SPIKE LEE: SPEAKING HIS MIND (AS ALWAYS…)

FROM THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

SPIKE is one of my heroes. He tells it like it is. No holds barred.

SPIKE LEE isn’t feeling the love from Hollywood’s money people.

“I haven’t made a feature film in three years,” he stated.

SPIKE has lately focused on documentary work with two films about post Katrina New Orleans for HBO. But he had designs on biopics about JACKIE ROBINSON – the BROOKLYN DODGERS slugger who broke baseball’s colour barrier – and soul icon JAMES BROWN. And he was in discussions a while back for a sequel to the thriller INSIDE MAN, which starred DENZEL WASHINGTON, CLIVE OWEN and JODIE FOSTER. But he’s been unable to secure financing.

“Inside Man was my most successful film,” he said, adding that he had DENZEL and JODIE on board for the sequel.

“But we can’t get the sequel made. And one thing Hollywood does well is sequels. The film’s not getting made. We tried many times. It’s not going to happen.”

SPIKE’S comments came during a freewheeling Q&A session with public television’s CHARLIE ROSE at PROMAXBDA, the annual marketing, branding and design conference.

SPIKE received the organization’s LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD for his work in film and television, including a series of groundbreaking commercials for NIKE that featured MICHAEL JORDAN and SPIKE as MARS BLACKMON, the character he played in his 1986 breakthrough film SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT.

“First of all, what in this world does not revolve around money? But money is a big part of film, unlike a lot of other art forms.”

SPIKE wore a tan seersucker jacket over a T shirt and a straw pork pie hat. And when CHARLIE’S cell phone rang at the beginning of the presentation, SPIKE jumped from his seat as the crowd in the NEW YORK HILTON ballroom cheered him on.

“I just want you to know,” remarked SPIKE, as he walked to the front of the stage, “on my sets, when the camera is rolling and the phone rings: $50.”

“Will you take $5?” asked CHARLIE, rising from his chair and fishing in his front pockets. “I’ll let you slide,” SPIKE laughed.

(Later in the presentation, CHARLIE’S phone rang a second time. “I owe you $100,” said the contrite Mr. Rose. It did not ring a third time.)

SPIKE – whose cinematic heroes include MARTIN SCORSESE, BILLY WILDER and FEDERICO FELLINI – has never won an ACADEMY AWARD. But he likened ACADEMY voters to basketball referees who attempt to make amends for a bad call with what is known in the sports world as a subsequent make up call.

By way of some examples of this theory, SPIKE offered AL PACINO and DENZEL WASHINGTON. AL turned in numerous OSCAR worthy performances in DOG DAY AFTERNOON, SERPICO, THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART II…among others. But he won his only OSCAR for SCENT OF A WOMAN. DENZEL did not win a BEST ACTOR trophy for SPIKE LEE’S MALCOLM X, though he was nominated. He received his BEST ACTOR trophy nearly 10 years later for TRAINING DAY.

“In 1989, Do The Right Thing was not even nominated [for Best Picture],” said SPIKE, with some mock outrage.

“What film won Best Picture in 1989? Driving Miss Motherfucking Daisy! That’s why [the Oscars] don’t matter. Because 20 years later, who’s watching Driving Miss Daisy?”

(SPIKE was nominated for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY for DO THE RIGHT THING, though he didn’t win. And in 1999, the film was selected by the U.S. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS for preservation in the NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY.)

“There are many times in history where the best work does not get awarded. And I’m not even talking about my own work. So that’s why [the Oscars] don’t matter.”

SPIKE also talked about the election of BARACK OBAMA, whether he’d ever work with LEBRON JAMES and acting in his own films – something that earned him a comparison to WOODY ALLEN.

On controversial MIAMI HEAT superstar LEBRON JAMES:

“LeBron’s having a tough way to go now. And a lot of that I feel he brought upon himself. But I would work with him. I think he’s a good guy. He’s always been very respectful to me personally. And he’s funny. In a comedic role, I think he would do very well.”

On acting in his own films:

“I don’t like acting; not in front of the camera. The only reason I was in She’s Gotta Have It is because we couldn’t afford anybody else. But with the success of Mars Blackmon, I said, ‘I’ll continue to do it.’ At the same time, it was not something I enjoyed doing. Once it got to the point where it wouldn’t hurt [the film] if I weren’t in it I [stopped].”

On actors in general:

“You’re out there buck naked and that is hard. The reason why actors are fucked up; can you imagine having a job where someone is, ‘No, no, no. Your butt’s too big. Your head’s too big. You’re too skinny. Your nose is too big.’?”

On BARACK OBAMA:

“There were people who thought that racism and prejudice would be eradicated [with the election of the first African American president]. The moment he put his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s bible it was going to be abracadabra, presto chango, poof! I was there that night [in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night]. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I was swept up in the euphoria; drinking the Kool Aid like everybody else. And here we are: racism and prejudice have not disappeared.”

On President Obama’s re election prospects:

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a fight.”

2 Responses to “SPIKE LEE: SPEAKING HIS MIND (AS ALWAYS…)”

  1. glimmer Says:

    bad oscar calls/wins that years after the fact or even the night of the win seem so wrong are gonna be with us forever. even longer than cell phones going off all the time… 😉

    and for every make up call it likely means another bad thing has happened…

    inside man thing. good question. there are sequels everywhere and this didn’t happen.

    hmm…

    the script for a sequel – more than one even i suspect – were there. but no. weird since there are plenty of bad sequels (not saying a sequel to this film would have been bad) and i think this would get pushed almost regardless of quality just because the first inside man had nice reviews/made money.

    old joke maybe if this were a sequel but had talking animals, it would have gotten made. 😉

    yes i always make jokes about talking animals. ha ha.

    and of course if this were a super hero movie, a sequel would have been greenlit the sunday of its opening weekend.

    arrrgh…

    also seemed inside man was aimed more at adults/older adults than transformers or whatever. and we can’t have that can we???

    lebron james… i’m not a sports fan. just play attention to who wins for social reasons (sometimes i’m curious) and sort of like movie reviews but nowhere as good/it can be fun to read about sports stuff but i have zero interest in watching a game.

    lebron james is someone i can’t root for even in theory and even less since the miami move. he doesn’t seem likable to me or remotely interesting (not even in a bad way) and since his reputation is based on his being a physical wonder, i really don’t care. and how could i…?

    i’m a wimpy kid. 🙂

    but i’m writing this as my surely lame day starts. the one i return to/am stuck in. as he sleeps in his mansion.

    yeah…

    at the end of his day other people return to their lives/i return to mine type comment was really funny since if his team won i’m sure he wouldn’t have minded the world talking about it. we’d have *the same* lives if they won.

    maybe my life would be better if i bought his shoes. that’s the magic touch…

    On actors in general: ok i guess nude scenes aren’t easy. but they’re usually doing these scenes with someone that’s easy on the eyes.

    so cry me a river.

    let’s see some hollywood love scenes that have other body types/looks besides the hot actor.

    *evil laugh*

    sure they could do it. but let’s make em suffer. i mean it so hard right. now let’s make it really hard.

    earn that oscar, damn it. ha ha…

    I was swept up in the euphoria; drinking the Kool Aid like everybody else. And here we are: racism and prejudice have not disappeared.

    i didn’t think these would go away and the people that push things that way would likely be more annoyed about obama being president. so i didn’t think it was going to go away. those types might get even more desperate. they’ll think the country’s losing.

    so how could it go away???

    but yeah, i think it’s cool obama won. but i have no faith in politics/these things. i feel regardless of what someones intentions are they’ll be out voiced to such a degree (or they’ll change when in office) that nothing is gonna happen.

    i don’t even know who these faceless people are (and i suspect they like it that way). i just know/feel they’d sell the people out for a quarter and even for less…

  2. Fascinating provocative ideas as always, my darling boy.

    Good thing I have you here to keep me en pointe.

    I have little to no interest in sports (aside from tennis, figure skating and horse racing). So my views are very similar to yours.

    I barely know who LEBRON is. I couldn’t effectively pick him out of a crowd. There was an enormous uproar a while back about him striking out for a new city with a different team. I do recall people got pretty wild about that.

    It’s not my area. So I never really paid attention.

    But more power to him. He’s apparently excellent at what he does. Why shouldn’t he make a good living from that? It’s the American dream.

    About the OSCAR deal…

    SPIKE is absolutely right and so are you. Many of the greats are eventually awarded. But often not for their best work.

    Looking back to 1989, when I was kicking the slats out of my crib…

    Here is my TOP 5 in alphabetical order:

    BATMAN
    CAMILLE CLAUDEL
    THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS
    SCANDAL
    SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE

    As a film (even with a fabulous performance from MORGAN FREEMAN), DRIVING MISS DAISY bores the ass off me. DO THE RIGHT THING is brilliant incisive incendiary cinema. The latter was far more deserving of BEST PICTURE.

    A hell of a lot of people think that DTRT was the most accomplished film of that particular year. There is an incredible amount of depth infused in that movie.

    Plus it tells the truth. On an easy day with no real challenges, that’s more than some people can handle. I strongly suspect – as is the undeniable case with many great motion pictures – that it was ahead of its time.

    I really dug INSIDE MAN. Saw it three times. I thought it absolutely cooked. CLIVE was wickedly charming and JODIE was just spectacular.

    I think a sequel would be fun. I’d be interested in seeing a continuation of those characters and situations.

    It’s exceptionally tragic to say, but I really didn’t think that prejudice and racism would disappear overnight with BARACK OBAMA’S election. You can wish fervently for things like that. But ultimately, when individual viewpoints are responsible for those kinds of ridiculous perceptions, it’s almost impossible to ever completely eradicate the backward opinions of imbeciles.

    It’s like sexism.

    Speaking of which…

    I find it exceptionally interesting (and I’m being incredibly sarcastic…) that, in a country that has always been divided by the most appalling racial strife, a black man would be elected before a woman.

    I genuinely admire President Obama. I think he’s a fine person. If I were American, I would have voted for him.

    But I suppose he’s less of a threat than…HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON?

    Just a thought…

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