Excellence in Filmmaking Award: David Mamet


In a recent review, theater critic Jeremy McCarter wrote of David Mamet, the writer-director best known for plays like "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "American Buffalo," as well as his CBS TV series "The Unit": "His public profile even now remains that of a swaggering, foul-mouthed Chicagoan, despite a couple of decades' worth of work that tells a more complicated story."

The story will become more complicated still with the May release of his 10th movie as a director, Sony Pictures Classics' "Redbelt," a fight film set in Los Angeles. Mamet spoke about the project with The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway.

The Hollywood Reporter: What drew you to "Redbelt"?
David Mamet: There's this very interesting world I've been part of, made up of people who fight in mixed martial arts: the cage fighters and the people who train (for professional reasons) -- for example, police and bouncers. I've been doing it for five or six years, since I came to Los Angeles.

THR: Which martial art do you practice?
Mamet: Brazilian jujitsu. That is basically grappling.

THR: What surprised you the most about that world?
Mamet: I (had) no preconceptions, but many people who've seen the film were surprised at how courteous and gracious and intelligent the fighters were.

THR: Your early work was marked by a level of verbal, rather than physical, violence. Has that changed?
Mamet: I don't know that it has. I wrote quite a bit when I was a young man -- I write quite a bit now -- and the (works) that became more celebrated were those two Dionysian pieces about the margins of society, "Glengarry" and "American Buffalo." But I write about all sorts of other subjects.

THR: Is it true that you use a metronome when working with the actors?
Mamet: That's not true. But what I do -- and all dramatists and especially comedy writers do -- is count syllables. To get a gag to work, the rhythm of the line has to be correct.

THR: We think of you in connection with the stage, but you've done a lot of film work.
Mamet: I always loved films. I wrote my first film for Bob Rafelson, "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981).

THR: But you haven't always loved Hollywood. You once called it "a sinkhole of depraved venality."
Mamet: Of course it's a sinkhole of depraved venality -- but so am I. A book that I wrote came out, "Bambi vs. Godzilla," about Hollywood, and one of those NPR commentators was commentating that (while in Los Angeles for a few days) he got up early and all the freeways were packed, and he said, "This is really a hardworking group of people." And that's a part of Hollywood that, since I've lived out here and have been doing the TV show, I admire greatly and am proud to be a part of.