Wallace Shawn

Active - 1979 - 2019  |   Born - Nov 12, 1943 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family, Drama, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Andrea LeVasseur

The son of an editor for the New Yorker, the diminutive comedic actor Wallace Shawn achieved immortality for his portrayal of the Sicilian Vizzini in the 1987 classic The Princess Bride. A graduate of both Harvard and Oxford University, he has taught several courses in English and struggled as a playwright in the early '70s; in 1977 he translated Machiavelli's The Mandrake. Shawn broke into films soon after, building a successful career as a supporting actor to help fund his playwriting. He debuted in two of the best films of 1979: Woody Allen's Manhattan and Bob Fosse's All That Jazz.

In 1981, he co-wrote the semi-autobiographical My Dinner With André, a talky comedy starring himself and theater director André Gregory in a dinner conversation, directed by Louis Malle. The movie was acclaimed by critics and a cult favorite. After this personal project, Shawn would build a career out of playing brief but surprisingly memorable roles in a long list of movies. His performance as the leader of the misfit criminal gang in The Princess Bride proved a pivotal moment, and that same year, he supplied the heroic voice for the Masked Avenger in Woody Allen's Radio Days.

Shawn would also go on to do voice acting in projects like The Goofy Movie, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and the Toy Story series. He would also continue to work with Woody Allen throughout the next decade, and picked up a new generation of fans playing debate teacher Mr. Hall in the 1995 high school classic Clueless. Shawn would also take his quirky persona to the small screen with appearances on TV shows likeMurphy Brown, The Cosby Show, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sex and the City, as well as the ABC sitcom version of Clueless.

Throughout his acting career, Shawn has managed to continue writing successful plays, and eventually adapted one of them, The Designated Mourner, for a feature film in 1997. In 2002, he played the publishing boss Mr. Gelb for the "Greta" story in Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity: Three Portraits. Shawn would continue to appear regularly on screen in the years to come, playing recurring roles on The L Word, Gossip Girl, and Eureka,

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  • Son of William Shawn, the legendary editor of The New Yorker.
  • As a child, staged musical puppet shows with his brother, Allen, for their parents and friends.
  • Before breaking into acting, taught drama and Latin at the Trevor Day School in New York City.
  • Our Late Night, the first play he wrote that was produced, was initially booed by off-Broadway audiences but went on to win the Obie award in 1975; he also won Obies for 1986's Aunt Dan and Lemon and 1990's The Fever.
  • First appeared on stage was in the 1977 production of his translation of Niccolo Machiavelli's The Mandrake.
  • Big-screen debut was in Woody Allen's romantic comedy Manhattan (1979); his best-known film role, in Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride, followed in 1987.
  • Has appeared on numerous TV series, including The Cosby ShowMurphy Brown, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Gossip Girl.