Spike Lee Speaks About â€˜She Hate Me,â€™ NASCAR, Martha Stewart, Elections...
Shelton Jackson Lee was born in Atlanta on March 20, 1957. Nicknamed Spike by his mom because of his toughness, he was raised in Brooklyn, the community he is still most closely associated with.
He attended NYU Film School before embarking on an enviable career as a trailblazing African American filmmaker. This multi-talented writer-director-actor-producer has landed two Oscar nominations, one for "Do the Right Thing," the other for "Four Little Girls."
But he's produced a multitude of other thought-provoking pictures also, including "She's Gotta Have It," "School Daze," "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X" and "Bamboozled," to name a few. Recently, he shared his thoughts with me on his latest, She Hate Me, a romantic fantasy about a Wharton grad who starts offering stud service to wealthy lesbians at $10,000 a pop after he's fired from his job for being a
KW: What do you think of the state of Black moviemaking?
: "I'm kind of disappointed with the state of African American films. And
we're not talking about "I, Robot" or "Manchurian Candidate," films starring
Denzel and Will. I think that for the most part, the studios' viewpoint of
African Americans is very limited. They see us just as rappers, crackheads,
crack dealers and clowns. I think we're much more. They're getting a very
limited scope of the nobility of African American people. So, I hope and
pray that we get people in the positions of the gatekeepers who decide which
movies and TV shows get made."
KW: What do you think of the upcoming election?
SL: "Number one, African Americans have to vote with a vengeance. There's a
thing called payback, which we know of. And when we look at how Bush refused
to address the NAACP Convention upon invitation, use that as an impetus.
When we look at what happened in Florida, where African Americans showed up
to vote and found out their names were on a felons list, where there were
police blockades not letting them go to vote, where many polling places
closed early and many machines weren't working, that was not by accident.
That was Jeb Bush, Kathleen Harris and the whole Republican Party in
cahoots. So, we should not forget what happened four years ago."
KW: I didn't see the magazine, but I heard that in the August issue of
Playboy you had some harsh words for NASCAR racing. What's up with that?
SL: "I did that interview over two months ago, so I barely remember what I
said. But my feeling is this: I'm not going to change my view of NASCAR,
until they stop waving them Confederate flags. I have the same feeling about
that flag that Jewish people have about the swastika. It's the same thing to
me. The Confederacy lost the war. Give it up. I'm sorry, I'm not comfortable
any place they're flying the Confederate flag. The Stars and Bars? Un-uh. My
ancestors died fighting against that stuff for 400 years. It's as simple as
that. I don't care if it's good ole boys or the Dukes of Hazzard."
KW: After her conviction, billionaire domestic diva Martha Stewart compared
herself to Nelson Mandela. Do you agree?
SL: "Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for a human rights issue. She
should get five more months for comparing that with what she's going
through. Tack it on! I don't think we really have to worry about her landing
on her feet. She's not going to the women's wing at Riker's Island. It's
going to work out well for her."
KW: What inspired you to make She Hate Me?
SL: "Whenever I do a film, it's a story I want to tell, and it's an
examination of what's happening at that particular time. I think this film
could definitely be used as a time capsule of the days we currently live
KW: Do you think lesbians will be upset with this movie?
SL: "we've had several screenings for lesbian audiences in various cities
across the country. There are going to be some lesbians who are upset, but
there are going to be other lesbians who like the film. We had a lesbian
consultant hired for the film who told me that lesbians are not one
monolithic group, so it really depends."
KW: Why center a story about artificial insemination around lesbians?
SL: "It sets a more dramatic tension, because if he's doing some women who
are heterosexual, then you don't get the same dynamic that you would with
women who don't want to be with men."
KW: Do you think the film will be branded as controversial?
SL: "I don't know. I remember I thought they couldn't say anything about Mo'
Better Blues, but then I found myself having to write an op-ed piece saying,
'I'm not anti-Semitic,' on the advice of my Jewish lawyer. He said, 'Spike,
if you want to continue to work in this industry, you don't want to be
branded as anti-Semitic.' So, I wrote that letter and the New York Times
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It was sexy to be against the war back then. He was probably in it to get laid.
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