Tag Archives: Glengarry Glen Ross

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kennedy Center Honors: Our top 50 recommendations who need to be chosen include Dick Van Dyke, Liza Minnelli, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler

Mister D: Ok, I admit that I’m prejudiced, but this list could be whittled down in seconds for me. My standards are high, well in some things, and some of these people don’t really belong on this list. Gold Derby Kennedy Center Honors: Our top 50 recommendations who need to be chosen include Dick Van Dyke, Liza Minnelli, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler Chris Beachum April 11, 2018 6:00AM The next recipients for the Kennedy Center Honors will be announced in the late summer, often around Labor Day. The all-star event is held each year in the nation’s capital during the first weekend in December and then airs on CBS as a two-hour special after Christmas. Each year, the selection committee chooses five entertainment veterans from a variety of fields – film, television, popular music, theatre, and the fine arts (dance, opera, classical music). Selected artists are almost always over 50 and generally are 60 and beyond. The first recipients in 1978 were singer Marian Anderson, actor and dancer Fred Astaire, choreographer George Balanchine, composer Richard Rodgers and conductor Arthur Rubinstein. The most recent honorees in 2017 for the 40th anniversary program were dancer Carmen de Lavallade, singer Gloria Estefan, singer LL Cool J, producer and writer Norman Lear and singer Lionel Richie. But there are a number of notable performers missing from the honors roll. Our photo gallery features 50 entertainers who deserve to be selected soon. For our purposes a person must be at least 60 years old to be in our gallery. We are not going to include the retired Doris Day and Gene Hackman as well as the reclusive Woody Allen since attendance at the event is mandatory. Tour through our photos and sound off in the forums about who you think should be selected soon. 1. Dick Van Dyke Van Dyke is just an Oscar away from EGOT status. He is a five-time Emmy Award winner for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Van Dyke and Company,” and “The Wrong Way Kid.” He won a Tony Award for “Bye Bye Birdie” (1961) and a Grammy Award for “Mary Poppins” (1964). Van Dyke is a member of the Television Academy Hall of Fame and received the Screen Actors Guild life achievement award in 2013. 2. Liza Minnelli Minnelli is very close to EGOT, having never won a Grammy Award before. She won a Tony Award for “Flora the Red Menace” (1965), an Oscar for “Cabaret” (1973), and an Emmy for “Liza with a Z” (1973). The daughter of legendary entertainer Judy Garland, other films have included “The Sterile Cuckoo” (1969, her first Oscar nomination), “New York, New York” (1977), and “Arthur” (1981). 3. Denzel Washington Washington is the only African-American with two Academy Awards for acting (“Glory,” 1989; “Training Day,” 2001). His other Oscar nominations were for “Cry Freedom” (1987), “Malcolm X” (1992), “The Hurricane” (1999), “Flight” (2012), “Fences” (2016, producing and acting), and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2017). He also won a Tony Award for the same role in “Fences” (2010). 4. Gladys Knight The “Empress of Soul” started her career in 1952 on Ted Mack’s “Original Amateur Hour” TV show. Her group Gladys Knight and the Pips joined Motown in 1966 and became one of the top recording artists of the 1960s and 1970s with such hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “If I Were Your Woman,” “Neither One of Us,” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The six-time Grammy winner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. 5. Mick Jagger Whether he gets selected by himself (like Paul McCartney) or with his group The Rolling Stones (like The Who and Led Zeppelin), this honor is long overdue. The lead singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his band in 1989. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. Their lengthy list of hit singles has included “Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Angie,” and “Start Me Up.” 6. Jessica Lange Lange is just one notch away from EGOT. She is a two-time Academy Award winner (“Tootsie,” 1982; “Blue Sky,” 1994) among her six nominations. She is a three-time Emmy champ (“Grey Gardens,” 2009; “American Horror Story,” 2012; and “American Horror Story: Coven,” 2014). Lange won a Tony Award in 2016 for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Other films in her career have included “Frances,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Crimes of the Heart,” “Cape Fear,” and “Big Fish.” 7. Alan Alda Alda has established himself as a triple threat on television, on stage, and in films. He won five Emmy Awards for the legendary comedy series “M*A*S*H” spread out over acting, directing, and writing (the only person to prevail in only three fields). He also took home a sixth Emmy for his role on “The West Wing” and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1994. He’s been nominated at the Oscars (“The Aviator,”), Grammys (“Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself,” 2008), and three times at the Tony Awards (“The Apple Tree,” 1967; “Jake’s Women,” 1992; “Glengarry Glen Ross,” 2005). 8. Bette Midler Midler was a big hit right out of the gates when she won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 1974. It was the first of three Grammys along with three Emmys for her variety specials and a Tony Award in 2017 for “Hello, Dolly.” That just puts her an Oscar away from EGOT, and she has competed at those awards twice as a leading actress for “The Rose” and “For the Boys.” 9. Harrison Ford Ford is the biggest box office star in American history but still hasn’t had much of an awards career but did receive an Oscar nomination for “Witness” (1985). He was awarded the American Film Institute life achievement in 2000 and the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in 2002. His film career has included “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Working Girl,” “Regarding Henry,” “Patriot Games,” “The Fugitive,” “Air Force One,” and “42.” 10. Reba McEntire McEntire is a Country Music Hall of Fame member who has been one of the most popular singers and performers in the 1980s and beyond. She has had the most CMA Award nominations (49) and ACM Awards nominations (45) of any female artist. She has won two Grammy Awards for “Whoever’s in New England” (1987) and “Does He Love You?” (1994) among her 12 career nominations. McEntire has had a successful TV show with “Reba” (2001-2007) and was widely acclaimed for her Broadway debut in “Annie Get Your Gun” (2001). 11. Tommy Tune Tune has been one of the top choreographers and dancers in Broadway history. He is a nine-time Tony Award winner for his performances in “Seesaw” and “My One and Only,” for his direction of “Nine,” “Grand Hotel” and “The Will Rogers Follies” and choreography of “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” “My One and Only,” “Grand Hotel” and “The Will Rogers Follies.” 12. Betty White White is one of the favorite comedic performers in TV history and was inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame in 1995. She has won five prime-time Emmy Awards for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Golden Girls,” “The John Larroquette Show” and “Saturday Night Live” plus a Daytime Emmy for “Just Men.” 13. Burt Bacharach Bacharach has composed hundreds of songs in his lengthy career, many of them popular hits. He is a three-time Oscar winner for his original song and score in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and original song in “Arthur.” He is a two-time Grammy champ for “Cassidy” and “I Still Have That Other Girl” plus an Emmy winner for his 1971 variety special. 14. Diane Keaton Keaton is an Oscar-winning actress (“Annie Hall,” 1977) who has been primarily working in films since the early 1970s. Her career has included “The Godfather,” “Reds,” “Marvin’s Room,” “Baby Boom,” “Father of the Bride,” “The First Wives Club” and “Something’s Gotta Give.” She was the 2017 recipient of the American Film Institute life achievement award. 15. Arturo Sandoval The Cuban-born Sandoval is one of the greatest trumpet players in music history. He defected to America in 1990 while performing with previous KCH recipient Dizzy Gillespie. He is a 10-time Grammy winner, Emmy winner and recipient of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom. 16. Cynthia Gregory Gregory is one of the most famous American prima ballerinas of recent decades. She first became well known in San Francisco as a teenager before joining the American Ballet Theatre in 1965. She has had roles in “Giselle,”” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Coppelia,” “Don Quixote,” “The Eternal Idol” and “At Midnight.” 17. Bob Newhart Newhart has proven to be one of the most beloved comedians in American history since the early 1960s. In fact he won at the 1961 Grammy Awards as Best New Artist and for Album of the Year. He was inducted into the TV Academy Hall of Fame in 1993 for his roles on “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Newhart.” He won his only Emmy Award in 2013 for a guest role on “The Big Bang Theory.” He was the 2002 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. 18. Whoopi Goldberg Goldberg is one of the few people who have achieved EGOT in her entertainment career. She won an Oscar for “Ghost,” a Grammy for her comedy album “Direct From Broadway,” a Tony Award for producing “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and a Daytime Emmy for hosting “The View.” Other film roles have included “The Color Purple,” “Sister Act” and “The Lion King.” She was the 2001 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.

19. Jerry Lee Lewis ...  Read More

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Broadway’s 2012-13 Scorecard: New Shows Surprisingly Strong

ArtInfo Broadway’s 2012-13 Scorecard: New Shows Surprisingly Strong June 27, 2013 428313_232050000224794_214468311982963_462769_2060393700_n Fallout from the Annual Tony Awards usually includes announcements of shows closing because their lagging box-office didn’t get enough of a kick from the telecast. In an unusual development for Broadway, no less than six of this season’s musical offerings grossed more than a million dollars in last week’s tally, led by “Kinky Boots” ($1.5 milion), the winner of the Best Musical Tony. Also in the club were “Motown, the Musical” and “Matilda” as well as the revivals of “Pippin,” “Cinderella,” and “Annie.” That’s an impressive show of strength, attributable to the fact that all are family-friendly and offer either spectacle or a familiar brand name. At this point each of the shows look likely to recoup their respective investments. If so, that would mean that 50 percent of the commercial musicals presented this season will have gone into the black, an eye-raising statistic given that the average rate of success is 25 percent or less. Even more surprising is the success of the non-musicals, Broadway’s poor cousins. “Lucky Guy,” “I’ll Eat You Last,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and “The Heiress” have already announced recoupement. And Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which won the Best Play Tony Award, will probably announce next month that it has fully paid back its investment. Given that 10 plays flopped, the 33 percent rate of commercial success is not as good as that for musicals but still well above average. (A caveat: the jury is still out on “Macbeth,” starring Alan Cumming and “The Trip to Bountiful,” with Tony-Award winner, Cicely Tyson.) So what does that say about the present state of Broadway? Marquee names are good insurance. It’s arguable that without Tom Hanks (“Lucky Guy”), Bette Midler (“I’ll Eat You Last”), Al Pacino (“Glengarry Glen Ross”), and Jessica Chastain, (“The Heiress”), the ledgers for their respective shows would have been filled with red ink. However, even with stars you can still face insolvency. For all their clout, Scarlett Johannson (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”) and Alec Baldwin (“Orphans”) couldn’t drag their shows over the finish line. Another lesson is that you can make end runs around New York’s critical establishment if your brand or star names are strong enough. “Motown, the Musical” received some of the worst reviews of the season and has been grossing well over a million dollars since it opened. On the other hand, unanimous raves couldn’t save the Steppenwolf production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play as well as a trophy for its star, Tracy Letts. While this season’s scorecard may entice more investors to try their luck on Broadway, the depressing news is that, with the exception of “Matilda” and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” this was one of the least imaginative seasons in recent history. Photo by Joan Marcus
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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bette Midler and Tom Hanks Brighten a Dismal Season

ArtInfo MAY 31, 2013, 4:21 PM Bette Midler and Tom Hanks Brighten a Dismal Season By Patrick Pacheco midler Battered by Hurricane Sandy and a weak slate of fall shows, Broadway attendance plunged by 6.2 percent during the 2012-13 season, compared to the previous year. The proverbial “asses-in-seats” statistic — according to a report recently released by The Broadway League, a trade organization — was the worst showing for the Great White Way in eight years. Total receipts for the season was a flat $1.139 billion, slightly down from the year before. Not surprisingly, marquee names powered tickets sales. Bette Midler, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, and Jessica Chastain proved golden. Last fall, revivals of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Heiress,” starring Pacino and Chastain, respectively, recouped before they closed. “Lucky Guy,” starring Hanks in his Broadway debut, is still going strong after returning its investment in record time. (It is a bittersweet triumph for the surviving family members of the late writer Nora Ephron, who always longed for a hit but who died months before rehearsals for the play began.) And Midler has had the last laugh after being snubbed for a Tony Award nomination for her acclaimed star turn as the late super-agent Sue Mengers in John Logan’s “I’ll Eat You Last.” On May 30, the producers announced that show, which has been a hot-ticket since it opened, recouped its $2.4 million investment in only eight weeks. Midler continues in the bitchy gossip fest only through June 30, which means that the remaining weekly grosses will be enhanced by the premium ticket price — nearly $300 for a prime orchestra seat. Meanwhile, Broadway’s bottom line is now being fed by a spring shower of splashy musicals: “Matilda, “ “Kinky Boots,” “Cinderella,” “Pippin,” and “Motown.” The critical reception ranged from raves (“Matilda”) to pans (“Motown”). But again, “Motown,” due to its powerful brand, is having the last laugh. Its gross last week was over $1.3 million, with an average ticket price of $112.86. What does this augur for Broadway? The news is not good. It appears that it is either feast or famine. As an example, take the solo shows “I’ll Eat You Last” and “Ann,” starring Holland Taylor. The weekly gross for the former was over $800,000 (for seven performances) with an average ticket price of a staggering $146.54. “Ann” took in just over $240,000, with an average ticket of about $55.00. The contrast is just as stark between the “cheapest” musical on Broadway (“Nice Work If You Can Get It,” with an $84.84 average ticket price) and the priciest (“Book of Mormon,” $207.13). This means that going to Broadway has turned from a “habit” into an “event.” The high ticket prices are driving regular theater-goers away and tourists are not entirely filling the void. There is increasing pressure on producers to create an “event,” either through spectacle (“Spider-Man”) or star power. The receipts of the last season will only emphasize the need for a marquee name, and stars are attracted largely by the mounting of a proven product. Hence there will be more revivals. But even that’s not fail-proof. “Orphans,” starring Alec Baldwin, was a flop, as was “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” starring Scarlett Johannson. It also means producers will rely increasingly on more brand names like the poorly-received “Motown.” The most depressing aspect of the season was the noticeable absence of a “sleeper,” a high artistic achievement that also managed to find commercial success. Past years have yielded hits like “Next to Normal,” about a loving family scarred by their bi-polar mother, and “Once,” an intimate love story between an Irish busker and Czech immigrant. “Matilda,” a stunning adaptation of a dark Roald Dahl classic, scores the highest in moving forward the art form itself. It’s a daring high-wire act that an inventive creative team managed to pull off. However, it was carefully nurtured by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which enjoys British government subsidies. After a tryout at their home base in Stratford, it transferred to the West End, claiming a record number of Olivier Awards, the equivalent of the Tony. As usual, the most adventurous work being done here lies off-Broadway in the not-for-profit arena. Musicals like “Giant,” “Dogfight,” “Here Lies Love,” and “Natasha, Pierre and The Comet of 1812” are arguably far better than, say, “Bring it On,” an inane musical about high school cheerleaders that is among this year’s Tony nominees for Best Musical. There is hope that “Here Lies Love” and “Natasha” may transfer to Broadway. But those will be risky bets given the current climate.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Helen Mirren: “Bette Midler would have been absolutely brilliant in the role…” (Phil Spector)

Vancouver Sun Phil Spector film ‘an amalgam of fiction, imagination and reality’ Helen Mirren calls HBO movie on reviled music producer a ‘mythology’ By Alex Strachan, Postmedia News March 19, 2013 65456416Nashvilledon7620114 “I got a guy, sure looks guilty,” a high-powered, widely connected attorney to the music industry says at the beginning of David Mamet’s eccentric, twisty, HBO film Phil Spector. “He’s a creep. They’re going to convict him, and I just don’t like him.” “Well, then,” legal expert Linda Kenney-Baden says dryly. “He’s going to need a good lawyer.” When Baden, played by Helen Mirren, finally meets Spector, played by Al Pacino in the film, he’s not at all what she expects. He’s not what anyone expects. He is a guy; he does look guilty; he is a creep; and they are going to convict him. As for whether she likes him or doesn’t like him, the point is moot. A lawyer’s job, and a lawyer’s only job, is to represent the client as best they can. Easy to say — harder to do. It isn’t long in the film before Baden realizes that the case, and Spector himself, are going to take more out of her than she bargained on. After all, as he berates her at one point in the film, “For what am I being punished? For being the most successful music producer in the history of the world.” Phil Spector is a work of fiction, writer Mamet insists. It is not “based on a true story,” as a title card reminds viewers at the beginning of the film. Mamet wouldn’t have it any other way. The celebrated playwright, screenwriter, author, director and producer set the rules for Phil Spector early on, as he told out-of-town reporters earlier this year in Los Angeles, alongside Mirren, Baden herself and Pacino, via satellite from New York, where he was performing in Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway. As filmmaking, Phil Spector is heightened realism, in the frenzied, deliberately fictionalized, occasionally over-the-top style of HBO’s Emmy-winning — and oft complained about — political films Game Change, Recount and Too Big to Fail. It is not a documentary. Mamet chose to tell his story from Baden’s perspective and the essential question that dogged her at every turn: How does one defend a person the public have decided is guilty? Mamet said he saw the real story as Baden’s reconciling the concept of reasonable doubt with prejudice and the public’s rush to judgment. “The challenge was finding the tone,” Mirren said, “because it’s an amalgam between fantasy, reality and a work of imagination, like a strange dream that you’re having where you’re not quite sure whether you dreamt something or whether that actually happened. Phil Spector must have lived, it seemed to me, in a permanent dream. … “This is more a mythology than a documentary. The myth of the minotaur, the minotaur living in a cave, in the labyrinth, was a wonderful image, I think, for Phil Spector: this half man, half beast, mythological creature.” Mirren was parachuted into the role at the last minute when Bette Midler, Mamet and Levinson’s original choice, hurt her back two weeks into filming. “Bette Midler would have been absolutely brilliant in the role, but she was in too much pain to continue,” Mirren said. “So I stepped in very late in the day. But in a funny way, because the film is a strange amalgam of imagination and reality, it was easy to adapt. “The imaginative part of the film, I think, is as important as the realistic element. I didn’t feel I had to do the most perfect, immaculate impersonation. It’s always a tricky tightrope you walk in these cases, as an actor.” Baden herself was a creative consultant on the film, and made herself available to Mirren as needed. “It’s invaluable to have someone available to you who lived those experiences, who knew the intimate details of that world,” Mirren explained. “We’re not exactly replicating Linda’s experiences but, obviously, her influence, her understanding is very important to the piece.” Mirren says it was virtually impossible to exaggerate the stories swirling around Spector at the time. “They are so extreme, so out there,” she said. “A man of such incredible contradiction. Only yesterday, funnily enough, I met a youngish woman who had known him very well and said that she had only ever seen this very sweet side of him and how incredibly kind he could be. “He was obviously a schizophrenic personality with these real extremes battling it out within him. Phil Spector premieres Sunday on HBO at 9 ET/MT, 8 PT.

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    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Mamet Talks New Midler/Pacino Movie And Other Things

    Financial Times Lunch with the FT: David Mamet By John Gapper Published: June 10 2011 19:19 | Last updated: June 10 2011 19:19 Even sitting at a banquette in one corner of the nearly empty Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, an old-style grill in Greenwich Village, with his orange Perspex-framed glasses lying on the table in front of him, David Mamet is at work. We have met at the Knickerbocker because he is in New York with his producer to scout locations for a film he has written and will direct for HBO about Phil Spector, the legendary music producer. “We call it a red-booth restaurant in the movie. This is close. It’s ox-blood,” he says, prodding our leather-lined booth. “We’ll have to dye it.” Spector, to be played by Al Pacino with Bette Midler as his lawyer, Linda Kenney Baden, was jailed for murder in 2008 after being convicted of the killing of Lana Clarkson, an actress, at his California mansion. “I don’t think he’s guilty. I definitely think there is reasonable doubt,” Mamet says briskly when I ask what interested him about the case. “They should never have sent him away. Whether he did it or not, we’ll never know but if he’d just been a regular citizen, they never would have indicted him.” The crisp certainty and rhetorical force makes Mamet sound like one of his characters. At the age of 63, with close-cropped grey hair and a beard, he is not only one of the most celebrated of American dramatists but one of the most prolific. From plays such as American Buffalo (1975), a Pinter-esque drama about four petty thieves, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross (1982), an intense clash of competing property salesmen, to harrowing films such as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) and the Oscar-nominated courtroom drama The Verdict (1982), to novels and essays, he rarely rests. There are signs of the advancing years – he has a hearing aid in one ear – but he has the nervous energy and edge of a younger man. He has greeted me warmly but seems a little isolated as he sits before me, as if the ideas jostling in his head leave little room for other voices to penetrate. He is dressed in artisan filmmaker style – white trousers, a grey linen shirt and a waistcoat with pockets into which are tucked some notes and a glasses case. He recounts the restaurant scene from the film, which involves Midler’s character. “Linda says, ‘You’ve known your husband a long time. You know he’s cheating on you.’ The woman says, ‘That’s preposterous’ and Linda says, ‘That’s called giving him the benefit of the doubt.’ The woman walks away and then she says, ‘OK. But what are you going to do when he kills the next girl?’” Mamet chuckles. “It’s a pretty good scene.” Confrontation is often present in Mamet’s work, in which characters with opposing views argue with often unbearable intensity, trying to settle their differences by pounding each other’s personalities. He thrives on provoking his audience and has now done so in real life by becoming a conservative, and writing a book, The Secret Knowledge, that grinds into dust his erstwhile liberalism. Mamet’s Damascene conversion from one side of the bitterly divided American political culture to the other, which he first announced in a 2008 article for the Village Voice headlined “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal”, shocked his fellow writers and artists. “I saw things that horrified me in my own behaviour, positions I’d taken that were foolish and absurd,” he declares defiantly. I ask for an example. “Voting for big government. It has ruined our country as it ruined yours. As Churchill said, ‘We fought the war and now our country is giving away everything we fought and died for.’ California is broke, this country is broke, yet we keep on voting for it.” This peroration, delivered in a husky voice with traces of his native Chicago, is interrupted by the waitress. Mamet switches seamlessly to ordering his food in Hollywood manner – he now lives in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles with his four children, the younger two with his second wife, the Anglo-American actress Rebecca Pidgeon. “Filet mignon rare, and no mashed potatoes please, and no sauce please. I’ll start off with the green salad with the balsamic vinegar on the side.” I ask whether anything in particular prompted his change of heart and he cites the 2007-2008 film and television writers’ strike and The Unit, a TV show that Mamet created and produced. “All of a sudden, the show was off the air and everyone was thrown out of work – the stagehands, the grips, the costume designers, all the people who worked 16 hours a day … I realised I had been screwed by unions as much as I’d been helped by them.” The experience led him to start reading the work of free-market economists such as Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Adam Smith and philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hobbes. He also talked to Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, two conservative writers at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. “My dad was a labour lawyer and the ideas that I grew up with – bad management, bad capitalism, robber barons – when I applied this to my own life, I saw that we are all on both sides of the coin.” Mamet’s book, with its dismissal of global warming, objections to state-supported spending programmes and scathing hostility to liberals, often reads like someone who is grappling with these well-worn topics for the first time. Later in our conversation, I ask whether he had read any economics before and he says not – he typically gets absorbed in a collection of books relating to his current play for two years at a time before moving on. I wonder what might have happened if he had picked up John Maynard Keynes instead of Friedman. The Secret Knowledge has had some hostile reviews, including one from John Lloyd in the FT, and Mamet stands accused of turning conservative as he has grown older and richer. When I mention this, he bristles. “People say, Oh, Dave just wrote this book because he made a couple of bucks or because he believes in the state of Israel and he cast his liberal beliefs aside, but what about the arguments?” Mamet, who attends synagogue regularly, cites the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah. “They say you can’t study Kabbalah until you are at least 40 years old. You know why? You have to have experienced at least one generation making the same mistakes as the previous one. Getting into my sixties,I have a certain amount of experience. I know very well what it is to be out of work and to be cheated by employers and I know what it is to be an employer.” . . . As we eat our salads – I have ordered beetroot salad with goats’ cheese, chives and shallots – I take the opportunity of having this master craftsman in front of me to ask about writing. He commences by defining where others go wrong. “Anyone can write five people trapped in a snowstorm. The question is how you get them into the snowstorm. It’s hard to write a good play because it’s hard to structure a plot. If you can think of it off the top of your head, so can the audience. To think of a plot that is, as Aristotle says, surprising and yet inevitable, is a lot, lot, lot of work.” So what is the basis of drama? Mamet gazes at me blankly as if the question is naive, then elucidates in one long sentence. “The basis of drama is … is the struggle of the hero towards a specific goal at the end of which he realises that what kept him from it was, in the lesser drama, civilisation and, in the great drama, the discovery of something that he did not set out to discover but which can be seen retrospectively as inevitable. The example Aristotle uses, of course, is Oedipus.” We return to politics and I suggest that his intellectual journey from liberalism to neo-conservatism has been travelled before by Jews such as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. This triggers a long reflection on his own Zionism and how he thinks Israel has been betrayed by the American left. “The speeches that Charles Lindbergh made and Oswald Mosley made in the 1930s are the same speeches that are being made today, only slightly more politely: ‘The Jews are bringing us to war. Perhaps we should give their state away.’ The liberals in my neighbourhood wouldn’t give away Brentwood to the Palestinians but they want to give away Tel Aviv.” But attitudes in Europe to the Middle East tend to be more sceptical about Israel than American ones, I interject. Does he believe that anyone who disputes Israel’s land claims and believes in reallocation of territory to the Palestinians is anti-Semitic? Uncharacteristically, Mamet hesitates slightly as he starts to answer and I wonder if he will back down, or at least hedge his answer. “Well, at some level … listen …” He throws his head back and looks briefly at the ceiling before emitting a grunt of relief as he abandons caution. “Yes!” he exclaims. “Of course! I mean you Brits … ” He smiles ruefully. “I love the British. Whatever education I have comes from reading your writers and yet, time and time again, for example reading Trollope, there is the stock Jew. Even in George Eliot, God bless her. And the authors of today … I’m not going to mention names because of your horrendous libel laws but there are famous dramatists and novelists over there whose works are full of anti-Semitic filth. “There is a profound and ineradicable taint of anti-Semitism in the British … The paradigmatic Brit as far as the Middle East goes is [TE] Lawrence. That’s just the fact. Even before the oil was there, you loved the desert. It had all these wacky characters … But there is a Jewish state there ratified by the United Nations and you want to give it away to some people whose claim is rather dubious.” The elision of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism strikes me as not only wrong but offensive, yet Mamet has delivered it almost amiably. He has a knack of combining character assassination with dry wit, as if only half-serious. . . . As the waitress brings Mamet’s steak and a hamburger for me, he exclaims with relish: “Yum, yum, yum.” Then he returns to safer ground. “The first time I met Tennessee Williams,” he recalls, “he showed up at a party in Chicago with two beautiful young boys who were obviously rough trade. He looked at them and then he looked at me and he said, ‘Expensive habit.’ So that’s kind of how I feel about liberalism. It’s a damned expensive habit.” What does he think of Barack Obama? “The question is can he run on his record in 2012 and the answer is no, because it’s abysmal. He took a trillion dollars and where it went, nobody knows. He dismantled healthcare, he weakened America around the world, he sold out the state of Israel. All he’s got to run on is being a Democrat and indicting the other fellow.” So who would he prefer as president? He replies that he is “not current” with the Republican contenders until I mention Sarah Palin. “I am crazy about her,” he answers immediately. “Would she make a good candidate for president? I don’t know but she seems to have succeeded at everything she put her hand to.” Mamet compares Palin to a late friend in Cabot, Vermont, where he owns a “little cabin in the woods … I like to hunt. I like to fish. Cross-country ski. It’s in the middle of absolute nowhere. A dirt-track road, a 200-year-old post-and-beam house. Gorgeous.” His friend, he continues, was “a hard-working guy, a man of honour who was looking out for the town’s interests. I thought of him when I saw Sarah Palin. She started with the PTA and then became the mayor and then governor [of Alaska]. I thought, well, OK. That’s someone who knows how to work.” Why, if he so loves small-town America and its values, does he live in the liberal enclave of Los Angeles? “There is a lot of work. My wife works there,” he says and then he mentions his daughters. “They are very, very beautiful. It once occurred to me: being able to write is like being the pretty girl at the party. You can’t be diffident about it because that’s a lie but it’s nothing to be arrogant about.” The waitress returns and Mamet asks if she has any fresh fruit. She offers us two plates of berries, bananas and sliced apples. “Yum, yum,” he says appreciatively as the fruit arrives a few minutes later. We are discussing Hollywood and his liberal friends and colleagues. “It is very amusing to listen to some people of my acquaintance who not only own summer homes but transcontinental jets going on about greed and how greed is ruining our country,” Mamet says with a laugh. “You get rich through luck. You get rich through crime. You get rich through fulfilling the needs of another. You can be as greedy as you like. If you can’t do one of those three things, you ain’t going to get any money.” We close with his Phil Spector film and, as Mamet describes a monologue from it, it is clear how much he identifies with the defiantly eccentric and isolated producer – and with Lawrence of Arabia. “He [the Spector character] talks a lot about Lawrence. He loved Lawrence. Either he loved him or I do, I can’t remember. He says in the film Lawrence wanted the one thing that he couldn’t have, which was privacy. He simply wanted to be by himself. Did that make him a monster?” John Gapper is the FT’s chief business commentator

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