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David Alan Mamet (born November 30, 1947) is an Americamarker author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and film director. His works are known for their clever, terse, sometimes vulgar dialogue and arcane stylized phrasing, as well as for their exploration of masculinity. Mamet received Tony Award nominations for Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Speed-the-Plow (1988), as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross. As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997).

Mamet's recent books include The Old Religion (1997), a novel about the lynching of Leo Frank; Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (2004), a Torah commentary, with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner; The Wicked Son (2006), a study of Jewish self-hatred and antisemitism; and Bambi vs. Godzilla, a commentary on the movie business. His newest play Race, starring James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, and Richard Thomas, is currently slated to open on Broadwaymarker on December 6, 2009.



Mamet was born in Chicagomarker, the son of Lenore June (née Silver), a teacher, and Bernard Morris Mamet, an attorney. One of his first jobs was as a busboy at Chicago's The Second City. He was educated at the progressive Francis W. Parker School and at Goddard Collegemarker in Plainfield, Vermontmarker. Mamet is a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Companymarker; he first gained acclaim for a trio of off-Broadway plays in 1976, The Duck Variations, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and American Buffalo. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for Glengarry Glen Ross, which received its first Broadway revival in the summer of 2005.

Transition to film

Mamet's first produced screenplay was the 1981 production of The Postman Always Rings Twice (directed by Bob Rafelson), based upon James M. Cain's novel. He received an Academy Award nomination one year later for his first script, The Verdict, written in the late 1970s. He also wrote the screenplay for The Untouchables.

In 1987, Mamet made his film directing debut with House of Games, starring his then-wife, Lindsay Crouse, and a host of longtime stage associates. He uses friends as actors, especially in one early scene in the movie, which featured Vermont poker playing friends. He is quoted as saying, "It was my first film as a director and I needed support, so I stacked the deck." Two of the four poker buddies included in the film were fellow Goddard Collegemarker graduates Allen Soule and Bob Silverstein.

Mamet remains a prolific writer and director, and has assembled an informal repertory company for his films, including Crouse, William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Ricky Jay, as well as some of the aforementioned poker buddies.

Like independent director John Sayles, Mamet funds his own films with the payments he receives for credited and uncredited rewrites of typically big-budget films. For instance, Mamet did a rewrite of the script for Ronin under the pseudonym "Richard Weisz" and turned in an early version of a script for Malcolm X that director Spike Lee rejected.

Three of Mamet's own films, House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, and Heist, have involved the world of con artist.

In 2000, Mamet directed but did not write Catastrophe, based on the one-act play by Samuel Beckett, and featuring Harold Pinter and John Gielgud (in his final screen performance).

Mamet has published three novels, The Village in 1994, The Old Religion in 1997, and Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources in 2000. He has also written several non-fiction texts, as well as a number of poems and children's stories.

Since May 2005 he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post. The majority of his posts are scans of his own doodles, all political satires laced with humor. His first post chronicled his astonishment that one can communicate on a computer.

He has also published a lauded version of the classical Faust story, Faustus, in 2004. However, the play, when staged in San Franciscomarker during the spring of 2004, was not well received by critics.

Recently he directed and wrote the mixed martial arts movie Redbelt, about a martial arts instructor tricked into fighting in a professional bout.


Mamet is also the creator, producer and frequent writer of the television series The Unit, co-produced with Shawn Ryan of The Shield.

In 2007, Mamet directed two television commercials for Ford Motor Company. The two 30-second ads featured the Ford Edge and were filmed in Mamet's signature style of fast-paced dialogue and clear, simple imagery.

Mamet wrote the "Wasted Weekend" episode of Hill Street Blues that aired in 1987. His then-wife Lindsay Crouse appeared in numerous episodes (including that one) as Officer McBride.

His sister Lynn Mamet is a producer and writer for television shows, such as The Unit and Law & Order.

BBC Radio

In recent years, Mamet has also contributed several dramas to BBC Radio through Jarvis & Ayres Productions, including an adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross for BBC Radio 3 and new dramas for BBC Radio 4. His most recent work is a comedy, Keep Your Pantheon, or On the Whole I'd Rather Be in Mesopotamia (aired 28 May 2007).

"Mamet speak"

Mamet's style of writing dialogue, marked by a cynical, street-smart edge, precisely crafted for effect, is so distinctive that it came to be called Mamet speak. He often uses italics and quotation marks to highlight particular words and to draw attention to his characters' frequent manipulation and deceitful use of language. His characters frequently interrupt one another, their sentences trail off unfinished, and their dialogue overlaps. Mamet himself has criticized his (and other writers') tendency to write "pretty" at the expense of sound, logical plots.

When asked how he developed his style for writing dialogue, Mamet said, "In my family, in the days prior to television, we liked to while away the evenings by making ourselves miserable, based solely on our ability to speak the language viciously. That's probably where my ability was honed."

One classic instance of Mamet's dialogue style can be found in Glengarry Glen Ross, in which two down-on-their-luck real estate salesmen are considering breaking into their employer's office to steal a list of good sales leads. George Aaronow and Dave Moss finagle the meaning of "talk" and "speak," steeped in fraudulent connivance of the language and meaning:

Moss No. What do you mean? Have I talked to him about this [Pause]
Aaronow Yes. I mean are you actually talking about this, or are we just...
Moss No, we're just...
Aaronow We're just "talking" about it.
Moss We're just speaking about it. [Pause] As an idea.
Aaronow As an idea.
Moss Yes.
Aaronow We're not actually talking about it.
Moss No.
Aaronow Talking about it as a...
Moss No.
Aaronow As a robbery.
Moss As a "robbery"? No.

Mamet dedicated Glengarry Glen Ross to Harold Pinter, who was instrumental in its being first staged at the Royal National Theatremarker, in 1983, and whom Mamet has acknowledged as an influence on its success, and on his other work.

Directing style

In On Directing Film, Mamet reiterates the objectivity of filmmaking. He believes meaning is found in juxtaposing cuts, and that when shooting a scene, the director should consistently follow the point of the scene. He doesn't believe film should follow the protagonist or consist of visually beautiful or intriguing shots, but should be focused getting a point across in an essential and necessary way. He wants his films to be shaped by logical ways of creating order from disorder in search of the superobjective. Mamet believes in minimal stage and prompt directions.

Other endeavors

In 1990 Mamet published a 55-page collection of poetry called The Hero Pony. Mamet has also published a series of short plays and monologues. As part of his contributions to The Huffington Post, Mamet has drawn many cartoons about strife in Israelmarker.

Mamet also appeared as a guest on Episode 312 of the animated Comedy Central program Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. The episode, "New Phone System," originally aired on March 2, 1997.

Mamet teamed up with wife Pidgeon to adapt the novel "Come Back To Sorrento" as a screenplay.

Writing in The Village Voice, Mamet announced that he was no longer a "brain-dead liberal", but instead believed in free market thinkers.

Personal life

Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse were married from 1977 to 1990, and have two children together, Willa and Zosia. Mamet has been married to actress and singer-songwriter Rebecca Pidgeon since 1991. They have two children, Clara and Noah.


Year Plays Films Books
1970 Lakeboat (revised 1980)
1972 The Duck Variations, Lone Canoe
1974 Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Squirrels
1975 American Buffalo
1976 Reunion, The Water Engine
1977 A Life in the Theatre
1978 Revenge of the Space Pandas, or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock
1979 The Woods, The Blue Hour
1980 Lakeboat (revision)
1981 The Postman Always Rings Twice
1982 Edmond The Verdict
1983 The Frog Prince
1984 Glengarry Glen Ross
1985 The Shawl, Goldberg Street: Short Plays and Monologues
1986 The Poet & The Rent About Last Night...
1987 House of Games (director), The Untouchables Writing in Restaurants
1988 Speed-the-Plow Things Change (director)
1989 Bobby Gould In Hell We're No Angels
1991 Homicide (director)
1992 Oleanna Hoffa (producer), Glengarry Glen Ross On Directing Film, The Cabin: Reminiscence and Diversions
1994 Oleanna (director), Vanya on 42nd Street The Village
1995 The Cryptogram
1996 American Buffalo Make-Believe Town: Essays and Remembraces
Three Uses of the Knife
1997 The Old Neighborhood Wag the Dog, The Spanish Prisoner (director), The Edge The Old Religion
1998 Ronin (writer)
1999 Boston Marriage The Winslow Boy (director) True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
The Chinaman (poems)
Jafsie and John Henry: Essays

2000 Lakeboat, State and Main (director) Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources
2001 Hannibal, Heist (director)
2004 Faustus Spartan (director)
2005 Romance, The Voysey Inheritance (adapted) Edmond
2006 The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews
2007 Keep Your Pantheon, November Bambi Vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
2008 The Vikings and Darwin A Waitress in Yellowstone (musical), Redbelt (writer, director)
2009 Race
Keep your Pantheon

The Prince of Providence (writer)
2010 The Diary of Anne Frank (director)


Further reading

External links

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