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Clara Mamet – Dancing the Two-Bit Waltz

Clara Mamet stars in

Clara Mamet stars in “Two-Bit Waltz.”

Clara Mamet

Dancing the Two-Bit Waltz

by Jay S. Jacobs

Clara Mamet is no stranger to show business.  Her father, David, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, screenwriter and director.  Her mother, Rebecca Pidgeon, is a well-known actress and singer.  Also half-sister Zosia is one of the stars of HBO’s hit series Girls.

Therefore, it is no real surprise that Clara Mamet would gravitate towards filmmaking.  Though she spent the last couple of years in the cast of ABC’s cult-followed comedy The Neighbors, Mamet was already looking toward the big screen.  However, she was not willing to wait around for someone to offer her the perfect role.  Instead, she went out and wrote it herself.

Two-Bit Waltz is a dreamlike modern comedy in which Mamet plays Maude, a proudly anti-social teen who is often stumbling as she tries to find her way in the world.  In the meantime she is surrounded by a virtual big-top of characters: a passive-aggressively loving mother (played by her mother), a quiet oddball of a dad (William H. Macy), a wise-beyond-his-years younger brother, a boyfriend with serious commitment issues, a best friend who doesn’t really seem to like her very much, a dismissive therapist and a rogues gallery of imaginary ballerinas and men with elephant heads.

A week before Two-Bit Waltz had its New York premiere, we sat down with Mamet to discuss her film.

Clara Mamet

Clara Mamet

Obviously Two-Bit Waltz is stylized and rather surreal, but how much of it is autobiographical?

A lot of it.  It’s pretty much a caricature of my family.  A loving caricature.  Yeah, but I pretty much based it on my life.  I wanted to make a movie.  My mom said, “Write what you know.”  So, that’s what I did.

So what does your dad think about the idea of him being represented as reading incessantly and sleeping underneath a chaise lounge?

I think he’s okay with it.  (laughs)

Your father is a famous playwright and director and your mother is an actress and singer.  Did you know from your childhood that you would end up in the arts?

Yeah, I always figured that I would become an actress.  I wanted to make this movie and write a part for myself.  It’s fate, now I can go for what I want to mainly do.

Clara Mamet

Clara Mamet

It’s funny, in your film I didn’t see so much the influence of your dad as much as that of the Andersons – Wes and Paul Thomas.  Are you a fan of their work?

Yeah, you know, it’s funny, I get that a lot.  I don’t know that I was mainly thinking so much about that at the time, but I’m flattered.  I am a fan.

Maude seems to be going out of her way to do everything she is told not to – smoke, drink, have sex, gouge on cookies, avoid college.  At what point did you outgrow your rebellious phase… if you did?

I probably haven’t.  I still really like attention.  I crave it.  Negative attention.

How so?

Oh, I don’t know.  Just sort of like pooping my pants, or attacking strangers.  Or whatever.  Whatever I can do.

Clara Mamet

Clara Mamet

You’re still only 19, I believe, right? 

I’m 20.

Most people your age would be going to college.  I know a big plot point in the movie was that Maude had no interest in it.  Was that the same for you?

Yeah.  No, I didn’t go to college and I don’t plan on it.  Time’s running out for me, anyway.  I visited my friend recently, she goes to college.  I don’t think I’m missing much.  I think I’m pretty much doing the same things, but without paying the money.

It takes some real drive to write and star in your own film so young.  Did it seem like a daunting task to get started?

It didn’t actually seem very daunting.  Everyone told me that it was a daunting task, but I didn’t believe them.  Then, with the nature of Maude, (dramatically) I pressed onward!

Clara Mamet

Clara Mamet

Maude seems to be going out of her way to be sort of unaffected or almost blasé about things going on around her.  What kind of things excite you or get a rise out of you?

Oh.  (laughs)  You have to ask my best friend that question.  Probably a lot.  I consider myself a pretty laidback person, but that’s probably a lie.

Obviously you have some big shoes to fill as a writer.  Are you concerned that people may just look at you as David Mamet’s daughter rather than look at the film for its own merits? 

Yeah.  (laughs)  Yeah.

How do you think that you can avoid that?

Umm… I don’t know.  I don’t know that I can.  Short of pretending that I’m not his daughter.  But I think the gig is up.  (laughs)

David Paymer, Rebecca Pidgeon, William H. Macy & Clara Mamet

David Paymer, Rebecca Pidgeon, William H. Macy & Clara Mamet

You worked with William Macy, who has also worked often with your dad, as well as your mother and David Paymer.  As a first-time director, what was it like to work with such established talents?

It was lovely.  They were so kind to me.  I was so lucky that they agreed to be in the movie.  We had a lot of fun.  It was a good time.  It was like summer camp working on that film.

Like your father, you have a very good way with words and dialogue.  Does dialogue come easy to you or is it something you have to struggle with?

Thank you so much.  It does come easily to me.  I have trouble with the story much more.  A lot of times I write a screenplay and it’s just sort of aimless words.  (laughs)  Nebulous, random nothing.  So, yeah, I do have trouble with the story composition.  That is something that I have to get better at.

You’ve also written a couple of short plays, “Paris” and “The Solvit Kids.”  Are you looking to juggle theater and film?  You also have a singing group with Zosia.  Are you still working on your music as well? What do you enjoy about each art form?

I mainly just want to make movies.  When you get rejected by enough people, sometimes you have to do something else for a while, so you can get back into the swing of things.  But, I like plays.  I’d like to write a few more plays and see what happens.

Clara Mamet

Clara Mamet

You have also starred on The Neighbors, which was a good show that didn’t get nearly enough attention.  What was that experience like, and did it help you to get ready to make your own project?

It was great.  It was so much fun.  It was my first real job.  I was lucky to have it.  I miraculously got it right after I dropped out of high school, which was really nice.  It was fun to see how a big, grown-up set works.  That was helpful in making my movie.  And I did it all when we were on hiatus, in between seasons one and two.

Was it difficult to fit in that short window of time?

It was stressful, but it was good.  I was up for the challenge.

Did you run any of your ideas past Dan Fogelman [the creator of The Neighbors], or even your dad, or anyone else, when you were making the film?

No, I kind of just ran them past my crew.  Kind of like: (dramatically) I’ll do it on my own!  And I did, by gum.

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: November 28, 2014.

Photos ©2014 courtesy of Monterey Media. All rights reserved. 


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