Long Life, Long Career: Wallace Shawn

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Wallace Shawn has been writing plays and acting for nearly 40 years, appearing in movies and television series and lending his voice to iconic roles in many franchises. Before his first visit to Dragon Con, he took a few minutes after filming to speak with the Daily Dragon.

Daily Dragon (DD): Deep Space-9, Stargate SG-1, Toy Story, The Princess Bride… any one of these would have gotten you an invite to Dragon Con. What do you most get recognized for?

Wallace Shawn (WS): Oh… on the street you mean? I suppose The Princess Bride, really.

DD: Do people come up to you and say Vizzini lines back to you?

WS: They do.

DD: Does that get old?

WS: You know, that’s my destiny. Apparently something in my previous life must have caused that to happen.

DD: Would you consider yourself a geek?

WS: I actually have almost no knowledge of what’s going on. I’ve never owned a television, and I don’t see that many regular movies. I was an incredible comic book fan when I was a boy, but I haven’t gotten back into it, really.

DD: Maybe coming to Dragon Con will be what spurs you to get back into it.

WS: Almost anything can happen there, I’ve heard.

DD: That is a true statement! So, I would say that your face and your voice are as recognizable apart as they are together. How did you get into voice acting and what are some of the challenges that are different from on screen acting?

WS: I got into because somebody offered me a part, I’d say! And the challenge of it is that you’re all by yourself in a little glass booth when you do it. So you can’t be inspired by the other actors. You have to really be inspired by your own imagination and a few words from the director. And the script. You have to go back to your childhood somehow and play by yourself.

DD: I know that you are a playwright. Do you have much time to work on your own writing? Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can tell us about?

WS: I have I would all the say all the time in the world to work on my own writing because those phone calls are coming less frequently to me. I mean, I got one from you just now.

DD: I’m not sure I count!

WS: I’m not hired as frequently as I used to be. But the wonderful thing about having two professions and one of them being acting is that unless you are a leading man, which very few people have accepted me as being, you don’t spend that much time even if you’re in a movie. A television show is usually five or 10 days depending on the type of the show, and an animated film is a few hours in a booth. Even if you’re doing better than I’m doing you have a lot of time. I suppose my most recent piece of writing that is relevant is my very small book called Night Thoughts, which I’m actually doing a little event for in Atlanta at the Horizon Theatre and the A Capella Bookstore on Thursday night.

DD: How would you say that writing plays informs your acting choices and vice versa? Or does it?

WS: Certainly being an actor has had a huge influence on the way I write plays because I know what means to say an incomprehensible or boring line, and my acting life encourages me to be a better writer. As far as my writing life influencing my acting… I suppose my writing life makes me the person I am. And I suppose that influences the way I interpret a part or even whether I accept the part!

DD: Would you say there’s a secret to having a career that’s lasted as long as yours has?

WS: Well, if you die early, it will never work.

DD: [laughing] So, just living a long time is the number one secret.

WS: It’s very, very important to a long career.

DD: I like that answer.

WS: Don’t die young.

DD: Have you done any other conventions like Dragon Con?

WS: Well, they tell me that Dragon Con is not like any of the others. But I didn’t really know about it until about a year ago. This year I’ve done probably five or six of them.

DD: Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to about coming to Dragon Con?

WS: I’m quite busy and I don’t really have time to dream about things that will happen in the future. I’m just sort of crawling along day by day. And I’ve also found that the future is never anything like what you imagine it would be, so it’s sort of a waste of time in a way to look forward to things or dread them, really.

DD: Do you try to go back to the stage between doing movies and TV series?

WS: Well, I write plays and I’ve also had a long relationship with a wonderful theater director named Andre Gregory, with whom I appeared in a movie called My Dinner with Andre. Between writing plays and working with him, yeah, I’ve spent an awful lot of time doing theater. It’s not a principle. It’s not like community service. It’s not something all humans must perform. It’s just been my life.

DD: Thank you so much for taking the time and speaking with me!

WS: Be well! Thank you!

Tickets for Wallace Shawn’s event at the Horizon Theatre can be purchased here. A copy of Wallace Shawn’s book can be pre-ordered from A Capella Books here. The event begins at 7PM on Thursday, August 31.

About the author

Maggie Caracappa By day, Maggie Caracappa is the editorial director at a medical communications company in Yardley, PA. The rest of the time, Maggie sees to the needs of her kitty overlords; polices the grammar on all kinds of published material including signage, menus, and food packaging; and multitasks online, frequently chatting with multiple people while writing fan fiction and watching her favorite shows (Sherlock, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who among them). She continues to be far too excited to be working for the Daily Dragon.

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