Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn reflect on My Dinner with Andre.
Both of you have said that the characters in My Dinner With Andre are not, in fact, you. But how much of you is in those characters?
AG: I believe that there are many different sides to all of us. I’ve been thrown out of five different gyms for what you would call cutting up — making fun of working out, all kinds of different things. Somebody else has never seen that Andre. No one has ever seen the Andre who is at home with his wife. These are all different characters, or sides of one. When I was creating the role, I had a terrible time. It drove me nuts because who the hell is Andre Gregory? How do I play myself? Then, after months of rehearsal, I came up with four different voices. One was Andre Gregory the Peter Brook guru. One was Andre the off-the-wall rich kid — spoiled, narcissistic. The other was the Andre who is sometimes sincere. All of these voices were mine, but they only arise when I become those different characters. If a young student comes to me and wants me to pass on some kind of experience or wisdom to them, I might get into the Peter Brook guru voice. I literally created four different Andres, all of whom were aspects of my personality.
WS: Basically, the facts that are given in the film are true. They’re just selectively deployed. I certainly grew up in a bourgeois household, and I’m addicted to comforts. I’m a hedonist. There’s no way for me to get away from the fact that I am a very bourgeois person. If Malcolm X met me, he would find me a complacent member of the New York elite, and he would have as much contempt for me as he would for anybody else who, say, eats in the same places I eat at. On the other hand, I’m actually a divided person who really believes that there shouldn’t be an elite that has people like me in it. That the world should be completely reorganized, and that people like me should really not be allowed to plunder the planet. So I’m a divided person in My Dinner With Andre, which was written at a time when I was less angry and less politically aware than I am today. Still, I knew that complacency was not the way I wanted to go in life, and I did intentionally write myself as a very complacent character in the hope that it would spur me to change — which, to some extent, it did.
An earlier Twitter with Andre, here.