Wallace Shawn might be best known for Louis Malle’s 1981 two-hander film “My Dinner With Andre,” which takes place almost entirely inside a restaurant during one meal between old friends. As said in a recent interview with Vulture, “Andre [Gregory] makes some rather prescient comments in that film, and people have thought, ‘Wow, he predicted the future! How did they know in 1981?’ But there have been some bits of ‘My Dinner With Andre’ that have been seen on social media a shocking number of times.” The film is a cult favorite that continues to resonate, such as on television’s “The Simpsons.”
Wallace himself, however, doesn’t own a television, and according to the interview, this came from a very real fear inspired by George Orwell’s sci-fi classic, “1984.”
“I think it was maybe an instinct. A fear of brainwashing? I don’t know,” Shawn said. “My girlfriend and I both grew up in a certain generation that was somewhat rebellious about TV. We didn’t know each other then, but when we were 12 or 13, we both were very influenced by George Orwell’s book ‘1984,’ which sort of had a frightening and somewhat accurate view of the TV screen as having an overwhelming influence. I think I thought it might be not so beneficial to watch the regular news shows and the commercials. I think I was afraid of it.”
Shawn, however, added “I do find television very seductive. I mean, I spend a certain amount of time in hotel rooms, and sometimes I just don’t ever turn on the television, and sometimes I become obsessed and watch many, many shows in a row. So I didn’t want to spend my time watching television, and my girlfriend didn’t really find television very appealing. We didn’t have a very big apartment, and we just didn’t get into it. And we never have! Although now we have computers, so you can watch a TV show if you want to. Maybe not at the time it’s being shown to the general public, but if you want to look up a TV show, it’s easy to do now.”
Though Shawn’s onscreen credits also include “The Princess Bride” and TV shows like “Young Sheldon,” “Mr. Robot,” “Gossip Girl,” “The L Word,” “Manhattan,” and many more, he has also made a name as a playwright and screenwriter, having written Jonathan Demme’s Henrik Ibsen adaptation “A Master Builder,” which came out in 2013.