André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films
In this captivating and philosophical film directed by Louis Malle, actor and playwright Wallace Shawn sits down with his friend the theater director André Gregory at a restaurant on New York’s Upper West Side, and the pair proceed through an alternately whimsical and despairing confessional about love, death, money, and all the superstition in between. Playing variations on their own New York–honed personas, Shawn and Gregory, who also cowrote the screenplay, dive in with introspective intellectual gusto, and Malle captures it all with a delicate, artful detachment. A fascinating freeze-frame of cosmopolitan culture, My Dinner with André remains a unique work in cinema history.
In the early nineties, theater director André Gregory mounted a series of spare, private performances of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in a crumbling Manhattan playhouse. This experiment in pure theater—featuring a remarkable cast of actors, including Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith, and George Gaynes—would have been lost to time had it not been captured on film, with subtle cinematic brilliance, by Louis Malle. Vanya on 42nd Street is as memorable and emotional a screen version of Chekhov’s masterpiece as one could ever hope to see. This film, which turned out to be Malle’s last, is a tribute to the playwright’s devastating work as well as to the creative process itself.
Twenty years after their brilliant cinema-theater experiment Vanya on 42nd Street, Wallace Shawn and André Gregory reunited to produce another idiosyncratic film version of a classic play, this time Henrik Ibsen’s Bygmester Solness (Master Builder Solness). Brought pristinely to the screen by Jonathan Demme, this compellingly abstract reimagining features Shawn (who also wrote the adaptation) as a visionary but tyrannical middle-aged architect haunted by figures from his past, most acutely an attractive, vivacious young woman (the breathtaking newcomer Lisa Joyce) who has appeared on his doorstep. Also featuring standout supporting performances by Julie Hagerty, Larry Pine, and Gregory, A Master Builder, like Vanya, is the result of many years of rehearsals, a living, breathing, constantly shifting work that unites theater, film, and dream.
Details by Film
A Master Builder
My Dinner with Andre
Vanya on 42nd Street
- Interview from 2009 with actor-writers Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, conducted by their friend the filmmaker Noah Baumbach
- “My Dinner with Louis,” a 1982 episode of the BBC program Arena in which Wallace Shawn interviews director Louis Malle
- A booklet featuring an essay by critic Amy Taubin and the prefaces written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn for the 1981 publication of the film’s screenplay
- New documentary featuring interviews with Andre Gregory, the play’s director; actors Lynn Cohen, George Gaynes, Julianne Moore, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, and Brooke Smith; and producer Fred Berner
- A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Steven Vineberg and a 1994 on-set report by film critic Amy Taubin
- New interview with director Jonathan Demme, stage director–actor Andre Gregory, and writer-actor Wallace Shawn, conducted by film critic David Edelstein
- New conversation between actors Julie Hagerty and Lisa Joyce
- New program featuring Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn, and their friend the author Fran Lebowitz in conversation
- An essay by film critic Michael Sragow