He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for Glengarry Glen Ross. His work is characterized by playful plots overturning conventions and typically features strong male characters and their tough posturings, rhythmically profane dialogue, and charged verbal confrontations. His first screenplay was the 1981 production of The Postman Always Rings Twice based upon James M. Cain's novel. He was given an Academy Award nomination for his next script, The Verdict.
In 1987 Mamet made his film directing debut with House of Games, starring his then-wife, Lindsay Crouse and a host of longtime stage associates. He remains a prolific writer and director often calling upon a standard of repertoire of stage actors for his films including William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, Lindsay Crouse, Rebecca Pidgeon (his wife since 1991), and Ricky Jay.
Like independent director John Sayles, Mamet funds his own films with the pay he gets from credited and uncredited rewrites of typically big-budget films. For instance, Mamet has done rewrites of the scripts for Hannibal and Hoffa, and turned in an early version of a script for Malcolm X which director Spike Lee rejected.
Two of Mamet's own films, House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner, have involved the world of confidence tricksters.
Mamet has published two novels, The Village in 1994 and The Old Religion in 1997. He has also written several non-fiction texts as well as a number of poems and children's stories. For his film work, he sometimes writes under the name "Richard Weisz."