David Mamet Biography

David Mamet photo

Born: November 30, 1947


Birth Name: David Alan Mamet

Date of Birth: November 30, 1947

"There's no such thing as talent; you just have to work hard enough." ~David Mamet

Playwright, director, essayist, novelist, and poet, Mamet was born in Chicago to parents of Russian Jewish extraction.

His father was a labor lawyer, his mother a teacher. Mamet studied at Vermont's Goddard College and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York. He returned to his hometown to work for a time as the artistic director of the famed Goodman Theatre. He attended Goddard College in Vermont, where he later taught acting.

In 1972, he formed the St. Nicholas Company at Goddard with two of his acting students (one was William H. Macy) and then moved the company to Chicago between 1973 and 1977. There, at age 24, he began attracting serious acclaim for his unique staccato, highly cadenced use of dialogue, peppered with a liberal quantity of brutal language.

Mamet had a rebellious youth, employed in a variety of jobs (estate agent, truck driver, office cleaner, carpet salesman, window cleaner, sailor) and was influenced by such authors as Frank Norris, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, and the poetry of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter.

He first won recognition for his plays, Sexual Perversity In Chicago and American Buffalo (both were later turned into films). When both plays opened in New York in 1976, Mamet won the Obie Award for distinguished playwriting, and American Buffalo was voted Best Play by the New York Drama Critics Circle.

In 1978, he received the Outer Critics Circle Award for his contribution to American Theater.

After winning a Pulitzer for his play Glengarry Glen Ross in 1984 (a damning indictment of American business practices), the play was made into a film in 1992 with Mamet's own script. The play also collected four Tony awards.

His stage work has even been assayed in a book entitled, How Good is David Mamet, Anyway? by critic John Heilpern.

Mamet's first true screen success as a screenwriter came with The Untouchables in 1987. That same year, he earned further 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.

Mamet has also won acclaim for his numerous screenplays--the Oscar-nominated script of The Verdict, We're No Angels, Hoffa, The Edge, Wag the Dog, The Winslow Boy and State and Main. Mamet also penned an episode for the Hill Street Blues TV series.

Noted for his spare, gritty work that reflects the hardened attitudes of his native Chicago and often revolves around domineering male characters and their macho posturing, Mamet has time and again spurred both discussion and controversy, inciting particularly angry reactions from feminists.

He has adapted four works by Chekhov, written children's plays and books, seven volumes of essays and two novels, numerous magazine articles (including Playboy), and collaborated on many songs with his wife, actress/singer-songwriter Rebecca Pidgeon.

He has taught acting at his alma mater, Goddard College, as well as at The University of Chicago, Yale School of Drama and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he established a traveling repertory company in 1988, called the Atlantic Theater Company.

Mamet divides his time between homes in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Vermont which he shares with his wife, actress Rebecca Pidgeon, and daughter, Clara. (He has two other daughters, Willa and Zosia, from his previous marriage.)

Filmography (director):

Joan of Bark: The Dog that Saved France (2008)
The Heist (2001)
State and Main(2000)
The Winslow Boy(1999)
The Spanish Prisoner(1997)
Oleanna (1994)
Homicide (1991)
Things Change (1988)
House of Games(1987)

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