Wallace Shawn (November 12, 1943 - ..)
Born: 12th November, 1943
Nationality: American
Profession/Occupation: Actor
Region: New York City, New York

Wallace Shawn Facts

Biography

Wallace Shawn, (born November 12, 1943, New York, New York, U.S.), American playwright and character actor whose oft-surreal probing plays found favour in the British theatre and led some to call him the leading contemporary dramatist in the United States.

Shawn was exposed to New York City’s literary culture from a young age, as his father, William Shawn, was the editor of The New Yorker from 1952 to 1987. He studied history at Harvard University and then philosophy and economics at Magdalen College, Oxford, before turning to playwriting after returning to New York. His first produced work was Our Late Night, which premiered in 1975 and won an Obie Award for playwriting. Shawn’s A Thought in Three Parts—featuring a prolonged simulated orgy in the second act—was met with parliamentary protests when it debuted in London in 1977 and was subsequently pulled from the theatre, which helped forge his reputation as a risk-taking playwright. In 1979 he made his on-screen acting debut with a small role in director Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and his “second career” soon led to his first brush with international fame.

Shawn and fellow actor-writer André Gregory starred in the film My Dinner with André (1981), which was an art-house sensation upon its release and became a cult classic in later years. The movie re-created a real-life dinner between the two principals, and the plot simply consisted of a long, meandering philosophical conversation, unusual subject matter for a modest box-office hit. Shawn went on to have memorable roles in four more Allen movies and in such films as The Princess Bride (1987), Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), and Clueless (1995). In 2013 Shawn wrote and starred in A Master Builder, the film adaptation of Henrick Ibsen’s play of the same name (1892). He then appeared in the movies Admission (2013), Maggie’s Plan (2015), The Only Living Boy in New York (2017), and Book Club (2018).

Throughout his career, Shawn acted on television as well, including a recurring role on the 1996–97 Clueless spin-off. He assumed guest roles on numerous shows, notably Murphy Brown in 1994–97, Sex and the City in 2004, The Good Wife in 2013–15, and Mozart in the Jungle in 2014–18.

Shawn’s distinctive voice also lent itself well to a number of family movies, including four Toy Story films (1995, 1999, 2010, and 2019), The Incredibles (2004), Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (2010), and Penguin Monster Beach Party (2015) and its sequels.

Meanwhile, Shawn produced highly lauded dramas. Aunt Dan and Lemon (1985) won him a second Obie Award, and he took a third in 1991 for The Fever, a caustic 90-minute monologue that dissects the power relations between the world’s poor and elite classes and finds a pervasive moral deficiency in the latter. The Designated Mourner (1996; film 1997) touched on similar ground, telling the story—through actionless narrations by the three characters—of educated and privileged people who grapple with their humanity during a chaotic civil war in an unnamed country.

In 2009 London’s Royal Court Theatre staged a three-month festival of Shawn’s work, including the premiere of his first new play in more than 10 years, Grasses of a Thousand Colors. He subsequently debuted his play Evening at the Talk House in London in 2015.

In addition to acting and playwriting, Shawn published the nonfiction collections Essays (2009) and Night Thoughts (2017).

Top 64 Wallace Shawn quotes

I have been vain since birth. I expected other people to like what I did, although my vanity has definitely diminished over the years.
Although
Been
Birth
Definitely
Did
Diminished
Expected
Like
Other
Over
People
Since
Vain
Vanity
I never planned to be an actor. It turned out I could make a living doing it.
Actor
Could
Doing
Living
Make
Never
Out
Planned
Turned
I see myself as a citizen of the planet. Even as a child, I always found it mindless to root for your own team. I was puzzled by the fact that people said their own team was better than other teams simply because it was theirs.
Always
Because
Better
Child
Citizen
Even
Fact
Found
I see
Mindless
Myself
Other
Own
People
I sincerely believe that if Bush and Cheney recognized the full humanity of other people's mothers around the world, they wouldn't commit the crimes they commit.
Around
Believe
Bush
Cheney
Commit
Crimes
Full
Humanity
Mothers
Other
People
Recognized
Sincerely
World
For me, a play is a form of writing which isn't complete until it is interpreted by actors. But it's still a form of writing. And so most of my time is spent thinking about how to write a sentence.
About
Actor
Complete
Form
How
Interpreted
Me
Most
My time
Play
Sentence
Spent
Still
Thinking
It is hard enough to make a plan for how you are going to spend an evening with somebody else. So to make a plan for how you are going to behave in 25 years seems based on a view of life that is incomprehensible to me.
Based
Behave
Else
Enough
Evening
Going
Hard
How
Incomprehensible
Life
Make
Me
Plan
Seems
We're in an emergency situation. The United States has become an absolutely terrifying country, and I would hope that I could participate in some way in stopping the horror and the brutality.
Absolutely
Become
Brutality
Could
Country
Emergency
Hope
Horror
Participate
Situation
Some
States
Stopping
Terrifying
I do things, and other people laugh at them. I rarely know what the joke is supposed to be or why they're laughing.
Joke
Know
Laugh
Laughing
Other
People
Rarely
Supposed
Them
Things
Why
I don't happen to have a sense of humor personally, so I don't know what's funny about a character... This happens to be a feature of my life generally.
About
Character
Feature
Funny
Generally
Happen
Happens
Humor
Know
Life
My life
Personally
Sense
Sense of humor
The actor's role in the community is quite unlike anyone else's. Businessmen, for example, don't take their clothes off or cry in front of strangers in the course of their work. Actors do.
Actor
Actor
Anyone
Businessmen
Clothes
Community
Course
Cry
Else
Example
For example
Front
Off
Quite
Contrary to the popular misconception, the actor is not necessarily a specialist in imitating or portraying what he knows about other people. On the contrary, the actor may simply be a person who's more willing than others to reveal some truths about himself.
About
Actor
Contrary
He
Himself
Imitating
Knows
May
Misconception
More
Necessarily
On the contrary
Other
Others
Interestingly, the actress who, in her own persona, may be gentle, shy, and socially awkward, someone whose hand trembles when pouring a cup of tea for a visiting friend, can convincingly portray an elegant, cruel aristocrat tossing off malicious epigrams in an eighteenth-century chocolate house.
Actress
Aristocrat
Awkward
Chocolate
Cruel
Cup
Elegant
Friend
Gentle
Hand
Her
House
Interestingly
Malicious
We are not what we seem. We are more than what we seem. The actor knows that. And because the actor knows that hidden inside himself there's a wizard and a king, he also knows that when he's playing himself in his daily life, he's playing a part, he's performing, just as he's performing when he plays a part on stage.
Actor
Also
Because
Daily
Daily life
He
Hidden
Himself
His
Inside
Just
King
Knows
Life
I'm not proud to be me, I'm not excited to be me, but I find that I am me, and like most other individuals, I send out little signals; I tell everyone else how everything looks from where I am.
Am
Else
Everyone
Everyone else
Everything
Excited
Find
How
I am
Individuals
Like
Little
Looks
Me
I have more free time than a lot of individuals, so, instead of talking, I sometimes write.
Free
Free time
Individuals
Instead
Lot
More
Sometimes
Talking
Than
Time
Write
I wrote my first play at the age of 10, 55 years ago, and I've always found it a fantastic relief to imagine I know what things would be like from the point of view of other individuals and to send out signals from where I actually am not. Playwrights never need to write from the place where they are.
Actually
Age
Always
Am
Fantastic
First
Found
Imagine
Individuals
Know
Like
Need
Never
Other
My personal life is lived as 'me,' but my professional life is lived as other people. In other words, when I go to the office, I lie down, dream, and become 'someone else.' That's my job.
Become
Down
Dream
Else
Go
In other words
Job
Lie
Life
Lived
Me
Office
Other
People
'The Fever' is a one-person play. I decided I would perform it myself, and I decided I would not perform it in theaters, because the character in the play says certain things that I meant.
Because
Certain
Certain things
Character
Decided
Fever
Meant
Myself
Perform
Play
Says
Theaters
Things
Would
In an amusement park, you can go on a roller coaster that carries you up and down, or you can go on another kind of ride that whirls you around in a circle. Similarly, there are different sorts of entertaining experiences in the theater.
Amusement
Another
Around
Carries
Circle
Coaster
Different
Down
Entertaining
Experiences
Go
Kind
Park
Ride
You can go to a play that is enjoyable because it's funny, and then on the next night you can go to a play that's enjoyable because it's 'disturbing.'
Because
Disturbing
Enjoyable
Funny
Go
Next
Night
Play
Then
You
I have an enormous appetite to see life as I know it presented in front of my eyes.
Appetite
Enormous
Eyes
Front
Know
Life
Presented
See
When I was a child, I did always feel that people were hiding things, and that they weren't expressing their true feelings. When adults are too complicated, and cover their emotions with layers of well-intentioned subterfuge, the child isn't seeing reality clearly enough and gets upset.
Adult
Always
Child
Clearly
Complicated
Cover
Did
Emotions
Enough
Expressing
Feel
Feelings
Gets
Hiding
Even with my wife, I find sharing soup is hard.
Even
Find
Hard
Sharing
Soup
Wife
In my mind, the plays I was writing were extreme examples of art for art's sake. I didn't necessarily think that other people would love them, though I thought they probably would.
Art
Examples
Extreme
Love
Mind
Necessarily
Other
People
Plays
Sake
Them
Think
Though
Thought
When I was first exposed to the films of Ingmar Bergman, I found them frank and disturbing portraits of the world we live in, but that was not something that displeased me. They were beautiful. I thought people would respond to my plays the way I responded to Bergman's films.
Beautiful
Bergman
Disturbing
Exposed
Films
First
Found
Frank
Live
Me
People
Plays
Portraits
Respond
I have been vain since birth.
Been
Birth
Since
Vain
My plays have been strange from the beginning, and they never got unstrange.
Been
Beginning
Got
Never
Plays
Strange
I don't see that many plays, and for me, musicals are rarely pleasing.
Many
Me
Musicals
Plays
Pleasing
Rarely
See
I probably have a higher opinion of my writing than the average person, at least when I'm in a good mood, but I don't really think of my plays as only being relevant to a particular month or year.
Average
Average person
Being
Good
Good mood
Higher
Least
Month
Mood
Only
Opinion
Particular
Person
Plays
I'm afraid that the passage of time is mostly lost on me. If you were to open up my head you would see that I'm still brooding about statements, songs and issues from the third grade. The years between 1980 and today went by very, very quickly.
About
Afraid
Between
Brooding
Grade
Head
Issues
Lost
Me
Mostly
Open
Passage
Quickly
See
I'm a very lucky man. It's a beautiful thing for a writer, to see people allowing your words to enter their own unconscious and their souls.
Allowing
Beautiful
Beautiful thing
Enter
Lucky
Man
Own
People
See
Souls
Thing
Unconscious
Very
Words
'The Princess Bride' is by far the most popular film I've ever done. I don't think I'll ever top it.
Bride
Done
Ever
Far
Film
Most
Popular
Princess
Think
Top
I think the whole system of education would change if I were in charge and had the ability to make changes. I don't think I would keep Princeton exactly being Princeton.
Ability
Being
Change
Changes
Charge
Education
Exactly
Had
I think
Keep
Make
Princeton
System
Think
I don't have a television, and I'm just not too up on television.
Just
Television
Too
Up
And my singing, I don't think I could sing Wagner or opera, but I could probably carry a tune. I was in a musical once, but it was never performed.
Carry
Could
Musical
Never
Once
Opera
Performed
Sing
Singing
Think
Tune
Wagner
I never grew up thinking, 'One day I will play so and so' because I wasn't expecting to be an actor at all.
Actor
Because
Day
Expecting
Grew
Never
One day
Play
Thinking
Up
Will
I know that I am one and I've made a living as an actor and I enjoy being an actor, but when I'm not actually doing it, I forget that I do it.
Actor
Actually
Am
Being
Doing
Enjoy
Forget
I am
Know
Living
Made
There's nothing regular about my life at all, really. I don't keep a regular schedule and every day is different. It's all rather chaotic.
About
Chaotic
Day
Different
Every
Every day
Keep
Life
My life
Nothing
Rather
Really
Regular
Schedule
You know, I haven't written as much as most other writers. Certainly maybe those who keep a more regular schedule accomplish more.
Accomplish
Certainly
Keep
Know
Maybe
More
Most
Much
Other
Regular
Schedule
Those
Who
Writers
The life of an actor can be very enviable.
Actor
Enviable
Life
Very
I was making my living from a joke about my appearance that I didn't understand, and in a way still don't, because when I look in a mirror it doesn't seem funny to me.
About
Appearance
Because
Funny
Joke
Living
Look
Making
Me
Mirror
Seem
Still
Understand
Way
I'm being mocked because I don't live up to a socially determined view of what other people think a person should look like.
Because
Being
Determined
Like
Live
Look
Mocked
Other
People
Person
Should
Socially
Think
Up
In terms of number of movies, I've been in an extraordinary amount. If you count only the minutes I'm onscreen, it's not so long.
Amount
Been
Count
Extraordinary
Long
Minutes
Movies
Number
Only
Onscreen
Terms
You
In real life, every person is the leading man or woman. We don't think of ourselves as supporting or character actors.
Actor
Character
Every
Leading
Leading man
Life
Man
Ourselves
Person
Real
Real life
Supporting
Think
Woman
Acting is trying to be absolutely truthful; to get audiences to believe that you are a dean, when, actually, not only are you not the dean, but if you walked into the building they'd probably throw you out. That's very hard.
Absolutely
Acting
Actually
Audiences
Believe
Building
Dean
Get
Hard
Only
Out
Throw
Truthful
Trying
Before I was 5, I did have a lot of time on my hands. I had no job and really no career, and I spent an awful lot of time listening to records. It was more the classical ones, really - Prokofiev, and I think there was some Mozart in there, and more impressionistic composers like Delius.
Awful
Awful lot
Before
Career
Classical
Composers
Did
Had
Hands
I think
Job
Like
Listening
Lot
My father was a jazz listener, and I think, at least before I was 5, I was not so into that. Although there were records that emphasized percussion that I liked, like Baby Dodds.
Although
Baby
Before
Emphasized
Father
I think
Jazz
Least
Like
Liked
Listener
Percussion
Records
Think
I led the life of an intellectual up until a certain age. I remember Freud's 'Interpretation of Dreams' was a big favorite when I was 11. It sounded so interesting. And it really was!
Age
Big
Certain
Certain age
Dreams
Favorite
Freud
I remember
Intellectual
Interesting
Interpretation
Led
Life
Really
Children, I always think, are just putting on a performance of being naive and not understanding anything. I have worked with children in films, and they're treated as adults and they just drop the pretense of being children.
Adult
Always
Anything
Being
Children
Drop
Films
Just
Naive
Performance
Pretense
Putting
Think
Treated
I choose parts because I don't want to be embarrassed when the movie comes out. What if my friends were to see the movie? What if my niece or nephew wandered into the theater and saw the movie? I don't want to be too ashamed of it.
Ashamed
Because
Choose
Embarrassed
Friends
Movie
Nephew
Niece
Out
Parts
Saw
See
Theater
Too

Wallace Shawn books

The Fever (Evergreen Original)

The Fever (Evergreen Original)

My Dinner with Andre (Wallace Shawn)

My Dinner with Andre (Wallace Shawn)

The Designated Mourner

The Designated Mourner

Wallace Shawn Plays 1 (Faber Contemporary Classics) (v. 1)

Wallace Shawn Plays 1 (Faber Contemporary Classics) (v. 1)

The Fever

The Fever

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

Essays by Wallace Shawn (2010-09-21)

Essays by Wallace Shawn (2010-09-21)

Your Duck Is My Duck: Stories

Your Duck Is My Duck: Stories

Grasses of a Thousand Colors

Grasses of a Thousand Colors

Aunt Dan and Lemon (Wallace Shawn)

Aunt Dan and Lemon (Wallace Shawn)

How to Improvise Over Chord Changes

How to Improvise Over Chord Changes

Four Plays: A Thought in Three Parts, Marie and Bruce, Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever

Four Plays: A Thought in Three Parts, Marie and Bruce, Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever

Wallace Shawn essays

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Genres: Poetry
Types of literature: Poems
William Wordsworth, (born April 7, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, England—died April 23, 1850,..
Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill, in full Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (born November 30, 1874, Blenheim..
Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka, in full Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka, (born July 13, 1934, Abeokuta, Nigeria), Nigerian..
Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen, original name Allen Stewart Konigsberg, legal name Heywood Allen, (born December..
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, (born August 28, 1749, Frankfurt am Main [Germany]--died March 22,..
John Milton
John Milton
John Milton, (born December 9, 1608, London, England--died November 8?, 1674, London?), English..
Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, (born November 30, 1835, Florida, Missouri,..
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson, byname Dr. Johnson, (born September 18, 1709, Lichfield, Staffordshire, England--died..