The master storyteller!
Shelton Jackson popularly known as Spike Lee is a multifaceted Hollywood personality He dons the hats of director, actor, writer and producer Spikes...
Shelton Jackson popularly known as Spike Lee is a multifaceted Hollywood personality. He dons the hats of director, actor, writer and producer. Spike’s production company ‘40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks’ produced over 35 movies since 1983. Spike has also acted in 10 of his own films.
Spike made his directorial debut with ‘She's Gotta Have It’ in 1986 and has since directed such films as ‘Do the Right Thing’ ‘Malcolm X’, ‘The Original Kings of Comedy’, ‘25th Hour’, ‘Inside Man’, ‘Chi-Raq’, and recently critically acclaimed film ‘BlacKkKlansman’, which is inspired by the true story. ‘BlacKkKlansman’ received six nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Spike (his first directing nomination), and Best Supporting Actor for Adam Driver. The Oscars will air live on February 25 at 5:30 am and the repeat telecast will be at 8:30 pm on Star Movies and Star Movies Select HD. Spike's films have examined race relations, colourism in the black community, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and other political issues. He has won numerous accolades for his work, including BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, five Academy Award nominations, a Student Academy Award.
Excerpts from an interview:
‘Blakkklansman’ is a powerful film, which has been gaining massive critical acclaim. What kind of responses have you been getting from the audience?
I am feeling it, yes, I am on Instagram and I have got several people telling me that there were only one or two black people in the theatre. Then after the film when the lights finally go up, the white people who loved the movie were hugging them. They were hugging the black folks in the theatres saying, “I am sorry. I apologise.” I have never heard anything like that before in my life.
The movie is inspired by the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American police officer in 1970s in Colorado Springs. What was it about this story that grabbed you?
Just the premise. Out of nowhere, Jordan Peele of ‘Get Out’ called me and said, “Spike, I want to talk to you”. He gave me a six-word pitch; the greatest six-word pitch in the history of this system. He said, ‘Black Man infiltrates Klu Klux Klan’. I said, “David Chapelle did this already (laughs).” But no, this was real, about Ron Starworth when he infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, he also ended up being David Duke’s bodyguard. It’s one of those things that sounds so crazy that it can’t be true, but it is true and with the absurdity of the premise that allowed humour to be born.
What do you make of ‘race’ today in America?
It’s evident to me that this stuff is never going away. You might think that is gone away but it is actually just bubbling under the surface and it comes out. People have past and you put that together with Gucci, Prada, Liam and it’s gotten into the White House.
Why do you think a story about the 1970s, the Klan and the black man in the police force comments on what is happening today in America?
I think one of the mistakes people are making is by saying that this is just an American phenomenon. The rise of the right is happening globally and with this guy in the White House, he has made it okay for these white supremacists to come out in the open. They’re coming out from under the rocks and he has legitimised them. I wouldn’t even call it a dog whistle, he’s like on a bullhorn. I haven’t seen anything like this in my 61 years on this Earth. This is bananas.
What message are you trying to convey to the movie-goer about the state of the US?
Well, one of the things that I know why this film has hit globally is because we connected the past with the present day. Charlottesville happened before we began this shoot. As soon as I saw it, I knew this had to be the end of the film. We had to call on Susan. I asked for permission. She blessed me and the project and said ‘okay’. I still think about Charlottesville and that was for me, unfiltered, homegrown American terrorism and what I wanted to do with the movie, even though it took place in the 1970s is that I wanted to make it contemporary so there are many things that my co-writer, Kevin Willmott and I, we put in so it would click, like, this stuff is still happening today and the ending is what really hammers home as to where we are in the world today.
Why do you think that your body of work which creates a dialogue about the biggest issues in this country, issues with race and over race. Why is it that you haven’t been allowed to stand up on that stage in Los Angeles and accept a Lifetime Achievement Award for continually introducing this discussion into the US?
I did do that. I have an Oscar. I have an honorary Oscar. This is different but it really comes down to the fact that anytime there’s an award--who’s voting? It wasn’t till ‘April Rain’ with #Oscarssowhite and the President then of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, they pushed the thing open so that the voting bodies were more diverse. 1989, do the right thing, Driving Miss Daisy. If the voting members are more diverse, it looks more like America, that’s why more people of colour are receiving the recognition within Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.