Nov. 12th, 1943
New York City, New York, USA
Guest TV Roles
Dr. Howard Stiles
Dr. Warren Hughes
American character actor and writer Wallace Shawn has one of those fun, mischievously homely faces just made to entertain. Though he got out of the starting gate rather slowly, he has since excelled on stage, TV and film while managing to turn himself into a winner with his loser-type looks. Woody Allen's character in the movie Manhattan (1979) amusingly describes Wallace's character as "a homunculus," which is a pretty fair description of this predominantly bald, wan, pucker-mouthed, butterball-framed, slightly lisping gent. Wallace made his movie debut in Allen's heralded classic playing Diane Keaton's ex-husband.
Born to privilege on November 12, 1943, in New York City, Wallace was the son of renowned editor William Shawn of "New Yorker" fame and educated at both Harvard University, where he studied history, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Wallace initially taught English in India on a Fulbright scholarship, and then English, Latin, and drama back in New York. A keen interest in writing and acting, however, soon compelled him to leave his cushy position and pursue a stage career as both playwright and actor. During his distinguished career, Wallace turned out several plays. "Our Late Night", the first of his works to be performed, was awarded an off-Broadway Obie in 1975. "A Thought in Three Parts" (1976); "The Mandrake" (1977), which he translated from the original Italian and in which he made his acting debut; "Marie and Bruce" (1979); "Aunt Dan and Lemon" (1985); and "The Fever", in which received his second Obie Award for "Best New Play" during the 1990-91 season, then followed.
A popular support player in both comedy and occasional drama, his assorted kooks, creeps, eggheads, and schmucks possessed both endearing and unappetizing qualities. He earned some of his best early notices partnered with theatre director/actor Andre Gregory in the unique Louis Malle-directed film My Dinner with Andre (1981). Shawn co-wrote the improvisatory, humanistic piece and his brother, Allen Shawn, was the composer. Shawn and Gregory would collaborate again for Malle in another superb, original-concept film Vanya on 42nd Street (1994). Among the quality offbeat filming involving has been Bruce Paltrow's A Little Sex (1982); James Ivory's The Bostonians (1984); Stephen Frears' Prick Up Your Ears (1987); Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride (1987); Alan Rudolph's The Moderns (1988) and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994); Paul Bartel (I)'s Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989); and several others for Woody Allen: Radio Days (1987), Shadows and Fog (1991), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) and Melinda and Melinda (2004). Of late he has lent his vocal talents to a considerable number of animated pictures including A Goofy Movie (1995), Toy Story (1995) (and its sequel), The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998) (V), The Incredibles (2004), Chicken Little (2005) and Happily N'Ever After (2006).
Over the decades Shawn has scurried about effortlessly in a number of TV guest appearances including "Taxi", "Homicide: Life on the Street", "Ally McBeal", "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Desperate Housewives", and has drummed up a few recurring roles for himself in the process, including "The Cosby Show", "Murphy Brown", "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Crossing Jordan". In the series "Clueless" (1996), based on the highly successful 1995 "Valley Girl" movie of the same name, Shawn revisited his role as the owlish high school teacher.
- In 2005 he received a career achievement award from the PEN/Laura Pels Foundation. The writers organizations gave him this honor for his work in the theater.
- Is afraid of heights.
- Is the long-time companion of 'Deborah Eisenberg' (qv).
- Does not own a television set.
- He wrote an adaptation of the Threepenny Opera, which opened on Broadway on April 20, 2006 at Studio 54. Its many stars include Alan Cumming, Ana Gasteyer and Cyndi Lauper.
- Father was William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker, 1952-1987.
- Brother is 'Allen Shawn' (qv), American composer
- Sister-in-law is 'Jamaica Kincaid' (qv), West Indian author