May 1, 2008 / 1:32 PM / 11 years ago

Just a minute with: writer, director David Mamet

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and two-time Oscar nominee David Mamet has been a force in U.S. theater and film for over 30 years.

Screenwriter and playright David Mamet poses with his Screen Laurel Award at the 57th annual Writers Guild Awards in Los Angeles February 19, 2005. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen

He has written films such as “The Untouchables,” “The Verdict” and “Hoffa,” and written and directed “Heist,” “State and Main” and “The Spanish Prisoner,” among many others.

His new film, “Redbelt,” marks his tenth as writer/director. It is set in the Los Angeles fight world and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The film tells the story of a Jiu-Jitsu teacher (Ejiofor) who has avoided the fight circuit, choosing instead to pursue an honorable life by operating a self-defense studio. But faced with debts, he has to step into the ring.

Wearing his trademark black beret and an impressive belt and buckle, Mamet spoke to Reuters about making the film and his love of Hollywood.

Q: Is it true this film was inspired by your own love of Jiu-Jitsu?

A: “Yes, I’ve been practicing it for the past five years and I’ve always been into this kind of sport. I wrestled in high school and boxed a bit and I’ve always liked martial arts. Later on I did kung fu, and then when I came out to Hollywood my good friend Ed O’Neill introduced me to the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It keeps me in great shape.”

Q: What made you cast Chiwetel in the lead? He’s not well-known or a big star?

A: “I looked at Chiwetel in “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Kinky Boots,” and I said, ‘It’s impossible for one guy to be able to play both those parts.’ So I called (agent John Burnham) to tell him I was definitely interested, and John said ‘He’ll be thrilled to get the part.’ So I was like, ‘Wait a minute, this is early days, we’re just two guys talking,’ and he (hung up). He calls back five minutes later and says, ‘He’s honored and he’ll see you on the set.’”

Q: Is it true you never rehearse?

A: “Yes, because on low budget movies a rehearsal is Take One. (Deadpans) And sometimes you get to do Take Two.

Q: Still living in Boston?

A: “No, I moved back to L.A. ... My wife (actress Rebecca Pidgeon) told me she was moving out here and since I’m rather fond of her I thought I should come too. So I followed.”

Q: Even though you’re back in L.A. do you feel like you’re outside the Hollywood loop?

A: “I don’t know. Hollywood’s a great place to be. It’s an industry town and one of the last left. A lot of people have been bemoaning the passage of the industrial towns in the America I grew up in, and this is it now. There’s an incredible amount of life here, everyone works real hard and there’s a spectacular immigrant population which makes it a very exciting, energized place to live.”

Q: You have four kids, do any aspire to be writers? Do you warn them how tough it is?

A: “No. Show business is a great business. I’ve been doing it all my life, and so has my wife.”

Q: You’re 60. What are your extravagances in life now?

A: “I only really have one, and that’s belts and belt buckles. I lost a bunch of weight, then I realized none of my belts fit, except this beautiful hand-tooled one I hadn’t been able to fit into for 30 years. I decided to get a wonderful old buckle to go with it. Then I bought another, and one thing led to another and now I have this whole warehouse full of belts and buckles.”

Q: What about vices? Any left?

A: “Oh, I have a bunch. I’m nothing but a compilation of vices. I realize that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but at least it’s paved.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patrica Reaney

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