Spike Lee

August 9, 2013

It's Spike Lee. Let's talk. AMAA.

I'm a filmmaker. She's Gotta Have It, Do The Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Four Little Girls, 25th Hour, Summer of Sam, He Got Game, When the Levees Broke, Inside Man, Bamboozled, Kobe Doin' Work, and the New Spike Lee Joint.

I'm here to take your questions on filmmaking to sports to music. AMAA.

proof: https://twitter.com/SpikeLee/status/365968777843703808

edit: I wish to thank everyone for spending part of your August Friday summer night with me. Please go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spikelee/the-newest-hottest-spike-lee-joint and help us get the new Spike Lee Joint to reach its goal.

Peace and love.

Are you a bigger Knicks fan than Jack Nicholson is a Lakers fan?

I'll say Jack is a bigger Lakers fan, he's been sitting courtside longer than me. But i have nothing but love for Jack and we are very good friends, even when the Knicks are playing the Lakers at the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden. The Lakers won't win any rings sometime soon.

What was it like working with Ed Norton on 25th Hour?

Edward Norton's a great actor. Very intelligent. And I think it was the trinity of Edward, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the very underrated Barry Pepper that made 25th Hour what it was. And also giving love to Rosario Dawson and Bryan Cox too.

The cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto and the music of Terrence Blanchard were instrumental to the feel and tone of the movie also.

Hi Mr. Lee,

First off, I wanted to say I just recently saw "Do the Right Thing" and was absolutely blown away. I loved it, and I really look forward to checking out your other films--Especially "Oldboy!"

That being said, I remember reading that you once said that only white people have ever asked you whether Mookie did the right thing or not. Black people never seem to ask this question as they seem to tacitly understand Mookie's actions. My question to you is why do you think this is the case? In your experience, do white people ever get it right? Or does the fact that they have to even ask you for the answer mean that they will never understand?

Well I just think that a lot of times white americans don't know the experience of being a black person in this country. I think that this was - it's just the way it is. When black people watch Do The Right Thing and they see Radio Raheem strangled by two NYPD police officers, African-Americans know there's been a history of police brutality. If you go to Trayvon Martin or the recent indie hit Fruitvale Station which is based on a recent true story.

But I'm glad you liked Do The Right Thing and I do hope you get to see the rest of my films.

What actor have you NOT worked with that you would really LOVE to work with?

SEAN PENN, my man Sean Penn. Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett, the other Kate, Kate Winslet.

Did you and Denzel Washington discuss his role in TRAINING DAY and how to bring something new for his character for INSIDE MAN, considering that they were both cocky, independent cops?

No... I did not direct Training Day. That was Mister Antoine Fuqua.

Denzel didn't come to me with questions for a film that I was not directing.

Hi Spike. Wondering if you could settle something for us. We work on a tv show in Scotland and one of our buddies claims, if you get your funding he will be going out to shadow on your film for 5 days. We find this hard to believe but he insists it's true. Is he pulling our chain!

Yea, it's true! Absolutely.

Mr. Lee! Thanks for doing this AMA. Two questions: • Inside Man is one of my favorite movies (then again, so is anything Denzel Washington has ever been a part of). Any plans to work with him again in the near future? • You obviously caused a lot of discussion when you criticized Tarantino for "Django Unchained." Why do you feel his use of the N-word (which many would say was historically accurate) is less justified than that of other directors, white or black? Edit: wording

Yes, Denzel and I have been talking about this, what would be our fifth film together. Number one was Mo' Better Blues, Number two was Malcolm X, Number three was He Got Game, Number Four was Inside Man.

I think his use of the N-word is excessive, in my opinion. I never said he couldn't use it, I just thought that it was... excessive.

What were you saying to Stevie Wonder?

Stevie came to sit courtside at a New York Knicks game and I went over to him to pay my respects to one of the living saints on this earth. Mr Steveland Morris. One of my dear friends.

I often confuse you with Spike Jonze. Do you two know each other?

We've met one time in Mexico. We were at a film festival. That was it.

Biggest advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Well I would say that you could really have a head start on everyone by being a hyphenate. By that I mean being a writer-director. Young directors who also write have an advantage.


Recently, both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (who you could say invented the blockbuster) have bemoaned this tentpole business plan by the studios. By "tentpole" we mean these films that open up around the world on the same day and make billions of dollars. This summer has demonstrated that this plan is not working.

Spielberg and Lucas say if this continues to happen, the Hollywood system will collapse onto itself. That's not me seeing it, that's Spielberg and Lucas.

And happy born day.

What is your favorite Air Jordan?

The Concords (11).

AND my Spizikes. You can get them on my Kickstarter as one of the perks.

Mr. Lee:

Thanks for doing this. She's Gotta Have It and Do the Right Thing are two of my absolute favorite movies. I had the pleasure of meeting you in 2006 at the History of Air event at Niketown LA and it's by far one of my most memorable celebrity encounters. Onto the questions:

  1. How do you feel independent filmmaking has changed over the last 30 years? What are your thoughts on the rise of Black independent filmmakers following in your footsteps, such as Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy, 2008) and Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere, 2012)?

  2. Who has been your favorite actor to work with in all of your years of directing/producing?

  3. Does Reggie Miller still give you nightmares?

  4. Was it really the shoes?

1 Independent filmmakers have changed because the technology has changed, and so we indies have many more platforms to show our work. I'm very happy with the emergence of new talented fresh African-American filmmakers. In addition to Barry and Ava, I would say Dee Rees, Alrick Brown, Ryan Coogler, Rashaad Ernesto Green, Lucy Mulloy, Julius Onah.

2 Denzel Washington and John Turturro. And Turturro has appeared more in my films than any other actor.

3 No. Me and Reggie are cool.

4 It wasn't his Nikes! He's just a hall of fame player.

Spike, what are the adversaries black producers in the industry face? Is it harder for a black producer/director to get private investment?

I would say in general it's harder for African-Americans to get financing period. Whether it's a small business loan or mortgages or whatever. And there is data to back that up. For African-American people or people of color, it's just harder to get capital.

Who's jersey are you gonna be sporting at the Garden this year?

Don't know yet! Also I'm waiting to see what Metta World Peace, what he's going to change his name too also.

it's been a dream of mine to sit with you at a Knicks game, what do i need to do to make this happen?

Quickly go to my Kickstarter page before all the seats are gone!


Say reddit sent you.

I saw on imdb that inside man 2 is in the works, are you directing it?

Not that I know of! Are you trying to tell me something?

Why do players always seem like they need to talk to you during the games? What do you usually say to them from those awesome seats of yours?

We're just having fun. They know I respect the game. They know I know the game, and a lot of times, just want to say hello. A lot of the times, the younger players have just seen me on TV so they come up and introduce themselves to me.

Do you honestly think that the Knicks can win the championship this year?

I have to. It's been 41 years.

Girl 6 in my opinion is one of the greatest representations of the condition of the black woman in America. Are you disappointed in how it was received by critics and audiences?

No. We knew that film going in was not going to get a popular reception. I'm glad you liked it. And Theresa Randle gave a great performance in it.

What do you have to say about the time you tweeted George Zimmerman's incorrect address and endangered an innocent ladies life?

I spoke to the family and everything is cool. It was taken care of months ago. They hold no ill feelings towards me.

what did you hope to accomplish, even if it had been the right address?

It was a mistake.

Will you be removing the "Tawana Told the Truth" graffiti from future versions of Do the Right Thing since in fact she didn't tell the truth?

Hell no.

as a filmmaker, you are my biggest inspiration. I'm wondering, how can i get my hands on an old school red Spike's Joint Crooklyn jersey and where can i get Four Little girls on dvd?

Four Little Girls you can get on Amazon. And you might have to go to ebay to get the red Crooklyn baseball jersey.

Mr.Lee, in your opinion, what do you think is the toughest in interpreting the film Old Boy? What made you to consider filming an American film off of a Korean film? Will Josh Brolin eat live octopus in the film?

Well I can't say what Josh Brolin is gonna do. I know he gave a great performance. And we are not calling this film a remake, we are calling it a reinterpretation. And I hope you see it and tell your friends when it opens this Thanksgiving weekend.

You're directing a remake of Oldboy, a brilliant, original Korean film. It is a very tall order. Are you nervous? What do you want to do differently? Also, any parts for a jobbing actor?

Before we started the shoot, Josh Brolin went to Park Chan-wook and asked for his blessing. He told Josh "you and Spike make your own film, don't remake ours." And that's what we did.

I remember you tweeting that 25th Hour is getting a criterion release. Is this true?

How do you feel that you helped start Bill Nunn's, Roger Guveneur Smith, and Giancarlo Esposito's careers?

I've always been wondering, what's the whole story behind John Savage's cameo in Do the Right Thing?

I hope so. Also, a lot of my films need to be on blu-ray.

Very good and there are more, too. Those aren't the only ones (in front of and behind the camera).

He was the future gentrification.

Do you watch Breaking Bad? How do you think it will end. Do you like Giancarlo Esposito's portrayal of Gus Fring?

Yes, I love all of Giancarlo's work. I don't know how the show will end. But I will be watching.

Do The Right Thing blew me away the first time I saw it. One of the things I found most impressive about it was how you created what felt like a very real place and breathed a lo t of life into the characters, even ones who had barely any screen time. When so many movies struggle to create even one compelling character, a movie like Do The Right Thing makes it look like creating twenty is easy. As a writer/director, what do you think makes a good/memorable character?

Cast great actors. That's it. We had a great cast, a great great great ensemble cast.

Bamboozled was fucking awesome. Have your ever attempted to get directing jobs in the sci-fi or fantasy genre? I just think that you're really versatile as a director and would like to see your catalog expand to all kinds of different shit.
Edit: P.S. Sucka Free City was the shit! Too bad it didn't become something more. Showtime fucked up. That could've been their The Wire

I would love to do musicals, I would love to do science fiction, I would love to do a slave narrative, so I would like to stretch out some more.

p.s. They fucked up.

Since you addressed the studio system as flawed, do you plan on giving up studios completely for films you plan to write? Or do you just plan on self-financing/crowdfunding for films that studios would reject?

Also, it is a damn shame that Bamboozled went under the radar. It is a brilliant movie.

I'm an independent filmmaker who over the years has done studio films. So I have not renounced working within the studio system. This new film that we're raising money on Kickstarter is a film I know for sure no studio would want to do.

Thank you very much for that.

Hello Mr. Lee. I've been a huge fan for years! I'm a fellow New Yorker and I love the way you've portrayed the city through your films, particularly Brooklyn. How do you feel about the changes in Brooklyn over the years and the rapid gentrification?

Thanks and, from one aspiring filmmaker to a legend, I hope your future projects go smoothly.

I do not feel good about gentrification. Not just in Brooklyn, but in Harlem, Washington DC, and other areas. There are pros and cons to gentrification. I just think that the new neighbors should be a little more humble when they move in these neighborhoods where the residents have been of color for decades.

And I hope you make some great films.

What is currently playing on your iPod?

All Raphael Saadiq. WHO is doing the music for the new Spike Lee joint.

Please ignore the haters Spike!

Haters gotta hate.

As a prominent black figure in America, how did you feel about Obama when he was campaigning, and how do you feel about him now?

I was in Chicago in Grant Park that historic night when he won his first term as President of the United States of America. I will never get that feeling in Chicago the rest of my life. And I think that he's had to battle the Republican party every single day since he's been in office and history will be very kind to him. Not ONLY for being the first African-American president.

If you were to choose one film of yours, which would you suggest I see? Also, if you had to suggest a film that is not yours, what would you suggest I see. In addition, would you ever consider doing anything music-wise with the death metal community?

Documentary or Narrative?

Have you still never watched Django Unchained?


What's your favorite film, and what director has inspired you the most?

Martin Scorcese has inspired me the most, but I have tons of favorite films, I can't name one.

For my research paper, I argued that Sal is more connected to the black population than his sons. I believe there's a difference between immigrants and their offspring, the contrast between Sal's opinion on the Black population and his sons. What was your thought process, if any, between Sal's relationship with the community vs his sons'?

Well I think in my opinion, Vito (played by Richard Edson) had the best relationship with the community of BedStuy. Not Pino and not Sal.

Hi Spike. Were you expecting your Kickstarter campaign to result in the level of media controversy we've seen in recent weeks? I thought your point about bringing a new audience to the site was well made.

We rarely have smooth sailing. And the cofounders of Kickstarter told us that we would get some flack. Same thing had happened to Veronica Mars. And Zach Braff.

Spike, the community in 'do the right the thing' seems to be the same one in 'red hook summer' but where as the former is struggling with tensions inside the latter is looking outwards towards capitalism and other factors from outside i.e the gentrification of Brooklyn and the fact that nothing has changed much for them under Obama. Is this a fair observation and if so can you comment on it? Thank you.

That's a fair observation, but it's your opinion - that's not necessarily what James McBride or I had in mind when we wrote the script. We weren't really thinking about Do The Right Thing and then at a very late stage, we had Mookie's character make a cameo. We also brought back Nola Darling as well (from She's Gotta Have It) and we do that a lot in our films where characters show up in more than one film. Particularly the Brooklyn Chronicles films.

Would you ever do a film based around Iceberg Slim? Who is a person who's story has inspired you but hasn't been very well known?

A biopic or one of his books?

Either. Both would be interesting stories (albeit gritty). Were you a fan of his books?

I think I've only read one. But it would be good movie material.

What was the most important thing you wanted people to take from the movie "Red Hook Summer"?

I don't tell people what they should think when my films are over. They gotta do that.


I like our roster very much. However I am sad that Chris Copeland left and even sadder he is playing for the Indiana Pacers.

You did a documentary about Kobe Bryant and you are a good friend of Michael Jordan. If they did a 1 on 1 game in their prime, who do you think wins?

The greatest player ever, Michael Jordan. It would be hotly contested though.

What's something you'd love to address in a film but you know you'll never be able to?

I don't know what that is.

When The Levees Broke kept me up for several nights, discussing it with my husband and giving copies to friends.

Are there any documentaries you feel more people should see?

Thank you for dedicating your life to this art.

I think the one that people should see now is The Central Park Five by Ken Burns.

How are you Spike?


Do you think there is a benefit in silent era films? What, if anything, do you think can be done to broaden appreciation of the medium?

Silent films are not coming back.

I love the 25th Hour, watched it well over 500 times. How was it filming in and around post 9/11 New York for this movie? Is there anything about the filming of that movie you liked specifically? Who came up with the concept for the "FUCK YOU" scene? That was by far the most intense scene in the entire film. For your work on the 25th Hour sir, I applaud you.

I loved the whole film. When David Benioff wrote the novel, and then adapted his own screenplay, that was before 9/11, so once we decided to do the film I wanted to make it a post-9/11 film and let New York be a very strong character in it. The "Fuck You" scene was in the novel. Here's the thing: I read the script first and then said "David I want to read the novel." The "Fuck You" scene was in the novel, not in the script, so I said "David we have to put this in the movie!" David being the Game of Thrones guy. People love that film.

Another one of my favorite scenes is that Loooong dolly scene into Phillip and Barry in the window, and at the end we reveal that they're overlooking Ground Zero.

I don't have a question just wanted to let you know that I'm a broke college kid but I still backed your kickstarter project because I love your work especially Do the right thing! Hope you meet your goal.

Thank you very much for your hard-earned money. And we will not disappoint you.

Just wanna say I loved Inside Man.

We love it too. We want to see the sequel.

What was your favorite part about NYU as a student? What is your favorite part about NYU as a professor?

My relationship with Ernest Dickerson, who shot two of my films at NYU, then She's Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better, Jungle Fever, then Malcolm X, and after that Earnest made his directorial debut with Juice starring Tupac. Ernest now is one of the top directors for episodic TV.

My favorite part is my one-on-one advisements with my students.

Is it true you don't have your license?

Not true. Not true ANYMORE.

Spike! 3 no 4 ...no 5! questions, take your pick!:

(1) Seeing as how many of your films are viewed through a New York centric lens, what do you think many non-New Yorkers may miss when watching your films?

(2) How was the feel on the set of Bamboozled amongst the cast & crew members, considering all the minstrel imagery? Was there any self-realization, learning, awkwardness etc?

(3) What was your biggest success in pushing through a topic or scene that studio heads thought was controversial?

(4) Bed-Stuy has changed considerably in the past 24 years. If you had to shoot Do the Right Thing over again in the summer of 2013, what kind of characters would it be comprised of? Or would you move the setting to a different hood?

(5) Why not move MSG?

Thanks for doing an AMA! I'm a big fan and appreciate you having the courage to tell the stories that you do in your films. Big up to you!

1 They get it. They get it.

2 Oh yes. Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson had hard times putting on that blackface. It was painful for them. Very painful.

3 Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X.

4 There would be more of the John Savage (Clifton) characters in it!

5 It's the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time. The garden owns the land, they spent a billion dollars renovating it, and now they are being told to move in 10 years. That's insane.

Thank you very much.

I have no questions, but I just want to say you are a big inspiration to my filmmaking. You are one of the reasons I stopped going to school for IT and started learning up on film. I hope to create something that you will watch some day.

I would love to see that!

I recently watched do the right thing for the first time, and it instantly became one of my favourite movies. I have talked to all my friends about it and have said time after time if i ever get the chance to I would ask you, If given the chance to remake the movie would you leave out the mentally challenged character, or at least cast an actual disabled person in his place?

It's hard for me to answer hypothetical questions. I'm not doing a remake of Do The Right Thing. We did what we did.

Also, that character was not my idea. Roger Smith kept bugging me and I said "all right" and caved in.

How would digital filmmaking and the ability to create professional level "joints" on a true shoestring budget have affected the start of your professional career?

When I was in film school from 1979-1982, there was no digital. So we worked with film. And I'm happy I learned on film.

I remember watching Do The Right Thing on TV one time, but every time a character said "motherfucker" it was dubbed over with "mickeyfickey"

Who chose mickey fickey as a way to censor mother fucker?

Wasn't me. And I hate it. I hate it I hate it I hate it.

Spike in the early stages of your career, how did you find the will and determination to get your films made through the trials and tribulations you've faced? I'm in the process of raising money for my first film and it's not easy task financing and I'm looking for some advice. Thanks.

What is easy? Nothing is easy.

Can you tell us a cool anecdote you've wanted to share? How do you think America's racial politics/awareness have changed from when you first started filmmaking to now?

It was March 20, 1988. I was having a birthday party in LA and E.U. was the band. And this is right after School Daze and E.U. had the number R&B hit with the song "Da Butt." And this lady was dancing crazy on top of a speaker, I told her to get down, because if she fell, her neck would be broken and I would be sued. So finally she jumped off the speaker and started cursing me out in a voice I'd never heard before. I asked her where she was from, and she said she was from Brooklyn. I said "where in Brooklyn" and she said "Fort Greene" which is my neighborhood. I said "What is your name" and she said "Rosie Perez." At the time I was writing Do The Right Thing, and that's when I got the idea to make Mookie's girlfriend Puerto Rican.

Historically African-Americans and Puerto Ricans have intermarried.

And that's my anecdote for tonight. The rest is history!

Well, we have made some changes. We have an African-American president. But here's the thing. A lot of people thought racism would be eradicated or disappear as soon as we had a Black president. That we would enter a post-racial America. That has not worked out.

How old were you when you attended your first knicks game

Eight. At the old garden on west 50th and 8th avenue.

Spike do still live in Brooklyn? Do you embrace what it has become or do you think it's lost it's edge it's soul?

40 Acres' office is in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I live in Manhattan. And Brooklyn is gentrified. Brooklyn has become gentrified.

Mr. Lee. Huge fan, donated to your kickstarter, got a big "Malcolm X" poster hanging in my room. I'm white, but I've always found "black struggle captivating. I don't "act black," whatever that means, but I tend to prefer spending my time with black friends than the upper class white kids that go to my school. Irrelevant really. But there's a scene in "Malcolm X" where a white woman offers "help" to the cause and Malcolm denies her. I understand his reasoning behind it. But I wonder about your opinions on it.

I don't like the idea of being "the white guy million man marching," but it's hard not to be affected when it's absolutely noticeable how different people act when my black friends and I go out than when my white friends and I go out. So what am I and people like me supposed to do? People who observe the struggle but can't ever fully understand it. Don't want to stand idly by, but don't know what to do besides not be racist.

This is the best question of the night. That scene you refer to in Malcolm X is a true story, and Malcolm said that was one of his biggest regrets that he told that young woman, a person like you, that there was nothing they could do to help the black struggle. He regretted doing that.

Just be you.

Which work or works are you the proudest of?

I'm proud of them all.

Mr. Lee, do you have any science fiction projects on the horizon?

I would love do an Octavia Butler novel one day.

Hey Spike,

I really liked the documentary "Brooklyn Boheme" that you were in. It taught me a lot about Fort Greene and about the black arts movement that came from there.

Do you think Fort Greene still has the same (lets call it 'personality'/'culture') that it did when you were there? Or has the neighborhood changed too much that it is just a shadow of its former self?

PS that sucks that people were ringing your doorbell and sort of forced you out of there.

I wouldn't say it's a shadow of itself, but it's not what it used to be. Different energy.

Well, my wife said it's either me or them. "It's either Brooklyn or me."

Do you ever look back and think that on occasion your mouth might have gotten ahead of your thinking?

Do you look back at any particular public statements with regret?

Yea, I'm human.

Mr. Lee. Would you ever consider doing a serious zombie flick? I'd love to see a serious, non-comedy one done by you.

My favorite is Night of the Living Dead, that one can't be topped.

I really like 'Summer of Sam', but find it really hard to follow. What was the reason for all of the crazy cut scenes and camera tricks? It seems so different from your regular directorial style. Not saying I didn't like that style, I am just curious why it seems so different from your other movies.

It was a crazy summer. The summer of 1977, New York City was insane. There was a blackout, the first summer of disco, the summer of Sam, the Yankees... it was just crazy. Plato's retreat. Drugs. CBGB, Punk Rock.

How in the world do I get a screenplay read by anyone who matters?

How do I even work my way up to getting rejected?

Before you start worrying about that, learn your craft. A lot of people spend more time worrying about who's going to read it than they do on writing a great script.

Can you tell me the process of how you wrote He Got Game in couple weeks?

I just sat down and wrote it. From 8-12 every day, until it was done. I only write in the mornings so I have the rest of the day to do whatever I want to do.

A pretty unoriginal question,but where do you look for ideas for new projects?

Ideas come from everywhere. For me. For me, ideas come from everywhere.

hmm how about MLK day vs the Nets or maybe I could celebrate Christmas at the Garden with the Thunder

The craziest game is going to be the Brooklyn Nets and the Knicks. Those are the games to go to, because the rivalry is going to be through the roof now, and the two teams - the fans and the teams do not like each other AT ALL.

Whats one thing about your relationship with Reggie Miller most people don't understand or know?

We're friends. NOW we are friends.

Why remake Oldboy?

It's not a remake, it's a reinterpretation.


1 Fruitvale Station! And whatever it is that's inspiring.

2 Yes. Working on something called Go Brazil Go. About Brazil as an emerging new world power.

3 Musicals, science fiction, maybe a slave narrative, and maybe a Western.

Did She's Gotta Have It come from a personal place? Where did you get the idea to make that film?

Also if you have time, I have a second question.

What advice would you give to a young man or women who what's to be an independent filmmaker?

No. No darling, it was a fantasy of my imagination. Never met a Nola Darling. The idea came from my male friends alway bragging about their female conquests, and that somehow their ladyfriends started seeing somebody else, they would act like it was bloody murder. So I wanted to flip the script and show this woman who is juggling three men at the same time and how they react to that, with the tables being turned. And the inspiration for this was an Akira Kurosawa film, Rashomon, the Japanese film, which is about a rape and you see from several witnesses their version of what took place.

Learn your craft is my advice! Learn your craft.

How was your day, Spike?

Great. A great day in the Republic of Brooklyn New York.

Do you think your movie's messages will still be relevent to later generations?

Do The Right Thing is still relevant and it's 24 years afterwards. Yes.

Mr. Lee is there any one individual's (alive or dead) story that you would like to bring to the big screen? If so who is that person and who would you cast in the starring role. Loved loved loved Malcolm X.

James Brown. Joe Louis. Max Schmeling.

I don't know about the casting.

Any ideas for future projects you're dying to accomplish?

Go to Kickstarter. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spikelee/the-newest-hottest-spike-lee-joint

Mr. Lee, i've seen a few of your movies and enjoyed them. with the emergence of netflix funding original content that doesn't have the same restraints as network and big movie studios, would you ever work on a project for netflix?

Yes. I presented one to them and they want to do it. So I'll go back.

Will you shoot a sequel to He Got Game using Ray Allen again, except this time he's the dad and Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker is his kid?

You writing the script? You got it all figured out huh? Do you have a part for Denzel in your remake?

Hey Spike I noticed you listed two Terrence Malick movies in a list of "must see movies" in your opinion. Since his style seems to vary so much from your own I was wondering if you think filmmakers tend to get bogged down or trapped into delivering a known product each time around and whether they feel inclined to like or support similar minded films/filmmakers? Thanks Spike

For me, to love a filmmakers' work does not mean they have to have the same style I have. The filmmakers I love have their own distinctive voice and style. I am not looking for people who do similar things to me.

There's always a chance that you can get stuck.

Hey Mr. Lee! I had the opportunity to see you speak here at The University of North Carolina two-ish years ago. I'm a film studies minor and at the time I was enrolled in a class on black culture in American film and we had JUST watched Do The Right Thing that week, so seeing you speak was an incredible experience---the stories you told were both insightful and inspirational. My question is, do you think prefer to think of your earlier work specifically as 'black' film, or would you prefer it to be considered in a different light? Do you think it's a good or a bad thing that 'black' film is studied as a separate entity?

If it matters, our curriculum for the semester featured a few blaxploitation films, a few Tyler Perry films, Do The Right Thing, Inside Man, When The Levees Broke, Precious, Chris Rock's Good Hair, DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation, Jackie Brown, and a few other things I'm forgetting.

I've always tried to not get caught up in this whole terminology of what's black and what's not black. Do The Right Thing definitely concerns African-American citizens, but it's loved around the world.

Big fan, Mr. Lee!
If you could have dinner with 4 people (either dead or alive), who would those four people be?

Any upcoming filmmakers and/or musicians you think should be getting more recognition?

Thank you for this AMA!

Hmm. Jackie Robinson, Dr. King, Malcolm, John Brown.

Too many to list. And thank you.

Mr. Lee How did you get involved in the production of Passing Strange? Amazing how you captured the entire spirit of the show. Amazing directing

I was a big fan of the show. I met the creator, Stew. And as the show was about to end its run, he wanted me to document it. I loved that show. Loved everything about it.

Mr. Lee, have you ever thought of creating a Black superhero and bring it to screen?

I did. Malcolm X.

ALSO he didn't wear tights or a cape.

I did. Malcolm X.

ALSO he didn't wear tights or a cape.

He didn't fly through the air or transform. Yet he was considered that he had too much power for one man.

In my opinion, Malcom X was by far one of the greatest movies you've ever done. Do you ever plan on doing another serious documentary-like movie? I hope so!

I do hope to.

You ever consider buying a sports team, Mr. Lee? I know you love sports a lot, but could you ever see yourself as an owner?

Do you know how much sports teams cost?

Mr. Lee, what are some alternatives for film distribution?

Digital baby! Direct to audience.

What is your favourite silent film, or film of the silent era?

I would say it would have to be a Charlie Chaplin film.

Are you and Reggie Miller friends?


Mr. Lee, will your successful kickstarter campaign help films by people of color to get financed?

I hope so.

What other sports teams are you just as passionate for as the New York Knicks? And you retweeted me once on twitter so thanks again for that! Can't wait for Oldboy!

I'm very passionate about the New York Yankees, the New York Giants, Arsenal, USC Football Team and VCU Rams College Basketball.

Thank you!

What was you're approach to adopting Old Boy? Also Shartlo Copley was here yesterday. How is it working with that guy, and can you say anything about his role in the movie?

PS 25th Hour is one of my favorite films of the last 20 years. Thank you, good sir.

Make it our OWN film. And at the same time, pay homage to the original. Loved working with Sharlto, he's an amazing actor. And when I saw him in District 9, I said "who the fuck is this guy." I can't talk about his role in the movie.

Thank you for that honor. That is a very special film for everybody that was involved in it. We felt we had a special responsibility, especially the New Yorkers that worked on that film.

Do you think Ray Allen can pursue an acting stint after his NBA career?

He said he wants to!

He said he wants to!

Jesus Shuttlesworth.

SPIKE, Are there any challenges involved in submitting a script that needs development to Kickstarter? (funds would be for development to finalize the screenplay). I posed this question to Kickstarter and they seemed to feel it could be a project. I suspect if the script is copyrighted the idea would not be stolen. What are your thoughts?

For me, I would go to Kickstarter to get funds to make or complete a film, not necessarily funds to write a script, unless you have to do great historical research.

Is it true that the fight from School Daze actually occurred in real life?

Yes. And it was started by Branford Marsalis, who grabbed Tisha Campbell's weave.

Saw the Bad 25 documentary the other night (loved it btw). Question: are you a big Michael Jackson fan?

I love Michael Jackson.

Ali v Tyson?????


Spike, what is your opinion on msg having to relocate? Also do you think the Knicks have a deeper roster than last season?

It's ludicrous. It's some shenanigans. It's malarkey. It's some subterfuge. It's some bullshit.

Yes we do.

What do you think of this AMAA so far?

I'm having a lot of fun. And I'm getting a lot of great questions.

Hey Spike. I took an African-American Lit class last year at school and we had a great teacher, which really brought the material to life. As an extra credit opportunity we could watch Bamboozled and write an essay response to it for credit. I don't really have a question, and I'm sure you won't see it, but that film really shook me. It was incredible how on one level, everything seemed so absurd, and part of me thought "That'd never happen in real life," yet part of me wondered how far apart it was from real life. It really stood out to me and was very thought provoking, so I thank you.

Thank you, and Bamboozled had the crystal ball for reality shows. Which came later.

Can Denzel really play ball? How was he on the 'He Got Game' set?

Yes. Denzel was on the JV team at Fordham, where P. J. Carlesimo was his coach.


Your wife Tonya and I have something in common. We are both very passionate about the issue of infant and maternal mortality, which disproportionately affects black women and their babies in the United States. I actually met her once at a Congressional forum she put together on the issue.

Just curious, what's she been doing on that front lately? Is there any important news going on right now relating to infant mortality that she thinks more people need to be aware of?

She's still on it.

Two questions.

How much influence did you have on making your version of the nike jordan Spizike?

Why do you call your movies "A Spike Lee Joint"?

I participated in the design of the sneaker with the great Tinker Hatfield.

Hey Mr. Lee! Huge fan. I have a question. Do you foresee a return of movies like boys n the hood, new jack city, menace, etc? It feels like that genre died in the 90s. Well quality films like that at least.

I don't know if those films are coming back. I think that genre is dead really, the hood film. I mean, they made a ton of them.

Hey Spike... Back in '94, my high school marching band had a celebrity auction to raise money for our annual spring trip to an out-of-state competition. I wrote to you as a shot in the dark, but you sent us an autographed shirt from your old Spike's Joint store. The shirt had the highest bid out of all the donations (and I told my mom not to lose the bid, no matter what. I, of course, reimbursed her later). I don't remember if I ever wrote back to thank you, but just in case... cheers. You never met me and probably never even heard of where my backwoods high school was located, but your appreciation for the arts (no matter how small) meant more to me than you know. Oh yeah, we won both the marching tournament and the jazz band set that spring. *Edit- I also have to say that Sucker Free City is seriously slept on.

Who bought the shirt? And thank you, that's a great story.

No questions, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for filming Passing Strange. I would have never gotten the chance to see it otherwise and it's become one of my all-time favorite musicals. Your film inspired many of us in the theatre program I was in at the two-year college I attended and it was literally all we discussed outside of classes for a solid week after viewing it. Thank you.

well, Stew and I thank you.

Mr. Lee, what books would you suggest that aspiring directors to read?

He's Gotta Have It, which is the book I wrote about how I made my first film She's Gotta Have It. It's out of print though. You might find it on ebay.

No question, just respect.

Respect back.

He Got Game is one of my favorite movies., and I love the editing style of it and Do the Right Thing. Can you cite your infuence for breaking up films in the way you do?

We're just trying to make the editing interesting and not mundane. I've also had great editors too, Mr Barry Alexander Brown and Mr Sam Pollard.

What's your take on the Riley Cooper situation?

Not a good look.

What movie or tv series would we never guess you are a fan of?

Wizard of Oz.

Can you and Tarantino settle your differences? Two of the generations most influential filmmakers, would be nice to see you guys working things out. I feel Sam Jackson would be a great mediator seeing how he works with both of you guys.

We have two different viewpoints of Black culture.

Was Martin Scorsese really your teacher at NYU? What was that like?

He never taught me, he was not a teacher, but I got to know him while I was there at film school. I met him at a screening of After Hours that he did at NYU.

Do you think you could give us any details on your next film? Anything whatsoever. My brother and I backed you on Kickstarter and we're both dying to know more about the story.

It's a new kinda love story. Thank you for backing us.

Oh wow! I love your movies. Couple questions if you don't mind.

*What made you a fan of the original Oldboy?

*You have a very distinct style in your work, how did and how much did you feel you had to contribute to this Oldboy remake (from a stylized perspective)?

I hope you have time to answer this and I also wanted to say that I thought Red Hook Summer was criminally underrated and flew under the radar. Keep up the good work man!

Very original film. Very original. On ALL levels.

I will be bringing a style that's different than the original.

Thank you very much.

Silly question; can't think of a "serious" one: Who would you want to play you in a movie version of your life? What would the move be called?

That movie would not be made while I'm here on this God's earth.

Are you still chill and no attitude? I have been a fan for a long time and you have always been very cool with no tude the few times I have met yet. I'm a real fan, in fact I waited in line at B. Dalton on 8th street for you to sign your "She's gotta have it" book like in 1986 with my best friend and Darren Aronofsky. Boys from Brooklyn got grit. Go Brooklyn!

Brooklyn is in da house. Thank you.

Did you ever think your commercials for Jordan will ever end up with your own pair one day and is mars and Jordan doin any more commercials any time soon?

I was hoping. It's up to Michael Jordan.

Why won't you give Tyler Perry a break? Though you don't like the content of his films, he is making history in Hollywood in all his various deals. Much of it is unprecedented, especially for a black person who's name isn't Oprah.

Tyler Perry and I have no beef. We are cool. Mad cool.

Mr. Lee: How can we help you achieve your goal on Kickstarter?

Tell all your friends to pledge! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spikelee/the-newest-hottest-spike-lee-joint

I'm in an inspirational rut right now. 1. So...what movie really moves you and leaves you really thinking after you've watched it?

  1. I'm curious about your same feelings on music? Thanks so much.


West Side Story. And just great music.

What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Film chose me.

Of the young film makers you have taught and mentored at nyu, who stands out as potential talents to watch for in the future? Have you considered having a "spike lee presents" webcast where you showcase the short works of some of these film makers to help them get a start in the industry?

We've had discussions about that idea, of "Spike Lee Presents" for a webcast. But presently, I am presenting a new feature film by one of my students Lucy Mulloy, called Una Noche.

Is Mars Blackmon ever coming back?

We shall see.

Spike, what was your favorite vacation ever?

The first time my classmate from Morehouse, John Wilson, invited me up to his grandma's house on the Fourth of July to Martha's Vineyard.

Hi Spike, thanks for doing this. You recently asked NYC Council not to vote to limit Madison Square Garden's permit to operate on top of Penn Station to just 10 more years (as opposed to one lasting indefinitely, as the Garden wanted). Civic groups want the Garden to move so that Penn Station can be rebuilt, maybe not as nice as it once was, but something better for the people who travel through there.

Just curious... if the Garden moves a few blocks away somewhere in Midtown -- is that really so bad? You mentioned in your testimony going the old Garden as a kid, and how important it's history is to New York. Isn't it the name, the teams, and the fans that make the Garden special, not the building?

I disagree. And they can move the New Penn Station and the Post office across the street. 34th and 8th avenue.

Do you think 'Get on the Bus' was under appreciated? I do, I love how stereotypes become characters, it's great work.

That was a hard film to make, very claustrophobic, since most of it takes place on a bus. 18 day shoot, we shot in LA, Nashville, and DC.

Spike Lee. Ang Lee. Worked together on your thesis film. Are you two brothers or what?

We were classmates.

The premise of 25th Hour has always angered me. We are supposed to be sympathetic towards a white drug dealer who destroys lives, has a hot girl friend and unresolved issues with his father because he got caught and is going to prison.

If the lead actor had been black would the studio have made it? Would the audience have been as sympathetic?


Spike, I've always told myself I'd ask you this if we ever got the chance to speak in person. I think I understand the ending of 'Jungle Fever', if you would kindly please reiterate it for me and tell me why you chose to end the film so abruptly that way?

In the end, Wesley's character Flipper Purify comes in contact with the very young girl who is a crack hoe. Automatically, he sees this might be his own daughter in a few years. This film was made during the crack epidemic where whole generations of people were wiped out.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Spike Lee conducted on Reddit on 2013-08-09. The Reddit AMA can be found here.