Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and director David Mamet has, in his own words, gone from a Hollywood veteran to “the hermit of Santa Monica”. Celebrated for his plays American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Speed-the-Plow, Mamet has dedicated his formidable energy to the culture war raging in La La Land.
To mark the release of his memoir, Everywhere an Oink Oink, Florence Read spoke to Mamet about the death of storytelling, antisemitism in America and his zeal for Donald Trump. Here is a selection of his comments.
In addition to having a Director, they have a Managing Director, and the Director is now called the Artistic Director. What was he before, if it wasn’t artistic? […] The theatre is not only dead, it stinks. […] It’s “culture”, right? Nobody likes culture. It’s nonsense. Now we have political commissars who say, in addition to the Artistic Director, in addition to the Managing Director, we have to have a Director of Diversity, who’s on top of everything. And we’re all going to pay attention to this person who tells us, you don’t have enough black women in the play, or you don’t have enough trans people. Whether you’re black, or trans, or gay, you have the right to hear a story. If somebody’s not telling you a story, then that theatre stinks.
Broadway had a huge audience that was largely middle class and Jewish. And they were people who worked and lived in the city. So the only plays that were put on were those that reflected their experience. They only endorsed the plays that reflected their experience. But all those people have moved away. There is no more audience in New York. So who comes? People from out of town. So the two things that they can see are either trash or filth. They can see pageants. I don’t want to go to Disneyland to see a thoughtful roller coaster. Right? I want to go to Disneyland for a thrill. So New York is now Disneyland. I don’t want to see a play which is thought provoking. What the hell do I care? I want to have either a thrill or a dog-treat. And the dog-treat is diversity. Please, tell me I’m not a racist. I’m not a transphobe. These people are shaking the audience down.
Critics have always been a bunch of brainless whores.
The national press is completely co-opted — it’s Pravda. It’s absolutely Pravda. No one’s going to put on a play that’s not going to be approved by the press. And the press is there to approve the play. Right? What they’re doing is the equivalent of the Stalinist plays “Me and My Tractor”. One doesn’t have to worry about criticism, because nobody is going to put on a play which is not going to get a good review. And so what happens is the people on the Left enjoy having differences about minor points of doctrine. Because that makes them feel that they’re intellectually independent.
In America, there’s no such thing as an independent voter. An independent voter is a liberal speech defect.
Western culture is completely bifurcated. What’s happening now is that the conservative side has said, “wait a second, what’s wrong with the Judeo-Christian ethic? What’s wrong with the laws? What’s wrong with judging people?” Martin Luther King said he had a dream that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin. It was his dream and that dream came true to the largest extent. And then the wokists came in and said “no, we must judge people by the colour of their skin”. And the conservatives said, “you know what, I’d rather vote with Dr King”. The conservatives are done with the Left. We’re not looking for anything from the Left because there’s nothing there.
ON CANCEL CULTURE:
It’s called fascism. It’s my way or the highway. And cowardice is contagious, because we’re herd creatures. […] So if everyone is saying “Jesus Christ, x, y, or z might limit my ability to get ahead, I’m gonna hold my tongue”, we start limiting the things we can say. And then because we don’t want to feel like hypocrites, we start limiting the things we think.
Relationships are broken off in Hollywood, people lose your number. Your manager, your agent, they just go away. That’s unfortunate. Hollywood is dead.
It’s a phoney-baloney business. The movies have always been about putting images up on a bedsheet and selling popcorn. Right? The whole idea that there’s any sagacity in the movies is nonsense. There were a few magnificent works of art made in a hundred years, a whole bunch of really good movies and a lot of crap.
ON FILM SCHOOL:
Film school is warehousing. You learn nothing in film school. The only thing it fits you to do is to be an executive. Which is to say somebody who doesn’t know anything, hoping rather than to make a good movie to get the job that some other executive has. Because that’s what bureaucrats do.
If Hamas had not been voted in, Gaza would be the richest city in the world. It would be Singapore. What are the Jews doing to Gaza? Nothing. They said, take it. PS, they said, if you need medical help come across the border. PS, if you guys are gay, go to Tel Aviv, we’ll welcome you. We aren’t going to kill you, we’re glad to have your business. Gaza is at the end of the Mediterranean, and it’s right off the Suez Canal. It’s the most valuable real estate in the world. And they want to kill the Jews. It doesn’t make sense. The Jews are, and have always been, so happy to say: “For God’s sake, let’s be partners.” […] The most diverse country in the world is Israel. And they want to kill it. Because it works. The answer is “from the river to the sea”. You all have to die.
ON JUDAISM IN AMERICA:
We were second-class citizens. We always existed at the mercy of the country. […] So our answer was always to work harder. […] We had to figure out a way to do the thing that nobody wanted to do, because that was the only thing that was left. A good example is family law. And a good example is the movies. Jews have always been outsiders. What always happens, going back to the fall of Jerusalem, is that when things get tough, people turn on the Jews. It’s the equivalent of kicking the cat or screaming at the secretary.
I don’t see the Jewish culture anymore. People got into the habit of going to the temple the same way they went to the dentist. […] Go to an evangelical church, or go to a black Baptist church. Those people are praying to God ecstatically and with their whole hearts. So when you go back to these assimilated Jewish synagogues, it’s like taking a bath with your socks on and no water. They’ve got so effing woke. We don’t need some rabbi to tell us to be kind to black people.
ON DONALD TRUMP:
Trump was the best president since Abraham Lincoln. […] He brought peace to the Middle East. He closed the border. He made us an energy exporter. He had the best rating among African Americans of any president ever. And the country was at peace and prosperous in the world. All of a sudden, he gets kicked out. And the world is a mess. But because the liberals cannot defend their position, all they can do is indict Trump. He’s not generating anger. He’s talking to reason.
He’s got a big mouth, so do I. The question is, who do you like in a fair fight with your back to the wall? Who would you rather have: Joe Biden, who’s a senile old bag-man, or Donald Trump, who’s a scrapper and loves his country.
ON FREE SPEECH:
I don’t think any speech should be banned. […] And it’s my right to make up my mind about what you say. […] The question is, who gets to say what counts as hate speech? That’s where the power is. […] The most terrible thing in the world was the idea that there were certain crimes which are hate crimes. The question is not what did the person do, but what do we think about their motives in regard to certain societal norms which we have today. There’s no such thing as a love crime. All crimes are hate crimes, right?
If you gave me all the fame and power, it’s still poison, it’s tainted. In return for what? In return for my conscience, in return for my soul, in return for whatever it has pleased God to give me as a gift for making up stories. I say thank you. I’ll play these.