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David Mamet
Mamet at the premiere of Redbelt at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 25, 2008
Mamet at the premiere of Redbelt at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 25, 2008
Born (1947-11-30) November 30, 1947 (age 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Author
  • playwright
  • screenwriter
  • film director
Alma materGoddard College
Notable worksThe Duck Variations (1971)
Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1983)[1]
(m. 1977; div. 1990)

(m. after 1991)
Children4; including Zosia and Clara

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.

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 a 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 Polish Jews.[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]

In 2019 Mamet returned to the London West End with a new play, Bitter Wheat, at the Garrick Theatre, starring John Malkovich.[12]


Mamet's 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 1982 legal drama, The Verdict. 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."[citation needed] 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]

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.

David 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.[18] 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 1986 Mamet published “Writing in Restaurants” a collection of essays. 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.[19] 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.[20]

Mamet published Three War Stories, a collection of novellas, on November 11, 2013.

On December 3, 2019, Mamet was 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.[21]

Television and radio

Mamet wrote one episode of Hill Street Blues, "A Wasted Weekend", 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. The Christopher Boy's Communion was another Jarvis & Ayres production, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on March 8, 2021.

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.[22] In a 2008 essay at The Village Voice titled "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'"[23] 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,[24] highlighting his agreement with free market theorists such as Friedrich Hayek[25] 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."[26] 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).[26][27] 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."[28]

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.[29][30]

In an essay for Newsweek, published on January 29, 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."[31]

Mamet has described the NFL anthem protests as "absolutely fucking despicable".[3] In a 2020 interview, he described Donald Trump as a "great president" and supported his re-election.[32]

Mamet is a contributing editor to Flying magazine.

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

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.[36]

Mamet and gender issues

Mamet's plays have frequently sparked debate and controversy.[37] Following a 1992 staging of Oleanna, a play in which a college student accuses her professor of trying to rape her,[38] a critic reported that the play divided the audience by gender and recounted that "couples emerged screaming at each other".[37]

In his 2014 book David Mamet and Male Friendship, Arthur Holmberg examined Mamet's portrayal of male friendships, especially focusing on the contradictions and ambiguities of male bonding as dramatized in Mamet's plays and films.[39]

Awards and nominations


Year Award Category Work Result
1977 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play American Buffalo Nominated
New York Drama Critics' Circle Best American Play Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play The Water Engine Nominated
Edmond Nominated
1984 Glengarry Glen Ross Nominated
Pulitzer Prize Drama Won
Tony Award Best Play Nominated
New York Drama Critics' Circle Best American Play Won
1988 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play Speed-the-Plow Nominated
Tony Award Best Play Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play Oleanna Nominated
1995 The Cryptogram Nominated
Pulitzer Prize Drama Nominated


Year Award Category Work Result
Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay The Verdict Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Screenplay Nominated
Golden Globe Award House of Games Nominated
1997 Golden Globe Award Wag the Dog Nominated
Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated


Year Award Category Work Result
2013 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Miniseries or Movie Phil Spector Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special Nominated

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, including 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
  • Some Freaks
  • The Cabin: Reminiscence and Diversions
  • The Village
  • A Whore's Profession
  • 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
  • The Christopher Boy's Communion[43]


  1. ^ Josh Ferri, "Expletives, Awards and Star Power: Why Glengarry Glen Ross Sells as a Modern American Classic | Broadway Buzz",, October 23, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "David Mamet Biography". FilmMakers Magazine. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c Hoyle, Ben (March 31, 2018). "David Mamet on Trump, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and his new novel, Chicago". The Times. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  4. ^ "David Mamet Biography (1947-)". Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  5. ^ Kogan, Rick. "David Mamet talks about his new book 'Chicago,' all about gangsters and Tribune reporters". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  6. ^ Mamet, David (2006). "My Alma Mater". American Libraries: 44–46.
  7. ^ I. Nadel (April 30, 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. December 7, 2009. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  9. ^ Hetrick, Adam."David Mamet's 'The Anarchist', With Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, Will End Broadway Run Dec. 16" Archived December 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, December 4, 2012
  10. ^ Archived February 10, 2014, at
  11. ^ "David Mamet on His MasterClass Curriculum for Aspiring Dramatists". Observer. June 20, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  12. ^ Billington, Michael (June 19, 2019). "Bitter Wheat review – Malkovich and Mamet's monstrous misfire". The Guardian. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  13. ^ Life magazine (Oct. 1987, V. 10 No. 11)
  14. ^ "Box Office Analysis: Nov. 11". November 11, 2001. Archived from the original on September 21, 2015.
  15. ^ "Heist". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "James Badge Dale Joins Cate Blanchett In David Mamet's 'Blackbird'". Deadline Hollywood. November 24, 2013.
  18. ^ Simpson, Janet (March 16, 1992). "The Battle To Film Malcolm X". Time. Archived from the original on January 5, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2007.
  19. ^ von Buchau, Stephanie. "Dr. Faustus". TheaterMania. Archived from the original on October 23, 2004. Retrieved March 13, 2004.
  20. ^ "CSPAN Video: The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture".
  21. ^ The Diary of a Porn Star by Priscilla Wriston-Ranger: As Told to David Mamet with an Afterword by Mr. Mamet
  22. ^ "David Mamet – Politics on The Huffington Post". Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  23. ^ Mamet, David (March 11, 2008). "David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'". Village Voice. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  24. ^ Benn, Aluf (January 13, 2012). "An interview with David Mamet on Israel and Zionism Israel News". Haaretz. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  25. ^ "David Mamet," Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox Business Network, June 8, 2011.
  26. ^ a b Gapper, John (June 11, 2011). "Lunch With David Mamet". Slate. Financial Times. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  27. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (June 12, 2011). "David Mamet launches tirade against 'antisemitism' of British writers". The Observer. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  28. ^ "A liberal recants". The Economist. June 16, 2011.
  29. ^ Mamet, David (November 1, 2012). "The final Obama/Romney showdown: A note to a stiff-necked people | Opinion". Jewish Journal. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  30. ^ Arellano, Jennifer (November 5, 2012). "David Mamet implores fellow Jews to vote for Mitt Romney | PopWatch |". Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  31. ^ Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm. Mamet, David. Newsweek / The Daily Beast. January 29, 2013.
  32. ^ Breitbart News - "Exclusive — David Mamet: Trump Is a 'Great President,' Left’s Reaction Has Been 'Psychotic'"
  33. ^ A Companion to Twentieth-century American Drama, David Krasner, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, p. 410
  34. ^ Mamet, David (1987). Writing in Restaurants. ISBN 9780140089813.
  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. ^ a b Alberge, Dalya (July 8, 2017). "David Mamet's $25,000 threat to theatres over post-show talks". The Guardian. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  38. ^ Chiaramonte, Peter (2014). "Power play: The dynamics of power and interpersonal communication in higher education as reflected in David Mamet's Oleanna" (PDF). Canadian Journal of Higher Education. 44 (1): 38–51. doi:10.47678/cjhe.v44i1.182431.
  39. ^ Holmberg, Arthur (2014). David Mamet and Male Friendship, 276 pages, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-1137305183.
  40. ^ Mamet, Willa. "Willa Mamet". Willa Mamet.
  41. ^ "An Interview With David Mamet on Israel and Zionism". January 13, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  42. ^ "David Mamet: An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center". Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  43. ^ Gans, Andrew (February 13, 2020). "William H. Macy, Fionnula Flanagan Star in World Premiere of David Mamet's The Christopher Boy's Communion Beginning February 13". Playbill. Retrieved March 8, 2021.

Further reading

  • David Mamet (February 12, 2007). "David Mamet: Bambi vs. Godzilla". The Leonard Lopate Show (Interview). Interviewed by Leonard Lopate. New York: WNYC. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
  • 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.

External links

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