Thursday, December 17, 2009

Horton Foote and David Mamet in Conversation

When I moved to New York in 1980 I went a little bit wild. Yes, I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. After years of relative deprivation in Denver, I subscribed to concert series like they were going out of style, joined Manhattan Theater Club and the Public Theatre, and even became a member of the 92nd Street’s Poetry Center. Those were the days, my friend! I heard Eudora Welty, Eugene Ionesco, Bill Murray perform in a Yeats play, Robert Merrill, Salman Rushdie, and so on.

And there, on October 6, 1986, introduced by Lindsay Crouse, Horton Foote met David Mamet for a conversation on writing for the theater and the movies. I took notes, either to share with a friend who couldn’t be there or for my own amusement. When Horton Foote died earlier this year, I looked for the notes but couldn’t find them. It would have made a nice commemorative post, I thought. Since then, one page of the notes turned up and even though there’s more Mamet that Foote in my notes, I’m going to share them in Foote’s memory.

Mamet: Their idea of the craft of screenwriting jingles when you put it in your pocket.

Foote: Nobody is writing plays, stories, or poems much — they’re all writing screenplays. I quickly try to discourage them from that.

Foote: I was an actor and I started from the most terrible reason: I wrote myself a part.

Mamet: Why should one go back to that other hell-on-earth unless one’s wife needs a new kitchen?

Mamet: Tolstoy, I kind of think, was a Russian Dreiser.

Mamet: I just kind of write down what people say to each other. That’s where I think the theater differs from the movies.

Mamet: Dodsworth was one of the greatest American movies ever made.

Mamet: Sandy Meisner told me I’d starve in the gutter if I became an actor. And well I would have, if any gutter would have had me.

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