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The hardest man in the movies is armed with a typewriter, not an Uzi. As well as being one of America's sharpest screenwriters, David Mamet (right) has what Hollywood has been missing for decades, and he has it in spades: character. He scripted The Verdict, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Hoffa amongst others. Nobody messes with him. Querying Mamet's script for The Untouchables, even Raging Bull Robert De Niro was warned to pussyfoot. 'Call him', producer Art Linson advised, 'and say 'David, this is Bob. Before we get started I'd like to say that you are a genius. . .and I am shit'. After what we've been through with this guy, that's the only advice I can give you.'

Mamet is understated about the whole Untouchables fiasco. He locked horns with Linson and director Brian De Palma (no wuss himself) over the re-writes that were bullied out of him, and refused to budge: 'I was making Art and Brian pick up the tab for years of work with producers who forgot to say 'thank you'. I was strutting a bit after seven years on the receiving end'.

He's currently in Boston filming the anti-PC tirade Oleanna, based on his hit play, and has a reputedly dazzling script of Andrew Potok's autobiography, Ordinary Daylight, on the shelf. Meanwhile, dip into his fine collection of essays, A Whore's Profession, and make up your own mind - tyrannical brat or a brazen genius? It's tough to chastise him given the horrors which Hollywood poses for writers. His motto, borne of experience: 'Film is a collaborative business: bend over'.

Linson and De Palma finally overcame Mamet's stubbornness - they wrote their own solutions into The Untouchables. Mamet was outraged: 'I had the fantasy of going to Chicago with a deckchair and a bottle of beer, and sitting behind Brian De Palma and watching him direct'. What a showdown that would have been - they could have sold tickets.

(Photograph omitted)