The Spanish Prisoner: About The Filmmakers

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Writer-Director DAVID MAMET is one of America's most important- and influential- playwrights since Arthur Miller and a prolific weaver of stories about loyalty and deceit. Time Magazine has called him an American Harold Pinter - "funnier, raunchier with a keener sense of the particularities of time and place."

Mamet was born in Chicago to parents of Russian Jewish extraction on November 30, 1947. His father was a labor lawyer, his mother a teacher. He attended Goddard college in Vermont, returned home to Chicago and, at 24, established his St. Nicholas Theater Company, where he remains resident playwright. He set out to be an actor and director, but began writing plays because of the paucity of parts for 18-year-olds- "unless you wanted to put white shoe polish in your hair and do 'Uncle Vanya.'" He retranslated and readapted the Chekhov play instead.

Over the past two decades, he has garnered numerous awards for sympathetically recreating the Chicago proletariat underbelly with his trademark vivid, staccato language. His ear for the slippery codes of idiosyncratic vernacular was honed during a rebellious youth, a variety of jobs (estate agent, truck driver, office cleaner, carpet salesman, window cleaner, sailor) and the impact of discovering such mid-West authors as Frank Norris, Willa Cather and, above all, Theodore Dreiser.

Mamet first won recognition with his plays, "Sexual Perversity In Chicago" (filmed as "About Last Night") and "American Buffalo" (recently filmed with Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz). When both plays opened in New York in 1976, Mamet won the Obie Award for distinguished play writing, and "American Buffalo" was voted Best Play by the New York Drama Critics Circle. In 1978 he received the Outer Critics Circle Award for his contribution to American Theater.

In 1984 Mamet won another Best Play award from the New York Drama Critics Circle as well as the Pulitzer Prize for "Glengarry Glen Ross." The play also collected four Tony awards and was filmed in 1992. His other plays include "Edmond" and "The Cryptogram," both Obie Award winners, and "Oleanna," "Speed-the-Plow," "The Old Neighborhood," "Reunion" and "The Shawl." He has also written television plays and numerous short dramatic works, including an earlier play titled "The Spanish Prisoner" and published in the collection Goldberg Street.

Mamet has also won acclaim for his numerous screenplays- the Oscar-nominated script of "The Verdict" for Sidney Lumet; "The Postman Always Rings Twice" for Bob Rafelson; Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables;" Neil Jordan's "We're No Angels," with Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn; "Hoffa," directed by Danny De Vito and starring Jack Nicholson in the title role; "The Edge" with Anthony Hopkins and, upcoming, Barry Levinson's "Wag the Dog," with Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro. His adaptation of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" was the basis for an acclaimed ongoing staging in New York by Andre Gregory, captured on film in Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street."

"The Spanish Prisoner" is his fifth film as writer-director after his critically acclaimed debut film, "House of Games," selected to close the New York Film Festival in 1987; his gentle Mafia fable, "Things Change" (co-written with Shel Silverstein), for which Joe Montegna and Don Ameche shared Best Actor honors at the 1988 Venice Film festival; "Homicide," which opened the 1991 Cannes festival; and "Oleanna," in 1994, the sole film he has adapted and directed from one of his plays.

An indefatigable writer, Mamet has adapted two Chekhov plays, "The Cherry Orchard" and "Uncle Vanya,"penned an episode of Steven Bochco's "Hill Street Blues" TV series, written children's plays and books, numerous magazine articles, four volumes of essays and two novels. He has taught acting at his alma mater, Goddard College, The University of Chicago, Yale School of Drama and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where, in 1988, he established a traveling repertory company called the Atlantic Theater Company. He also found time to play a gambler in Bob Rafelson's movie "Black Widow."

JEAN DOUMANIAN (Producer) has had a long and successful career in film, theater and television. Most recently, Ms. Doumanian produced Woody Allen's new film, "Deconstructing Harry," which opened the Venice Film Festival and will be released in late 1997. Also at Venice was another of Ms. Doumanian's productions, "Wild Man Blues," a new documentary on Mr. Allen by Academy Award winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple. Ms. Doumanian was Executive Producer of several of Allen's previous films, including "Everyone Says I Love You," "Mighty Aphrodite" (which received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress) and "Bullets Over Broadway" (which received seven Academy Award nominations and won for Best Supporting Actress).

Ms. Doumanian's upcoming productions include Woody Allen's new fall project; a film written and directed by two young filmmakers, Sean Smith and Anthony Stark, entitled "Element;" "Dinah Was," a play about Dinah Washington, written by Oliver Goldstick and directed by David Petrarca; and two new films in pre-production, "The Story of a Bad Boy" and "Cherry Pink."

Ms. Doumanian also produced Sven Nykvist's "The Ox," an Academy Award-nominated film which starred Liv Ullman and Max Von Sydow, as well as a number of projects outside of the film arena which have garnered a great deal of praise. The Off Broadway staging of "Death Defying Acts," featuring three one-act plays by Allen, David Mamet and Elaine May and produced by Ms. Doumanian, broke box office records, and Woody Allen's first film for television, "Don't Drink the Water," was executive produced by Ms. Doumanian. As a producer of "Saturday Night Live," she discovered Eddie Murphy, among others. Ms. Doumanian also produced the classic TV special "Bob and Ray, Jane and Gilda," and received an Emmy for "The Dick Cavett show." Jean Doumanian Productions is based in New York City.

BARBARA TULLIVER (Editor) has worked on all five of David Mamet's feature films, as assistant editor on "House of Games" and "Things Change," and as editor on "Homicide," "Oleanna" and "The Spanish Prisoner." She also edited the HBO Special "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants," directed by Mamet, and the TNT telefilm "A Life in the Theatre," based on Mamet's play. Her other credits include Robert Benton's "Places in the Heart," Milos Forman's "Valmont," and Paul Thomas Anderson's debut "Hard Eight."

CARTER BURWELL (Composer) has scored all six films of the Coen brothers: "Blood Simple," "Raising Arizona," "Miller's Crossing," "Barton Fink, "The Hudsucker Proxy" and "Fargo." As a singer, accordionist and synthesis, he has performed all over the world with The Harmonic Choir, Big Joe and the Litwinski Ensemble. His work is available on Virgin, MCA, Varese, Sarabans and Factory Records and Les Disques du Crepescule. His stage work includes the chamber opera, "The Celestial Alphabet," Ariel Dorfman's play, "Widows," and Mabou Mine's 1994 production of "Mother." Burwell also provided the music for "Waterland," "And the Band Played On," "Kalifornia," "It Could Happen to You," "Rob Roy," "No Fear," "This Boy's Life" and "The Celluloid Closet."

GABRIEL BERISTAIN (Director of Photography) was born in Mexico, the son of actor Luis Beristain, best known for the 1962 Luis Buñuel film, "The Exterminating Angel." Gabriel Beristain ran his own Mexican company producing commercials and industrial films before emigrating to Britain's National Film School in 1977 - one of his ventures was the 1984 Oscar-winning student film, "Mother's Wedding," by Jenny Wilkes. After assisting such major cinematographers as Billy Williams, Beristain shot Ken Russell's segment of "Aria," Franc Roddam's "K2," Taylor Hackford's "Dolores Claiborne" and three of Jonathan Lynn's Hollywood comedies: "The Distinguished Gentleman," "Greedy," and "Trial and Error." He won the Silver Bear at the 1987 Berlin Festival for his work on Derek Jarman's "Caravaggio."

TIM GALVIN (Production Designer) has been an art director on some of the most successful films of recent years, including "The Silence of the Lambs," "A League of Their Own," "Philadelphia," "Quiz Show," "Nell" and "Sleepers." His work will next be seen in "Beloved" Jonathan Demme's film adaptation of Toni Morrison's acclaimed novel. "The Spanish Prisoner" marks Galvin's first credit as production designer.

SUSAN LYALL (Costume Designer) has teamed with Jodie Foster on "Little Man Tate" and "Home for the Holidays" and with Michael Apted on "Thunderheart," "Nell," "Blink" and "Extreme Measures." Her other credits include Edward Burns' "She's the One," Steven Soderbergh's "King of the Hill," Mira Nair's "Mississippi Masala" and "Todd Solondz's "Fear, Anxiety and Depression."

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