The Inscrutable, Ubiquitous Wallace Shawn

With Guest Host John Harwood.

From “The Princess Bride” to “My Dinner with Andre “and “A Master Builder,” actor and writer Wallace Shawn joins us.

Actor Wallace Shawn attends special screening of "Turks and Caicos" hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on Monday, April 7, 2014 in New York.  (AP)

Actor Wallace Shawn attends special screening of “Turks and Caicos” hosted by Vogue and The Cinema Society at the Crosby Street Hotel on Monday, April 7, 2014 in New York. (AP)

You know him as an impish villain in “The Princess Bride,” or an improbable Lothario in “Manhattan,” or the voice of Rex the Dinosaur in “Toy Story.” But Wallace Shawn’s real passion is not acting but writing. He spent 15 years translating and adapting a 19th century Norwegian play by Henrik Ibsen – which is now a new movie, “A Master Builder,” starring Shawn and his friend Andre Gregory. We’ll ask how he balances the twin sides of his working life – and competing demands from audiences and his own conscience. This hour, On Point: a conversation with Wallace Shawn.

– John Harwood


Wallace Shawn, actor, screen writer and playwright. Star of the new film, “A Master Builder,” among many others.

From The Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: Wallace Shawn: Wrestling With Success — “[Wallace Shawn] sees himself as a writer, even though he’s never really been accepted as one, he says. The 70-year-old Mr. Shawn finds playwriting more central to his identity and compares acting to walking a cute dog. ‘People stop and say, ‘Oh my God, your dog is great, I love your dog!’ ‘ he says. ‘In a way, it’s very gratifying, and you start thinking, ‘They really like my dog!’ But it’s not quite you.'”

New York Observer: Wallace Shawn, Hollywood’s Favorite Comic Villain, Wrestles with the Double Life — “>Wallace Shawn lives in Chelsea. Meet him at a café in the neighborhood, and, making conversation while perusing the menu, ask what street he lives on, and he will begin smiling that gleeful, rueful, slightly malevolent smile that, along with his bouncing, perpetually astonished, faintly lisping voice, makes him such an indelible comic villain on TV and in movies. Smirking madly, he will decline to name a street, explaining that his mother was a ‘brilliant woman’ with ‘too much emotional energy to devote to her children,’ and as a result he is quite secretive.”

The Paris Review: Wallace Shawn, The Art of Theater No. 17 — “I love going to plays. There’s a subconscious side to it, obviously—some people like to be spanked for XYZ psychological reasons, and I like to go to plays, and I can’t entirely explain why. But on the more conscious level, I simply love watching actors act.”

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