David Mamet was born in Flossmoor, Illinois on November 30, 1947. He studied at Goddard College in Vermont and at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in New York. He has taught at New York University, Goddard College, and the Yale Drama School, and he regularly lectures at the Atlantic Theater Company, of which he is a founding member.
The Pulitzer Prize winner made his name with Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974), and American Buffalo (1977). These dark dramas have strong male characters with highly charged dialogue that build dramatic tension within the confines of the play. He often portrays the plight of small-time drifters, salesmen, and hoods and the con games they play. Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) for which he won his Pulitzer prize is a damning representation of the American business practices, and Speed-the-Plow (1988) gives a savage view of the underside of the film industry. Glengarry Glen Ross was later made into a film version in 1992.
Mamet began writing for the screen in 1981 with a re-make of The Postman Always Rings Twice, with his script emphasizing the base sexuality and violence of the material in such a way that the original 1947 film could not. After Glengarry Glen Ross, Mamet had his first true screen success as a screenwriter with Brian De Palma’s film The Untouchables in 1987. That same year he received critical acclaim for his directorial debut, House of Games, a crime thriller starring Mamet’s then-wife Lindsay Crouse as a psychologist caught up in an elaborate con game.
After directing two more celebrated features (Things Change, Homicide), Mamet turned primarily to screenwriting lending his talent to such films as Hoffa (1992), Malcolm X (1992), and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994). He took a brief respite to step back behind the camera to direct an adaptation of his controversial play, Oleanna in 1994.
His screenplay for Barry Levinson’s political satire Wag the Dog earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Screenplay. That same year he directed The Spanish Prisoner, his fifth film as writer-director, a twisty spy thriller that had the added attraction of Steve Martin in an uncharacteristically dark role.
At the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, after the release of his The Spanish Prisoner, he noted on the amount of Mamet knockoffs at the festival:
“It’s all very flattering, but it’s also natural. Someone like me, who’s been writing for a long time, naturally people coming up will look and say that’s a good idea. Just like I would look at the works of Harold Pinter or Samuel Beckett and say that’s a good idea. The old phrase is ‘Talent borrows, genius robs’ I don’t mind if somebody wants to write like me. The only thing that disturbs me is if they do it better.”
Mamet makes few distinctions between working on the stage and the screen; He believes both involve putting the material on its feet and seeing how it plays. With movies, that’s done in the editing room or sometimes on the set. With plays, it’s done during rehearsals. In neither case does he see himself handicapped by being both the writer and the director.
“There are two stages,” Mamet says, “First I write the best script I can and then I put on my directors hat and say, ‘What am I going to do with this piece of crap?’”
Mamet’s other writing credits include the film scripts for Ronin, State and Main, Hannibal, Spartan, Redbelt, and a number of episodes of the television show The Unit. The original production of November opened on Broadway at the Barrymore theatre in January of 2008 with Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf.
|Here's a political ad from the original Broadway production featuring Nathan Lane: |
November by David Mamet runs at the Dragon Theatre in downtown Redwood City November 22 - December 15, 2013. Tickets available at www.dragonproductions.net