My Dinner with André

My Dinner with André
Louis Malle, 1981, 110’

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.


“[...] the legacy of the seventies has been to encode the essence of this conversation in most of our heads, that Wally and André represent the poles of our most urgent concern: to establish a relationship with the deep energies of the self that will be both spiritually satisfying and economically viable. It is not clear to most of us whether urban culture is killing itself, nor whether Findhorn or even Ecotopia is the proper lifeboat; it is not clear whether Andre's narcissism is escapist or profoundly on target, nor whether Wally's pragmatic careerism is characterized by an uplifting acceptance of life or boxed in by stress and doomed. What is clear is that these questions are adequately and articulately confronted in an atmosphere of integrity, humor, and graceful intimacy. Nothing is glossed over or hammered in; the dialectic is real, the dialogue provocative, the aspiration dynamic.”

Bruce Kawin1


“In the early 1980s, Shawn began circulating a script stemming from conversations with Gregory about his travels and experiences. It was a hichly unlikely project, based solely on a discussion between two friends over a meal. It was this difficulty that seemed to attract Malle. He accepted the proposition, and showed his two thespians how to go about making a film instead of a play. The making of the film included an experimental working phase that sealed a relationship of mutual trust among the three artists. It was not a forgone conclusion, given that the project combined Gregory's life, Shawn's writing and Malle's cinematic direction. What could easily have been a battle of egos became an intense and amicable artistic experience. It was also a complex task preparing the set so as to arrange the camera angles and give substance to the life of the restaurant. Filming took place in a vacant luxury hotel, as though there were a particular tropism between Shawn and Gregory's filming locations and their projects. Upon its release in the US in 1982, My Dinner with André enjoved a very favorable reception from critics and moviegoers alike.”

Sébastien Rongier2


Cinéaste interviewer: What is your approach to editing?

Louis Malle: [...] I had a terrible time editing My Dinner With Andre because Andre and Wally. as good as they are, are not professional actors. Andre had the longest speaking part in the history of the cinema. I don't think anyone's ever had so many lines to say in a movie. There were ups and downs in there, we had many takes, and I used a lot of reaction shots, especially in the first half hour. My big worry about the first half hour was people leaving the theater because it includes this endless monologue of Andre's which is very important. I wanted to keep a distance from what Andre was saying and the perfect way to do it was to use Wally's reaction shots. which were great. They would get a laugh. and give us the distance from this very pompous aspect of Andre's character before he mellows and becomes a little different.
I think we succeeded in a way that is almost unnoticed by the audience because when people watch My Dinner With Andre they think they see a continuum but they don't really. It's a heavily edited film. You have no idea how many cuts there are. It's basically two angles. except that sometimes it's here. sometimes it's there. It varies only minimally. My Dinner With Andre may appear to be a very simple approach – just putting a camera on one person and another camera on the other and then rolling the cameras when they start talking – when actually it was all very studied. very rehearsed. The whole point was to give the sense that it was completely improvised. almost like cinema-vérite, and a lot of that came from the editing.”

George Hickenlooper, Louis Malle3

  • 1Bruce Kawin, "My Dinner With André," Film Quarterly (archive) 35, no. 2 (81, 1982): 61-63.
  • 2Sébastien Rongier, "Vanya on 42nd Street: Inventing a Space of Creation," in The Cinema of Louis Malle. Transatlantic Auteur, Colombia University Press, 2018. Edited by Philippe Met.
  • 3George Hickenlooper, Louis Malle, “My Discussion With Louis: AN INTERVIEW WITH LOUIS MALLE.” Cinéaste 18, no. 2 (1991): 12-17.
UPDATED ON 06.12.2023
IMDB: tt0082783