How to Come Alive with Norman Mailer

Director Jeff Zimbalist expected to attend.

Norman Mailer is routinely valorized as one of the preeminent writers of the 20th century, but the brash, swaggering persona he cultivated and the controversies he invited stood in stark opposition to his upbringing. Born in Brooklyn to a typical middle-class Jewish family, Mailer was accepted into Harvard at age 16 where he discovered his talent as a writer. Drafted into the army during WWII, his experience as an insecure rifleman would form the basis for his first best-selling book, “The Naked and the Dead.” At 25, Mailer was hailed as the new Tolstoy and catapulted onto the world stage. A tumultuous series of personal and professional events follow, including an involuntary commitment to Bellevue after stabbing his second wife, winning Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards, and even having an unsuccessful bid for Mayor of New York. Gunning for the Hollywood success that had always eluded him, his antagonism results in an infamous event involving Rip Torn and a hammer on the set of his film Maidstone. Zimbalist’s deft documentary portrait of Mailer connects his story to many aspects of the current discourse around cancel culture, censorship, and free speech, finding new relevancy in his work for our current times. A bounty of interviews including Oliver Stone, John Waters, and ex-wives provide insightful new context while previously unseen footage and candid interviews with Mailer himself present the notorious literary lion in all of his complicated duality. 

West Coast Premiere

Jeff Zimbalist is a multi-Emmy and Peabody winning filmmaker most known for IDA and Tribeca Film Festival winner Favela Rising (HBO), Emmy winner and Cannes Film Festival favorite The Two Excobars (ESPN, Disney), Emmy and Tribeca Film Festival winner Momentum Generation (HBO, Universal), Pelé: Birth of a Legend (Magnolia, Universal), the Emmy winning series Remastered (Netflix), Emmy nominated The Line (Apple), Emmy nominated 11 Minutes (Paramount+), Super League; War for Footabll (Apple), and Sundance and Tribeca festival favorite Invisible Beauty (Magnolia).