My Dinner with Andre

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My Dinner with Andre
My Dinner with Andre 1981 film theatrical release poster.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed byLouis Malle
Written by
Produced by
  • Andre Gregory
  • Wallace Shawn
CinematographyJeri Sopanen
Edited bySuzanne Baron
Music byAllen Shawn
Distributed byNew Yorker Films
Release date
  • October 11, 1981 (1981-10-11)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

My Dinner with Andre is a 1981 American comedy-drama film directed by Louis Malle, and written by and starring Andre Gregory (Andre) and Wallace Shawn (Wally). The actors play fictionalized versions of themselves sharing a conversation at Café des Artistes in Manhattan. The film's dialogue covers topics such as experimental theatre, the nature of theatre, and the nature of life, and contrasts Wally's modest humanism with Andre's spiritual experiences.


Andre Gregory is the focus of the first hour of the film, when he describes some of his experiences since giving up his career as a theatre director in 1975. These include working with his friend, director Jerzy Grotowski, and a group of Polish actors in a forest in Poland, his visit to Findhorn in Scotland, and his trip to the Sahara to try to create a play based on The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry. He worked with a group in a small piece of performance art on Long Island, which resulted in Andre's being (briefly) buried alive on Halloween night.

The rest of the film is a conversation as Wally Shawn tries to argue that living life as Andre has done for the past five years is simply not possible for most people. He relates ordinary pleasures, like having a cup of coffee. Andre responds that what passes for normal life in New York in the late 1970s, is more akin to living in a dream than it is to real life. The movie ends without a clear resolution to the conflict in worldviews articulated by the two men. Wally reminisces during a taxi ride about his childhood and mentions that when he arrives at home, he tells his girlfriend Debbie about his dinner with Andre. Erik Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1 plays in the background.



The idea for the film arose from Gregory's effort to work with a biographer on his life story, and Shawn's simultaneously coming up with an idea for a story about two people having a conversation.[2][3] Gregory and Shawn, who had become friends through theatre work, decided to collaborate on the project. They agreed that it should be filmed rather than produced as a play.[2] Although the film was based on events in the actors' lives, Shawn and Gregory denied (in an interview by film critic Roger Ebert) that they were playing themselves. They said that if they remade the film, they would swap the two characters to prove their point. In an interview with Noah Baumbach in 2009, Shawn said:

I actually had a purpose as I was writing this: I wanted to destroy that guy that I played, to the extent that there was any of me there. I wanted to kill that side of myself by making the film, because that guy is totally motivated by fear.[4]

The screenplay went through numerous developmental changes in location; in the final version, it was set during a dinner at a restaurant. While Shawn was trying to find someone to direct the film, he received a phone call from French director Louis Malle. He had read a copy of the screenplay via a mutual friend and insisted that he work on the project, saying he wanted to direct, produce the film, or work on it in any capacity.[2][3] Shawn initially thought that the call was a prank, due to Malle's stature in film. Malle later suggested that the dinner setup would not work, based on a rehearsal where Gregory was talking while eating.[2] Shawn argued throughout screenplay development for more scenes, which would have resulted in a three-hour film. Malle won many script cuts, but lost two arguments over scenes that were kept in the film.[2]

My Dinner with Andre was filmed in the Jefferson Hotel, which was then vacant, in Richmond, Virginia. (The hotel has since been restored and reopened as a luxury venue.) Lloyd Kaufman was the production manager on the film, and Troma Entertainment provided production support.[5][6][7] The filming was done over a period of two weeks, and edited to appear as if occurring in real time. The set was created to look like the Café des Artistes in New York City.[8]


Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes rated it 92% "fresh" based on 23 reviews with average rating of 7.3 out of 10.[9] Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave high praise to the film on Sneak Previews; the producers told Ebert that their praise helped keep the film in theaters for a year.[10] Ebert chose it as the best film of the year, and both he and Siskel would later rank it as the fifth-best and fourth-best film, respectively, of the entire 1980s.[11] In 1999, Ebert added it to his Great Movies essay series. He said, "Someone asked me the other day if I could name a movie that was entirely devoid of clichés. I thought for a moment, and then answered, My Dinner with Andre."[12] The Boston Society of Film Critics Awards ranked it as the "Best American Film" in 1982, and awarded Gregory and Shawn its prize for Best Screenplay. Metacritic rated it 83% "universal acclaim" based on 15 reviews.


Throughout the film, Andre refers to his wife "Chiquita"; in real life he was married to Mercedes "Chiquita" Nebelthau, who died in 1992.[13] Nebelthau was a documentary filmmaker whose credits include three films about Jerzy Grotowski, whom Wally and Andre talk about in this film.[13]

Throughout the film, Wally refers to his "girlfriend Debbie." Though not actually identified, Debbie is the short story writer Deborah Eisenberg, although she had not begun publishing stories at the time of the film. Eisenberg is also an extra in the film, a dark-haired diner Shawn glances at as he scans the restaurant while standing at the bar waiting for Andre.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The July 21, 1982 comic of The Far Side by Gary Larson is a gag based on the title of the film.[14]
  • In the 1993 episode of The Simpsons "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood", Martin Prince plays an arcade game based on the film.[15]
  • In 1994, the first season of the sitcom Frasier concluded with an episode loosely based on the film's premise and structure, titled "My Coffee with Niles."[16] The film was also directly mentioned in a later episode ("The Zoo Story"), when Martin and Niles get their VHS movies mixed up, Martin mockingly referring to how suspenseful it was. "Yeah, well, that's the way Duke and I felt about My Dinner With Andre. Talk about suspense! Will they order dessert? Will they leave a good tip?"[17]
  • In 2017, in the Nirvanna the Band the Show first-season episode "The Buffet", the opening scene shows the main character mimicking Wally's actions from the beginning of the film, walking on the city streets, waiting for a subway, and putting on a tie before entering a restaurant.[18]
  • The television series Community pays homage to the film in the episode "Critical Film Studies" (2011).[19]
  • In the 1996 film Waiting for Guffman, Corky St. Clair is shown in the end credits displaying his action figures based on the film's characters.
  • The film is parodied in the 1983 film My Breakfast with Blassie, in which Andy Kaufman has a discussion over breakfast at a diner with professional wrestling manager "Classy" Freddie Blassie.
  • The title of the film is parodied in the title of the opening episode to the fifth season of Rick and Morty.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "My Dinner with Andre (A)". British Board of Film Classification. April 6, 1982. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e My Dinner With Andre. Criterion Collection. OCLC 1016117476.
  3. ^ a b Rabin, Nathan (April 1, 2009). "Wallace Shawn – Film – Random Roles". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  4. ^ "WHEN NOAH MET WALLY – From the Current – The Criterion Collection". Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  5. ^ Kaufman, Lloyd; Jahnke, Adam; Haaga, Trent (April 2007). Make Your Own Damn Movie!: Secrets of a Renegade Director – Lloyd Kaufman, Trent Haaga, Adam Jahnke. ISBN 978-1-4299-7613-8. Retrieved July 4, 2012 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Rausch, Andrew J.; Dequina, Michael (February 25, 2008). "Lloyd Kaufman". Fifty Filmmakers: Conversations With Directors from Roger Avary to Steven Zaillian. pp. 118–. ISBN 9780786484096. Retrieved July 4, 2012 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ SPIN. September 1987. Retrieved July 4, 2012 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ a b Taubin, Amy (2009). "My Dinner with André: Long, Strange Trips". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  9. ^ "My Dinner With Andre (1981)" – via
  10. ^ Barnes, Mike (April 4, 2013). "Critic Roger Ebert Dies at 70". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  11. ^ "Siskel and Ebert Best Movies of the 1980's (part 3 of 3)" – via
  12. ^ "My Dinner with Andre." Chicago Sun-Times.
  13. ^ a b "Mercedes Gregory, Film Maker, Dead; Documentarian, 56". The New York Times. February 12, 1992. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ " – Review". September 12, 2003. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  16. ^ Kurland, Daniel (August 4, 2015). "'Frasier' Explored What It Means to Be Happy in its Real-Time Bottle Episode, "My Coffee with Niles"". Vulture. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Zoo Story — Frasier Transcripts Season 5 Episode 12 — The Frasier Archives". Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  18. ^ "Nirvanna the Band the Show: the Interview". Brief Take. March 16, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  19. ^ VanDerWerff, Emily (March 24, 2011). "Critical Film Studies". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
  20. ^ "Watch Rick and Morty on Adult Swim". Adult Swim.

External links[edit]