David Mamet

David Alan Mamet (/ˈmæmɪt/; born November 30, 1947) is an American playwright, film director, screenwriter and author. He won a Pulitzer Prize and received Tony nominations for his plays Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Speed-the-Plow (1988). He first gained critical acclaim for a trio of off-Broadway 1970s plays: The Duck Variations, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and American Buffalo.[2] His plays Race and The Penitent, respectively, opened on Broadway in 2009 and previewed off-Broadway in 2017.

David Mamet
Mamet at the premiere of Redbelt at Tribeca Film Festival on April 25, 2008
BornDavid Alan Mamet
(1947-11-30) November 30, 1947
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Author
  • playwright
  • screenwriter
  • film director
ResidenceSanta Monica, California, U.S.
Alma materGoddard College
Notable worksThe Duck Variations (1971)
Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1983)[1]
Lindsay Crouse
(m. 1977; div. 1990)

Rebecca Pidgeon
(m. 1991)
Children4, including Zosia and Clara and Willa

Feature films that Mamet both wrote and directed include House of Games (1987), Homicide (1991), The Spanish Prisoner (1997) and his biggest commercial success Heist (2001). His screenwriting credits include The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), The Verdict (1982), The Untouchables (1987), Hoffa (1992), Wag the Dog (1997), and Hannibal (2001). Mamet himself wrote the screenplay for the 1992 adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross, and wrote and directed the 1994 adaptation of his play Oleanna (1992). He was the executive producer and frequent writer for the TV show The Unit (2006–2009).

Mamet's books include: On Directing Film (1991), a commentary and dialogue about film-making; 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; Bambi vs. Godzilla, a commentary on the movie business; The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (2011), a commentary on cultural and political issues; and Three War Stories (2013), a trio of novellas about the physical and psychological effects of war.

Early life

Mamet was born in 1947 in Chicago to Lenore June (née Silver), a teacher, and Bernard Morris Mamet, a labor attorney. His family was Jewish. His paternal grandparents were from Poland.[3][4] One of Mamet's earliest jobs was as a busboy at Chicago's London House and The Second City. He also worked as an actor, editor for Oui magazine and as a cab-driver.[5] He was educated at the progressive Francis W. Parker School and at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. At the Chicago Public Library Foundation 20th anniversary fundraiser in 2006, though, Mamet announced "My alma mater is the Chicago Public Library. I got what little educational foundation I got in the third-floor reading room, under the tutelage of a Coca-Cola sign".[6]

After a move to Chicago's North Side, Mamet encountered theater director Robert Sickinger, and began to work occasionally at Sickinger's Hull House Theatre. This represented the beginning of Mamet's lifelong involvement with the theater.[7]



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.[8] His play The Anarchist, starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, in her Broadway debut, opened on Broadway on November 13, 2012 in previews and was scheduled to close on December 16, 2012.[9] His 2017 play The Penitent previewed off-Broadway on February 8, 2017.

In 2002, Mamet was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[10] Mamet later received the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award for Grand Master of American Theater in 2010.

In 2017, Mamet released an online class for writers entitled David Mamet teaches dramatic writing.[11]

It was announced in 2019 that David Mamet will return to the London West End with his new play Bitter Wheat starring John Malkovich.[12]


Mamet first film work was as a screenwriter, later directing his own scripts.

Mamet's first produced screenplay was the 1981 production of The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on James M. Cain's novel. He received an Academy Award nomination one year later for The Verdict, written in the late 1970s. He also wrote the screenplays for The Untouchables (1987), Hoffa (1992), The Edge (1997), Wag the Dog (1997), Ronin (1998), and Hannibal (2001). He received a second Academy Award nomination for Wag the Dog.

In 1987, Mamet made his film directing debut with his screenplay House of Games, which won Best Film and Best Screenplay awards at the 1987 Venice Film Festival and the Film of the Year in 1989 from the London Film Critics' Circle Awards. The film starred his then-wife, Lindsay Crouse, and many longtime stage associates and friends, including fellow Goddard College graduates.[13] Mamet was quoted as saying, "It was my first film as a director and I needed support, so I stacked the deck." After House of Games, Mamet later wrote and directed two more films focusing on the world of con artists, The Spanish Prisoner (1997) and Heist (2001). Among those films, Heist enjoyed the biggest commercial success.[14][15][16]

Other films that Mamet both wrote and directed include: Things Change (1988), Homicide (1991) (nominated for the Palme d'Or at 1991 Cannes Film Festival and won a "Screenwriter of the Year" award for Mamet from the London Film Critics' Circle Awards), Oleanna (1994), The Winslow Boy (1999), State and Main (2000), Spartan (2004), Redbelt (2008), and the 2013 bio-pic TV movie Phil Spector.

A feature-length film, a thriller titled Blackbird, was intended for release in 2015, but is still in development.[17][18]

When Mamet adapted his play for the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross, he wrote an additional part (including the monologue "Coffee's for closers") for Alec Baldwin.

Mamet continues to work with an informal repertory company for his films, including Crouse, William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, and Rebecca Pidgeon, as well as the aforementioned school friends.

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 which was rejected by director Spike Lee.[19] In 2000, Mamet directed a film version of Catastrophe, a one-act play by Samuel Beckett 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.

In On Directing Film, Mamet asserts that directors should focus on getting the point of a scene across, rather than simply following a protagonist, or adding visually beautiful or intriguing shots. Films should create order from disorder in search of the objective.


In 1990 Mamet published The Hero Pony, a 55-page collection of poetry. He has also published a series of short plays, monologues and four novels, The Village (1994), The Old Religion (1997), Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources (2000), and Chicago (2018). He has written several non-fiction texts, and children's stories, including "True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor"(1997). In 2004 he published a lauded version of the classical Faust story, Faustus, however, when the play was staged in San Francisco during the spring of 2004, it was not well received by critics.[20] 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" was released.[21]

Mamet published Three War Stories, a collection of novellas, on November 11, 2013. In an interview with Newsmax TV, Mamet said he wanted to write about war, despite never having served. Moreover, the book allowed Mamet to free characters that had occupied his mind for years. On the subject of characters as a reason for writing, Mamet told the host, "You want to get these guys out of your head. You just want them to stop talking to you."[22]

One December 3, 2019, Mamet is set to publish a novel, The Diary of a Porn Star by Priscilla Wriston-Ranger: As Told to David Mamet With an Afterword by Mr. Mamet.[23]

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, where he wrote a well-circulated memo to the writing staff. 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 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, drawing satirical cartoons with themes including political strife in Israel.[24] In a 2008 essay at The Village Voice titled "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal"[25] he revealed that he had gradually rejected so-called political correctness and progressivism and embraced conservatism. Mamet has spoken in interviews of changes in his views,[26] highlighting his agreement with free market theorists such as Friedrich Hayek[27] the historian Paul Johnson, and economist Thomas Sowell, whom Mamet called "one of our greatest minds".

During promotion of a book, Mamet said British people had "a taint of anti-semitism," claiming they "want to give [Israel] away to some people whose claim is rather dubious."[28] In the same interview, Mamet went on to say that "there are famous dramatists and novelists [in the UK] whose works are full of anti-Semitic filth." He refused to give examples because of British libel laws (the interview was conducted in New York City for the Financial Times).[28][29] He is known for his pro-Israel positions; in his book The Secret Knowledge he claimed that "Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all."[30]

Mamet wrote an article for the November 2012 issue of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles imploring fellow Jewish Americans to vote for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.[31][32]

In an essay for Newsweek, published on 29 January 2013, Mamet argued against gun control laws: "It was intended to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government."[33]

Mamet has described the NFL anthem protests as “absolutely f***ing despicable”.[3]

Critical reception to Mamet

"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.[34] Mamet himself has criticized his (and other writers') tendency to write "pretty" at the expense of sound, logical plots.[35] 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."[36]

One 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 stealing from their employer's office. 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.[37]

Mamet and gender issues

Mamet's plays have frequently sparked debate and controversy.[38] During a staging of Oleanna in 1992, in which a post-secondary student accuses her professor of sexual harassment, a critic reported that the play divided the audience by gender and recounted "couples emerged screaming at each other".[38]

Arthur Holmberg in his 2014 book David Mamet and Male Friendship, has reconsidered the gender issue in many of Mamet's plays throughout his career by asserting a prominent and recurrent reversed sexual orientation of portrayed male gender preferences.[39]

Personal life

Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse married in 1977 and divorced in 1990. The couple have two children, Willa and Zosia. Willa was a professional photographer and is now a singer/songwriter;[40] Zosia is an actress. Mamet has been married to actress and singer-songwriter Rebecca Pidgeon since 1991. They live together in Santa Monica, California.[3] They have two children, Clara and Noah.

Mamet is a Reform Jew and strongly pro-Israel.[41]


The papers of David Mamet were sold to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 and first opened for research in 2009.[42] The growing collection consists mainly of manuscripts and related production materials for most of his plays, films, and other writings, but also includes his personal journals from 1966 to 2005. In 2015, the Ransom Center secured a second major addition to Mamet's papers that include more recent works. Additional materials relating to Mamet and his career can be found in the Ransom Center's collections of Robert De Niro, Mel Gussow, Tom Stoppard, Sam Shepard, Paul Schrader, Don DeLillo, and John Russell Brown.


Mamet is credited as writer of these works except where noted. Credits in addition to writer also noted.

Year Plays Films Books
  • The Revenge of the Space Pandas, or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock
  • Mr. Happiness
  • Prairie du Chien
  • The Blue Hour
  • The Shawl
  • Goldberg Street: Short Plays and Monologues
  • The Poet & The Rent
  • Writing in Restaurants
  • The Cabin: Reminiscence and Diversions
  • The Village
  • Make-Believe Town: Essays and Remembraces
  • The Old Religion
  • Wilson: A Consideration of the Sources
  • South of the Northeast Kingdom
  • Bambi Vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
  • The Vikings and Darwin
  • A Waitress in Yellowstone
  • Redbelt (director)
  • Theatre
  • The Trials of Roderick Spode (The Human Ant)
  • The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture
  • Three War Stories
  • Chicago
  • Bitter Wheat
  • The Diary of a Porn Star by Priscilla Wriston-Ranger: As Told to David Mamet With an Afterword by Mr. Mamet


  1. Josh Ferri, "Expletives, Awards and Star Power: Why Glengarry Glen Ross Sells as a Modern American Classic | Broadway Buzz", Broadway.com, 23 October 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  2. "David Mamet Biography". FilmMakers Magazine. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  3. "David Mamet on Trump, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and his new novel, Chicago". The Times. 2018-03-31. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  4. "David Mamet Biography (1947-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  5. Kogan, Rick. "David Mamet talks about his new book 'Chicago,' all about gangsters and Tribune reporters". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-02-25.
  6. Mamet, David (2006). "My Alma Mater". American Libraries: 44–46.
  7. I. Nadel (30 April 2016). David Mamet: A Life in the Theatre. Palgrave Macmillan US. pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0-230-37872-8.
  8. "David Mamet's 'Race' on Broadway: What did the critics think?". Los Angeles Times. 2009-12-07. Retrieved 2009-12-09.
  9. Hetrick, Adam."David Mamet's 'The Anarchist', With Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, Will End Broadway Run Dec. 16" Archived 2012-12-08 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, December 4, 2012
  10. Playbill.com Archived 2014-02-10 at Archive.today
  11. "David Mamet on His MasterClass Curriculum for Aspiring Dramatists". Observer. 2017-06-20. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  12. Orlova-Alvarez, Tamara; Alvarez, Joe (30 January 2019). "John Malkovich Is Coming To West End". Ikon London Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  13. Life magazine (Oct. 1987, V. 10 No. 11)
  14. https://web.archive.org/web/20150921210011/http://www.hollywood.com/movies/box-office-analysis-nov-11-57232728/
  15. "Heist". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-02-19.
  16. https://web.archive.org/web/20021216041748/http://us.imdb.com/Charts/video020609
  17. "James Badge Dale Joins Cate Blanchett In David Mamet's 'Blackbird'". Deadline Hollywood. November 24, 2013.
  18. Simpson, Janet (1992-03-16). "The Battle To Film Malcolm X". Time. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  19. von Buchau, Stephanie. "Dr. Faustus". TheaterMania. Archived from the original on 2004-10-23. Retrieved 2004-03-13.
  20. "CSPAN Video: The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture".
  21. Bachman, John. "Author Mamet to Newsmax: New Stories Deal With Brutality of War". Newsmax. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  22. The Diary of a Porn Star by Priscilla Wriston-Ranger: As Told to David Mamet with an Afterword by Mr. Mamet
  23. "David Mamet – Politics on The Huffington Post". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  24. Mamet, David (2008-03-11). "David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'". Village Voice. Retrieved 2017-04-13.
  25. Benn, Aluf (2012-01-13). "An interview with David Mamet on Israel and Zionism Israel News". Haaretz. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  26. "David Mamet," Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox Business Network, June 8, 2011.
  27. Gapper, John (June 11, 2011). "Lunch With David Mamet". Slate. Financial Times. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  28. Thorpe, Vanessa (June 12, 2011). "David Mamet launches tirade against 'antisemitism' of British writers". The Observer. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  29. "A liberal recants". The Economist. June 16, 2011.
  30. Mamet, David (2012-11-01). "The final Obama/Romney showdown: A note to a stiff-necked people | Opinion". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  31. Arellano, Jennifer (2012-11-05). "David Mamet implores fellow Jews to vote for Mitt Romney | PopWatch | EW.com". Popwatch.ew.com. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  32. Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm. Mamet, David. Newsweek / The Daily Beast. 29 January 2013.
  33. A Companion to Twentieth-century American Drama, David Krasner, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, p. 410
  34. Mamet, David. Writing in Restaurants.
  35. Stephen Randall, ed. (2006). "David Mamet: April 1996, interviewed by Geoffrey Norman and John Rezek". The Playboy Interviews: The Directors. M Press. p. 276.
  36. "Landmarks," on Night Waves BBC Radio, March 3, 2005, accessed January 17, 2007.
  37. Alberge, Dalya (8 July 2017). "David Mamet's $25,000 threat to theatres over post-show talks". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
  38. Arthur Holmberg, David Mamet and Male Friendship, Hardcover: 276 pages, Palgrave Macmillan (April 2, 2014), ISBN 978-1137305183.
  39. Mamet, Willa. "Willa Mamet". Willa Mamet.
  40. "An Interview With David Mamet on Israel and Zionism". haaretz.com. 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  41. "David Mamet: An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center". norman.hrc.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-09.

Further reading

  • David Mamet (2007-02-12). "David Mamet: Bambi vs. Godzilla". The Leonard Lopate Show (Interview). Interviewed by Leonard Lopate. New York: WNYC. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  • Radavich, David. "Man among Men: David Mamet's Homosocial Order." American Drama 1:1 (Fall 1991): 46-60.
  • Radavich, David. "Rabe, Mamet, Shepard, and Wilson: Mid-American Male Dramatists of the 1970s and '80s." The Midwest Quarterly XLVIII: 3 (Spring 2007): 342-58.
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