David Mamet
David Mamet

Mamet at the premiere of Redbelt
Born November 30, 1947 (1947-11-30) (age 63)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Occupation Author, playwright, screenwriter, film director
Nationality United States
Notable work(s) Lakeboat (1970)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1984)
The Unit (2006)

David Alan Mamet (play /ˈmæmɨt/born November 30, 1947) is an American playwright, essayist, screenwriter and film director.

Best known as a playwright, Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize and received a Tony nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross (1984). He also received a Tony nomination for Speed-the-Plow (1988). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997). Mamet's 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.


Early life

Mamet was born in 1947 in Chicago to Jewish parents, Lenore June (Silver), a teacher, and Bernard Morris Mamet, an attorney.[1] 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 College in Plainfield, Vermont.



Mamet is a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company; he first gained acclaim for a trio of off-Broadway plays in 1976, The Duck Variations, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and American Buffalo.[2] He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for Glengarry Glen Ross, which received its first Broadway revival in the summer of 2005. His play Race, which opened on Broadway on December 6, 2009 and featured James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, and Richard Thomas in the cast, received mixed reviews.[3]


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,[4] 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."[citation needed] Two of the four poker friends included in the film were fellow Goddard College graduates Allen Soule and Bob Silverstein. Three of Mamet's own films, House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, and Heist, have involved the world of con artists.

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 associates. Mamet funds his own films with the payments he receives for credited and uncredited rewrites of typically big-budget films.[citation needed] 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.[5] 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). In 2008, he directed and wrote the mixed martial arts movie Redbelt, about a martial arts instructor tricked into fighting in a professional bout. Mamet teamed up with his wife Rebecca Pidgeon to adapt the novel Come Back to Sorrento as a screenplay. The film was in development during 2010.

In On Directing Film, Mamet iterates 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.


In 1990 Mamet published The Hero Pony, a 55-page collection of poetry. He has also published a series of short plays, monologues and three novels, The Village (1994), The Old Religion (1997), and Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources (2000). He has written several non-fiction texts, and children's stories. In 2004 he published a lauded version of the classical Faust story, Faustus, however, the play, when staged in San Francisco during the spring of 2004, was not well received by critics.[6] On May 1, 2010, Mamet released a graphic novel The Trials of Roderick Spode (The Human Ant).

On June 2, 2011, "The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture", Mamet's book detailing his conversion from modern liberalism to "a reformed liberal" (libertarian) was released.

Television and radio

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. Mamet is also the creator, producer and frequent writer of the television series The Unit, and he directed a third season episode of The Shield with Shawn Ryan. 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's sister, Lynn, is a producer and writer for television shows, such as The Unit and Law & Order.

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. The comedy Keep Your Pantheon, (or On the Whole I'd Rather Be in Mesopotamia) was aired in 2007.

Other media, and political views

Since May 2005 he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post. As part of his contribution Mamet has drawn many satirical cartoons with themes including political strife in Israel.[7] Writing in The Village Voice,[8] his first post chronicled his astonishment that one can communicate on a computer.[9] Mamet announced that he was no longer a "brain-dead liberal",[8] but instead believed in free market thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek[10] the historian Paul Johnson, and economist Thomas Sowell, whom Mamet called "one of our greatest minds." 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.

On June 10, 2011 Mamet appeared on The Rush Limbaugh Show to discuss his book The Secret Knowledge. He continued the promotion of the book attacking the British literary establishment for having inherently antisemitic attitudes.[11]

Mamet has stated recently[when?] that "there is a Jewish state ... ratified by the United Nations and you want to give it away to some people whose claim is rather dubious."[12] Mamet believes “There is a profound and ineradicable taint of anti-Semitism in the British" ( Financial Times, June 10, 2011 ). Speaking further of British attitudes towards Jews in the same interview, Mamet goes on to say that "there are famous dramatists and novelists over there (in the UK ) whose works are full of anti-Semitic filth." In his book The Secret Knowledge he states that "the Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all".[13]

"Mamet speak"

Mamet's style of writing dialogue, marked by a cynical, street-smart edge, precisely crafted for effect, is so distinctive that it has come to be called Mamet speak.[14] 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.[15]

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."[16]

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 equivocate on the meaning of "talk" and "speak," turning language and meaning to deceptive purposes:

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 Theatre, (London) in 1983, and whom Mamet has acknowledged as an influence on its success, and on his other work.[17]

Personal life

Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse were married from 1977 to 1990, and have two children together, Willa and Zosia. Zosia Mamet is an actress. 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, Black Widow 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 (commissioned by the National Theatre Connections project) A Waitress in Yellowstone (musical),
* Redbelt (writer, director)
2009 *Race
*Keep your Pantheon
The Prince of Providence (writer)
2010 Come Back to Sorrento (Screenplay) *Theatre (book)
*The Trials of Roderick Spode (The Human Ant) (Graphic Novel)
2011 The Anarchist The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture


  1. ^ David Mamet Biography (1947-)
  2. ^ "David Mamet Biography". FilmMakers Magazine. http://www.filmmakers.com/artists/mamet/biography/. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  3. ^ "David Mamet's 'Race' on Broadway: What did the critics think?". Los Angeles Times. 2009-12-07. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/12/david-mamets-race-on-broadway-what-did-the-critics-think.html. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  4. ^ Life magazine (Oct. 1987, V. 10 No. 11)
  5. ^ Simpson, Janet (1992-03-16). "The Battle To Film Malcolm X". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,975087-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  6. ^ von Buchau, Stephanie. "Dr. Faustus". TheaterMania. http://www.theatermania.com/content/news.cfm/story/4489. Retrieved 2004-03-13. 
  7. ^ David Mamet – Politics on The Huffington Post
  8. ^ a b "David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'". 2008-03-11. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0811,374064,374064,1.html/full. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  9. ^ Levy, Steven. "Huffington's Post: Not Yet Toast". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 2007-03-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20070302182800/http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7856707/site/newsweek/. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  10. ^ "David Mamet," Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox Business Network, June 8, 2011.
  11. ^ "David Mamet launches tirade against 'antisemitism' of British writers", Vanessa Thorpe. The Guardian. June 12, 2011. Accessed June 12, 2011
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ A Companion to Twentieth-century American Drama, David Krasner, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, p. 410
  15. ^ Mamet, David. Writing in Restaurants. 
  16. ^ Stephen Randall, ed (2006). "David Mamet: April 1996, interviewed by Geoffrey Norman and John Rezek". The Playboy Interviews: The Directors. M Press. pp. 276. 
  17. ^ "Landmarks," on Night Waves BBC Radio, March 3, 2005, accessed January 17, 2007.

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External links

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