With a list of credits that requires a tall drink of water to read aloud from start to finish, NATO/ShoWest Excellence in Filmmaking honoree David Mamet has written more than two dozen screenplays (probably 26; he claims to have lost count), directed 10 of those, produced TV’s “The Unit,” authored 11 nonfiction books as well as three novels and a book of cartoons, and penned more plays than others could possibly imagine. In his spare time, he directs commercials and has a family.
In May, Sony Pictures Classics will release “Redbelt,” which the uberbusy scribe also helmed. Drawing on one of Mamet’s oft-visited vistas, the purview of conmen, pic tells the story of a jujitsu teacher in Los Angeles played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who runs his studio by the honorable samurai code until greed and corruption threaten to derail his existence.
Mamet places his hero in a contempo “job parable”: If you take a noble man in a dangerous world, betray him at every turn, to what extreme will he go to live in accordance with his ideals?
At 60, Mamet, a former wrestler and a purple belt in jujitsu, stays the course. He’s working on a screenplay called “Elizabeth and Essex Get Laid” with “a lot of sex and snappy gags”; a new play about a man who makes airplane models, tentatively titled “The Garage of Bernarda Alba”; and a book of cartoons, “The Trials of Antman.”
Still, for the guy who scripted “Wag the Dog” and so many others, there’s heartache when a beloved piece of work — such as his screenplay for “Joan of Bark” — gets shelved.
“In addition to all the fame and glory, once in a while you have to get out in the real world and suffer disappointments,” he observes. “One of the wonderful things about Hollywood is it’s very humbling. The world is always going to come up with a test you weren’t prepared for.”
Mamet is undeterred by Hollywood’s slings and arrows, nor does he rest on his laurel. “I feel like I’m the bumblebee and going from flower to flower and fertilizing.”