A MASTER BUILDER unites Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme with two of American theatre and cinema’s most ingenious provocateurs, André Gregory and Wallace Shawn. It is based on Gregory’s near-legendary theatrical production of Shawn’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Master Builder Solness; a production that was rehearsed and performed over a 14-year period. Halvard Solness (Wallace Shawn), is a very successful architect in his sixties. He exercises tight control over his wife Aline (Julie Hagerty), who is in permanent mourning for their only two children, who died as infants. And tight control over his employees: the old architect Knut Brovik (André Gregory), Brovik’s talented son Ragnar (Jeff Biehl), whom Solness keeps in a lowly position, and Kaya (Emily McDonnell), Ragnar’s fiancée, who is Solness’s book-keeper and sexual companion. Shawn’s adaptation hues very closely to the original Ibsen with one astonishing ‘Shawnian’ departure — while perfectly healthy in Ibsen's original version, Shawn introduces Solness on his deathbed with only hours to live. When Hilde (Lisa Joyce), a mysterious young woman comes to visit, the once dominating, controlling and narcissistic Solness finds himself apparently revived in every possible way. Intense, intimate and painful, A MASTER BUILDER is a witty, mystical and psychologically complex interpretation of Ibsen’s masterpiece.

A production of The Ibsen Project and Clinica Estetico in association with Westward Productions and Scott Griffin. A MASTER BUILDER is directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Wallace Shawn. Created for the Stage by André Gregory. Starring Jeff Biehl, André Gregory, Julie Hagerty, Lisa Joyce, Emily Cass McDonnell, Larry Pine and Wallace Shawn. A MASTER BUILDER is produced by Rocco Caruso, André Gregory and Wallace Shawn with Ron Bozman, Beau Willimon, Jordan Tappis, Declan Quinn and Scott Griffin serving as Executive Producers. The music is by Zafer Tawil, Thom O’Connor and Suzana Peric. The costume designer is Dona Granata; the film editor is Tim Squyres; the production designer is Eugene Lee; and the director of photography is Declan Quinn.

A MASTER BUILDER is dedicated to the spirit of Louis Malle, my old friend and the director of the two previous film collaborations of the twin genii of Wallace Shawn and André Gregory.

We filmed their version of Ibsen's 'The Master Builder' in one feverish week in an old house in downtown Manhattan. This is Ibsen, so it is dense, deep, broad and lacerating melodrama, but with a Wally Shawn adaptation that brings hot blood, humor and something phantasmagorical to the party. Malle filmed My Dinner with Andre as a film "about" a meal, and Vanya on 42nd Street as a documentary that turns into Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya. We decided to do the reverse this time, taking the Ibsen and turning it into an old-fashioned haunted house movie, and pitting the convivial diners of My Dinner with Andre as desperate Ibsenesque architects, fiercely confronting each other on the brink of their deaths.


Rating: 3.5/4 stars
“...deeply personal, lovingly performed…"

"A strange and beguiling film that makes little effort to disguise its stage origins, it's a grand showcase for actors who clearly relish sinking their teeth into complex roles and gnashing on some scenery."

“...while he’s not your typical leading man, Wallace Shawn is a brilliant actor and brilliant writer. "

4Ns! "something every theatre buff needs to see"

An interview with Andre Gregory