haymarket Books
2010Tea TimeShort
1995Charlie RoseTV series
1 episode
Showbiz TodayTV series
1 episode
2001As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride
E! True Hollywood StoryTV series
1 episode
2005NowTV series
2 episodes
Clueless: The Class of '95
2007Strange Culture
Up Close with Carrie KeaganTV series
1 episode
2008USIDent TV: Surveilling the Southland
The Windmill Movie
2009Capitalism: A Love Story
Made in HollywoodTV series
1 episode
2012Up with Chris HayesTV series
1 episode
2014BoJack HorsemanTV series
1 episode


Play NameYear
Four Meals in May1967
The Family Play1970
The Hotel Play1970
The Hospital Play1971
Our Late Night1975
A Thought in Three Parts1976
Marie and Bruce1978
Aunt Dan and Lemon1985
The Fever1990
The Designated Mourner1997; film directed by David Hare, 1998
The Threepenny Opera2006
Grasses of a Thousand Colors2008


  1. ^ http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2014/08/140801-Film-Review-A-Master-Builder.asp
  2. ^ a b "Wallace Shawn Biography (1943-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  3. ^ Brantley, Ben. "There’s Room for Everyone Aboard a Marital Misery Tour" The New York Times. April 6, 2011.
  4. ^ "Whistlerinthedark". Whistlerinthedark.com. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  5. ^ Hill, Gary. "BOMB Magazine — Wallace Shawn by Patrick McGrath". Bombsite.com. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  6. ^ "The-Fever - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  7. ^ http://archrecord.construction.com/news/2014/08/140801-Film-Review-A-Master-Builder.asp
  8. ^ "Celeb video: ‘I am Bradley Manning’ - Patrick Gavin". Politico.Com. 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  9. ^ "I am Bradley Manning (full HD)". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  10. ^ a b "Wallace Shawn : Awards". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]