Almost two decades ago, SMU alumnus Will Wallace’s career took a sharp turn from practicing law to making movies. After landing a one-line role in a major motion picture, the attorney was hooked on acting. Today Wallace, a 1989 graduate of SMU, is a Hollywood veteran, with more than 50 films and television programs to his credit.
His most recent release is the movie Red Wing. He produced and directed the love story adapted from the French novella François le Champi by Georges Sand. Transported to present-day, small-town Texas, Red Wing follows the journey of a troubled boy into manhood. It stars a host of well-known actors, including Luke Perry, Bill Paxton and Frances Fisher. Wallace also has an on-screen role.
“Red Wing is a new take on a love story with a twist to boot,” he says.
While filming near Dallas, he welcomed several Mustang visitors: “My old friend Dave Blewett ’89, stopped by, and Joel Pechauer, an ’88 grad, came to the set. His young daughter, Porter, makes an appearance in the film.”
Red Wing has been released by Warner Bros. Digital and is currently available “On Demand” in more than 100 million homes through most major cable and satellite providers, including Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, AT&T Uverse and Verizon. It also can be streamed or downloaded through multiple sources, including Amazon, Google Play, Hulu and iTunes.
Wallace is now working on a new movie with a timely theme, human trafficking. It is also set in Texas.
In addition to his work on films, he is an acting teacher. He and wife Sara, a casting director, operate the Will Wallace Acting Company in Los Angeles. They provide training for actors at all levels in areas such as improvisation and on-camera technique.
“Almost all Red Wing cast members are acting students of mine,” he says. “It is fun to be part of their journey.”
Surprisingly, Wallace was not interested in acting while a University student. “I really enjoyed math, and here I am an artist,” Wallace jokes.
At SMU, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, his favorite classes were all math-based, including accounting and statistics. He served as president of Alpha Kappa Psi and received a B.B.A. in the Cox School of Business.
He went on to earn a J.D. from Mississippi College School of Law and an LL.M. from the University of the Pacific.
In the late 1990s, while practicing law in Spain, the urge to make a change hit.
“I was in Barcelona, sitting at my office desk, wondering why I was doing something I didn’t enjoy,” he recalls. “I decided to take a job with a firm in Dallas and just take a stab at acting. I was able to convince an agency to represent me, and they were able to get me an audition for a small part in the sequel to Terms of Endearment called The Evening Star. It was only one line, acting opposite Shirley MacLaine, but I got the part and was hooked.”
Fast-forward to the present day, and the father of four young sons boasts an impressive film résumé that includes 25 producing and nine directing credits.
Wallace says his SMU education was “immensely helpful” while carving out a successful career in a competitive industry.
“Having a business background helps with owning an acting school in Hollywood,” he says. “SMU also prepared me for law school and graduate law which, in turn, now proves incredibly helpful for contract work as a film producer and director.”
He offers this advice to SMU students: “It might sound cliché, but follow your heart. I was late in my career when I chose to truly follow my heart.”
– By Leah Johnson ’15