Spike Lee


Spike Lee Biography

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.

Lee's movies have examined race relations, colorism in the black community, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and other political issues. Lee has won numerous awards, including an Emmy Award. He has also received two Academy Award nominations.

Early life

Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Jacqueline Carroll (née Shelton), a teacher of arts and black literature, and William James Edward Lee III, a jazz musician and composer. Lee also had three younger siblings Joie, David, and Cinqué, who all worked in many different positions in Lee's films. When he was a child, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York. During his childhood, his mother nicknamed him "Spike". In Brooklyn, he attended John Dewey High School.

Lee enrolled in Morehouse College, a historically black college, where he made his first student film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn. He took film courses at Clark Atlanta University and graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communication from Morehouse. He did graduate work at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television.

Personal life

Lee and his wife, attorney Tonya Lewis, had their first child, daughter Satchel, in December 1994. They also have a son, Jackson, born in 1997. Spike Lee is a fan of the American baseball team the New York Yankees, basketball team the New York Knicks, and the English football team . One of the documentaries in ESPN's 30 for 30 series, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks, focuses partly on Lee's interaction with Miller at Knicks games in Madison Square Garden.

Film career

Main article: Spike Lee filmography
Lee's thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, was the first student film to be showcased in Lincoln Center's New Directors New Films Festival.

In 1985, Lee began work on his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It. With a budget of $175,000, he shot the film in two weeks. When the film was released in 1986, it grossed over $7,000,000 at the U.S. box office.

In mid-1990, Levi's began producing a series of TV commercials directed by Lee for their 501 button fly jeans.

Marketing executives from Nike offered Lee a job directing commercials for the company. They wanted to pair Lee's character, the Michael Jordan-loving Mars Blackmon, and Jordan in a marketing campaign for the Air Jordan line. Later, Lee was called on to comment on the controversy surrounding the inner-city rash of violence involving youths trying to steal Air Jordans from other kids. He said that, rather than blaming manufacturers of apparel that gained popularity, "deal with the conditions that make a kid put so much importance on a pair of sneakers, a jacket and gold". Through the marketing wing of 40 Acres and a Mule, Lee has directed commercials for Converse, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's.

Controversies

As Lee became more well known and his work and comments were followed more closely, he became embroiled in some controversies. After the 1990 release of Mo' Better Blues, Lee was accused of antisemitism by the Anti-Defamation League and several film critics. They criticized the characters of the club owners Josh and Moe Flatbush, described as "Shylocks". Lee denied the charge, explaining that he wrote those characters in order to depict how black artists struggled against exploitation. Lee said that Lew Wasserman, Sidney Sheinberg or Tom Pollock, the Jewish heads of MCA and Universal Studios, were unlikely to allow antisemitic content in a film they produced. He said he could not make an antisemitic film because Jews run Hollywood, and "that's a fact."

In May 1999, the New York Post reported that Lee made an inflammatory comment about Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association, while speaking to reporters at the Cannes Film Festival. Lee was quoted as saying the National Rifle Association should be disbanded and, of Heston, someone should "Shoot him with a .44 Bull Dog." Lee said he intended it as a joke. He was responding to coverage about whether Hollywood was responsible for school shootings. Lee said, "The problem is guns," he said. Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey condemned Lee as having "nothing to offer the debate on school violence except more violence and more hate."

In 2002, after remarks made by Mississippi Senator Trent Lott regarding Senator Strom Thurmond's failed presidential bid, Lee said that Lott was a "card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan."

In June 2003 Lee sought an injunction against Spike TV to prevent them from using his nickname. Lee claimed that because of his fame, viewers would think he was associated with the new channel.

Lee sparked controversy on a March 28, 2004, segment on ABC when he said that basketball player Larry Bird was overrated because of his race, saying, "The most overrated player of all time, I would say it'd be Larry Bird. Now, Larry Bird is one of the greatest players of all time, but listen to the white media, it's like this guy was like nobody ever played basketball before him"?Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird, Larry Bird."

In October 2005, Lee commented on the federal government's response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. Responding to a CNN anchor's question as to whether the government intentionally ignored the plight of black Americans during the disaster, Lee replied, "It's not too far-fetched. I don't put anything past the United States government. I don't find it too far-fetched that they tried to displace all the black people out of New Orleans." On Real Time with Bill Maher, Lee cited the government's past atrocities including the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Lee, who was then making Miracle at St. Anna, about an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy during World War II, criticized director Clint Eastwood for not depicting black Marines in his own WWII film, Flags of Our Fathers. Citing historical accuracy, Eastwood responded that his film was specifically about the Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, pointing out that while black Marines did fight at Iwo Jima, the U.S. military was segregated during WWII, and none of the men who raised the flag were black. Eastwood also pointed out that his 1988 film Bird, about the Jazz musician Charlie Parker featured 90% black actors, and sarcastically said that Invictus, his then-upcoming film about post-apartheid South Africa, would not feature a white actor in the role of Nelson Mandela. He angrily said that Lee should "shut his face". Lee responded that Eastwood was acting like an "angry old man", and argued that despite making two Iwo Jima films back to back, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, "there was not one black soldier in both of those films". He added that he and Eastwood were "not on a plantation." Black Marines are briefly seen in scenes during which the mission is outlined, as well as during the initial landings, when a wounded black Marine is carried away. During the end credits, historical photographs taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima show black Marines. Although black Marines fought in the battle, they were restricted to auxiliary roles such as ammunition supply, and were not involved in the battle's major assaults, but took part in defensive actions. Lee later claimed that the event was exaggerated by the media and that he and Eastwood had reconciled through mutual friend Steven Spielberg, culminating in his sending Eastwood a print of Miracle at St. Anna.

During a lecture at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada on February 11, 2009, Lee criticized how some in the black community wrongfully associate "intelligence with acting white, and ignorance with acting black", admonishing students and parents to maintain more positive attitudes in order to follow their dreams and achieve their goals.

In March 2012, after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Spike Lee was one of many people who used Twitter to circulate a message which claimed to give the home address of the shooter. The address turned out to be incorrect, causing the occupants to leave home and stay at a hotel. Lee issued an apology, and reached an agreement which included compensation.

Use of actors

Recurring actors

Lee has worked with several favorite actors in his feature films. Joie Lee (Lee's sister) and John Turturro leads the list with nine feature films each, more than any other actors Lee has worked with.

Actor She's Gotta Have It
(1986)
School Daze
(1988)
Do the Right Thing
(1989)
Mo' Better Blues
(1990)
Jungle Fever
(1991)
Malcolm X
(1992)
Crooklyn
(1994)
Clockers
(1995)
Girl 6
(1996)
Get on the Bus
(1996)
He Got Game
(1998)
Summer of Sam
(1999)
Bamboozled
(2000)
25th Hour
(2002)
She Hate Me
(2004)
Inside Man
(2006)
Miracle at St. Anna
(2008)
Red Hook Summer
(2012)
Oldboy
(2013)
Rick Aiello
Lemon Andersen
De'Adre Aziza
Susan Batson
Richard Belzer
Halle Berry
Michael Badalucco
Jim Brown
Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Victor Colicchio
Joe Chrest
Ossie Davis
Rosario Dawson
Ruby Dee
Erik Dellums
Kim Director
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Giancarlo Esposito
Jennifer Esposito
Tyra Ferrell
Frances Foster
Michael Genet
Hill Harper
Robin Harris
Zelda Harris
Michael Imperioli
Samuel L. Jackson
Tracy Camilla Johns
David Patrick Kelly
Bill Lee
Cinqué Lee
Joie Lee
John Leguizamo
Brad Leland
Delroy Lindo
Debi Mazar
Lonette McKee
Coati Mundi
Charlie Murphy
Elvis Nolasco
Bill Nunn
Paula Jai Parker
Wendell Pierce
Christopher Plummer
Dania Ramirez
Theresa Randle
James Ransone
Monty Ross
Mike Starr
Miguel Sandoval
John Savage
Joe Seneca
Al Sharpton
Roger Guenveur Smith
Keith Randolph Smith
Wesley Snipes
Mira Sorvino
Joseph Lyle Taylor
Leonard L. Thomas
John Turturro
Nicholas Turturro
Frank Vincent
Denzel Washington
Isaiah Washington
Kerry Washington
Veronica Webb
Michole Briana White
Steve White
Isiah Whitlock, Jr.
Kristen Wilson
Actor She's Gotta Have It
(1986)
School Daze
(1988)
Do the Right Thing
(1989)
Mo' Better Blues
(1990)
Jungle Fever
(1991)
Malcolm X
(1992)
Crooklyn
(1994)
Clockers
(1995)
Girl 6
(1995)
Get on the Bus
(1996)
He Got Game
(1998)
Summer of Sam
(1999)
Bamboozled
(2000)
25th Hour
(2002)
She Hate Me
(2004)
Inside Man
(2006)
Miracle at St. Anna
(2008)
Red Hook Summer
(2012)
Oldboy
(2013)
  • Besides appearing in the films Summer of Sam and She Hate Me, Victor Colicchio, Michael Imperioli and Michael Genet, co-wrote the screenplays for those films with Lee (Colicchio and Imperioli on Summer of Sam and Genet on She Hate Me). Lee's siblings Cinqué and Joie Lee also contributed to the Crooklyn screenplay, a film loosely based on their childhood.
  • Prior to appearing in Lee's feature films, De'Adre Aziza also appeared in the stage musical Passing Strange (2006), which Lee filmed and later released as a documentary in 2009.
  • In addition to appearing in two of Lee's feature films, Jim Brown was the subject of the documentary film Jim Brown: All-American (2002).
  • Ossie Davis and John Turturro also appeared in the documentary film 4 Little Girls (1997).
  • John Leguizamo also starred in the biographical film Freak (1998), documented from the stage play of the same of the same, which Lee directed.
  • Bernie Mac appeared in Get on the Bus (1996) and the Lee-directed comedy documentary film The Original Kings of Comedy (2000), in which Mac is one of the four comedians prominently featured.
  • T.V. Carpio, Anthony Mackie and Reynaldo Rosales appeared in She Hate Me (2004) and the Lee-directed television film Sucker Free City (2004). Lemon Andersen, Jim Brown, John Savage and Omari Hardwick also appeared in the latter film, with Hardwick also appearing in Miracle at St. Anna.
  • Wendell Pierce also appeared in the Lee-directed documentary film When the Levees Broke (2006).
  • Monty Ross, who was a co-producing partner for many of Lee's early films, also starred in Lee's student film Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983).
  • Roger Guenveur Smith also starred in the television documentary film A Huey P. Newton Story (2001), with Smith portraying Huey P. Newton in the stage play of the same name, which Lee directed.

Public figures as actors

Several well-known public figures have appeared in Lee's feature films portraying characters other than themselves. They include:

  • Ray Allen (He Got Game)
  • Travis Best (He Got Game)
  • Mark Breland (Summer of Sam)
  • Jim Brown (He Got Game, She Hate Me)
  • Rick Fox (He Got Game)
  • Evander Holyfield (Summer of Sam)
  • William Kunstler (Malcolm X)
  • Nelson Mandela (Malcolm X)
  • Bobby Seale (Malcolm X)
  • Al Sharpton (Malcolm X, Bamboozled)
  • Wyatt Tee Walker (Malcolm X)

Awards, honors and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Spike Lee
  • 1989, Lee's film Do the Right Thing was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989. Many people, including Hollywood's Kim Basinger believed that Do the Right Thing also deserved a Best Picture nomination. Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture that year. Lee said in an April 7, 2006 interview with New York magazine that the other film's success, which he thought was based on safe stereotypes, hurt him more than if his film had not been nominated for an award.
  • 1997, his documentary 4 Little Girls, about the children killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, was nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Academy Award.
  • On May 2, 2007, the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival honored Spike Lee with the San Francisco Film Society's Directing Award. He received the 2008 Wexner Prize.
  • 2013, The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, it is one of the richest prizes in the American arts worth $300,000.



This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Spike_Lee" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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