A provocateur, a rebel, a performer and notorious anarchist, Norman Mailer never stopped giving people something to talk about. Containing never-seen-before material, this shocking documentary goes beyond the Mailer of the bookshelves and bestseller lists to reveal Mailer the social critic, filmmaker, family man and lover, giving a rare and unique insight into the life of a complex, intellectual man and villainous hero.
"Are you all truly idiots, or is it me?"
he spits at a studio audience during a TV interview. Never one to mince his words, Norman Mailer was at once a journalist, novelist, poet, filmmaker, political activist, mayoral candidate and hell-raising socialite. Every aspect of his life was prolific and controversial, down to his six wives, nine children and numerous affairs. Even his relationship with the country he loved to write about was full of turmoil. "I love this country. I hate it. I get angry at it. I feel close to it. I'm charmed by it; I'm repelled by it."
Mailer didn't just write about major US events, he lived them from the frontlines. Yet he was never in any doubt about his motives for throwing himself into the thick of the action, admitting that what he wanted from his stint in the army during the Second World War was to produce the greatest novel written about it. A subversive blending of reality and creativity was something that extended into all corners of his life and art. "He took journalism and made it into this imaginative construct."
One infamous project, his film Maidstone, was shot in a hazy environment of sex, booze, drugs and outrage; "a Norman Mailer fantasy"
. Struggling to find a climax to the film, Mailer's cinema verite approach took on alarming new proportions. With the cameras rolling and his children looking on, his great antagonist, Rip Torn, attacked Mailer in blind frustration. "He hit me with a hammer, that asshole"
, Norman shouts at the terrified onlookers, blood streaming from his head. "And then he bit off Rip Torn's ear"
, recalls his ex-wife, a tone of resignation in her voice. Watching the old footage of the fight, she shakes her head and sighs; "he was mad as a hatter"
A keen boxer, his ex-wives all remember a passionate and charming but aggressive man, constantly on the edge of his temper. For the first time, Adele Morales Mailer, his second wife, talks about her experience of being stabbed by Norman as they hosted a cocktail party. "He said, "don't touch her, let the bitch die". That will be seared in my memory forever."
Under enormous pressure to not press charges against her 'genius' husband, Mailer got away with the assault, later justifying it on talk shows by saying that he was curing Adele of cancer.
The man who once announced, "The greatest trouble with this country is that it is insane"
, came ironically to be widely regarded as an American icon, wildly living out his own definition of his beloved nation. From Marilyn Monroe hiding in her bedroom from him to him head-butting Gore Vidal, from debates and ideas to sex tapes, orgies and drag queens, this fast-paced doc offers a wonderfully revelatory profile of an iconic figure of 20th Century Americana.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Special Jury Prize, Dallas Film International Festival, 2011
Official Selection - Film Society of Lincoln Center Independents Night, 2011
Best Documentary Jury Award, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
Best Documentary Jury Award, Orlando Film Festival
Best Documentary Gold Award, California Film Awards
Official Selection - Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival, 2011
Official Selection - Provincetown International Film Festival, 2011
Official Selection - Cleveland International Film Festival, 2011
Official Selection - Edinburgh International Film Festival, 2011
Official Selection - Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, 2010
Official Selection - Boston Film Festival, 2010
Official Selection - Starz Denver Film Festival, 2010
Official Selection - Northern Ireland Foyle International Film Festival