David Alan Mamet (born November 30, 1947) is an American playwright, screenwriter, director, poet, essayist and novelist.
His theatre and film work is known for its clever, terse, and sometimes vulgar dialogue and his exploration of masculinity.
He was born to a Jewish family in Flossmoor, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Educated at the Francis W. Parker School and at Goddard College and a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company, Mamet 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.
Mamet's famous ear for dialogue was in evidence from the first. He is not, however, simply a human tape-recorder; the dialogue is very obviously and precisely crafted for maximum poetic effect. It is the quality for which he has not only been almost universally praised, but which has made him the touchstone for any number of imitators. The attention given the dialogue has been so great that, in Writing in Restaurants, Mamet himself denigrated his (and other writers') early tendency to write "pretty" at the expense of sound, logical plots.
His work has developed over the years, then, primarily in his skill at sustaining longer plots, using tantalizing and even playful surprises. (He himself has expressed relief that he grew tired of writing short plays - largely exercises in dialogue - before the audience grew tired of attending them.)
Mamet's first screenplay was the 1981 production of The Postman Always Rings Twice based upon James M. Cain's novel. He won an Academy Award nomination for his next script, The Verdict.
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 remains a prolific writer and director, and has assembled an informal repertory company for his films, including William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, Crouse, Rebecca Pidgeon (his wife since 1991), and Ricky Jay.
Like independent director John Sayles, Mamet funds his own films with the pay he gets from credited and uncredited rewrites of typically big-budget films. For instance, Mamet has done rewrites of the scripts for Hannibal and Hoffa, 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 artists.
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. He was credited under the name "Richard Weisz" for Ronin.
In July 2004, Cambridge University Press published The Cambridge Companion to David Mamet, edited by Christopher Bigsby. The book includes essays analyzing Mamet's biography, his impact during various decades, and pieces on most of his work.
Since May 2005 he's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.
He has also published a lauded version of the classical Faust story, Faustus, in 2004.
He is also the creator, producer and frequent writer of the television series The Unit, co-produced with friend Shawn Ryan of The Shield.
Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse were married from 1977 to 1990, and have two children together. Since 1991, Mamet has been married to actress and singer-songwriter, Rebecca Pidgeon. They have two children, Clara and Noah.
Though Mamet is not an actor, he has written extensively regarding his views of acting. In his book True and False, Mamet derides the practice of teaching drama students the system of Constantin Stanislavski or method acting of Lee Strasberg. In Mamet's opinion, time spent searching for emotion memory or considering character's biographies is time wasted, and he suspects that it is an academic bluff working to keep actors uncertain. He also argues that the accomplishments of the Method "greats" (Brando, de Niro et al) were due to natural genius and fierce determination rather than a specific academic methodology.
He recommends a simple, 'honest' style of acting, where the actor's job is to learn the lines, find their mark, and speak up simply. Work on character, he asserts, is the playwright's job.
In his books about acting, there is no process for emotional preparation, the creation of an imaginary world in which to live while acting, no process for creating specific characterizations and little to no respect for those actors who engage in such processes.
Mamet advocates an acting process that posits that acting is a craft born out of the repeated application of a few straightforward, basic principles. While many actors respect some of Mamet's ideas about acting, they view much of what he writes as resulting from his lack of personal acting experience and lack of respect for the many years of work that goes into great acting.
Using Mamet's "method," one does not create a 'characterization', since Mamet thinks there are no valid processes for doing this. Although some actors and acting teachers regard this is as unlikely, Anthony Hopkins praised True And False as "[demolishing] the myths and the psychobabble-gobbledygook that pass for theory with regard to acting" and described it as "a revealing book of the highest order".
Some commentators have theorised that a primary reason his books about acting are quite popular with young actors is because his books make acting seem completely simple; the opposing view is that Mamet's success lies in providing relevant and practical advice.
Then again, it must be noted that Mamet usually relies on a pared-down, finely honed prose, and that in advising acting students to reject method systems, he is by no means advocating any specific system of his own. He urges students, above all, to question the establishment and the established - whether it be Stanislavsky, Strasberg, or Hollywood itself. Most of True and False reads like a series of deliberate attempts to shock the reader out of complacency, and to provoke debate, rather than any definite statement of a methodical creed. Furthermore, the notes from Mamet's acting workshops and production notes have been compiled and expanded into a very specific textbook, A Practical Handbook for the Actor, and it must be noted that many of Mamet's suggestions and techniques (in both texts) either greatly resemble or fully correspond with those of renowned director and teacher Uta Hagen.