His G-rated 'The Winslow Boy' may surprise his fans

By Josh Wolk
May 03, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Andrea Renault/Globe Photos
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A G-rated David Mamet film? Sounds like a ”Saturday Night Live” skit. But it’s no joke: There’s nary a s—, f—, or any other hyphen-packed word in his latest flick, ”The Winslow Boy,” a veddy controlled adaptation of the Terence Rattigan play about a family’s legal battles to prove their son was unjustly expelled from the British naval academy in 1910. The writer-director is well aware that people are surprised whenever he veers from the rat-a-tat dialogue of ”Glengarry Glen Ross” — or even when he doesn’t talk that fast, foulmouthed way himself. ”If (15th-century printer and inventor of movable type) Johannes Gutenberg was ever asked to do interviews,” Mamet jokes, ”they probably asked him, ‘Say something in movable type.”’

”The Winslow Boy” is certainly a 180-degree turn from his last work, the intricate con-game puzzler ”The Spanish Prisoner,” but this switch wasn’t a conscious effort by the 51-year-old filmmaker to flout predictability. ”It’s just a matter of taste and inclination and whim,” Mamet tells EW Online. He likens his decisions on what kind of film to tackle next to picking where to eat out. ”You don’t say, ‘Last week I had Chinese food. What would be a good restaurant for me now?’ You just say, ‘Gee, for some reason I’d like to have ribs tonight”’

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