Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from artistic, education-grounded background; his father was a jazz musician, and his mother, a schoolteacher. He attended school in Morehouse College in Atlanta and developed his film making skills at Clark Atlanta University. After graduating from Morehouse, Lee attended the Tisch School of Arts graduate film program. He made a controversial short, The Answer (1980), a reworking of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915)_ - a ten-minute film. Lee went on to produce a 45-minute film Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983), which won a student Academy Award.
In 1986, Spike Lee made the film, She's Gotta Have It (1986), a comedy about sexual relationships. The movie was made for $175,000, and earned $7 million at the box office, which launched his career and allowed him to found his own production company, 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks. His next movie was School Daze (1988), which was set in a historically black school, focused mostly on the conflict between the school and the Fraternities, of which he was a strong critic, portraying them as materialistic, irresponsible, and uncaring. With his School Daze (1988) profits, Lee went on to make his landmark film, Do the Right Thing (1989), a movie based specifically his own neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The movie portrayed the racial tensions that emerge in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood on one very hot day. The movie garnered Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay, for Danny Aiello for supporting actor, and sparked a debate on racial relations.
Lee went on to produce the jazz biopic Mo' Better Blues (1990), the first of many Spike Lee films to feature Denzel Washington, including the biography of Malcolm X (1992), in which Denzel Washington portrayed the civil rights leader. The movie was a success, and garnering an Oscar nomination for Washington. The pair would work together again on, He Got Game (1998), an excursion into the collegiate world showing the darker side of recruiting college athletes, as well as the 2006 film Inside Man (2006).
Spike Lee's role as a documentarian has expanded over the years, highlighted by his part in Lumière and Company (1995), the Oscar-nominated 4 Little Girls (1997), to his Peabody Award-winning biographical adaptation of Black Panther leader in A Huey P. Newton Story (2001) (TV), through his 2005 Emmy Award-winning examination of post-Katrina New Orleans in "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (2006) and its follow-up five years later in "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise" (2010).
Through his production company 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Lee continues to create and direct both independent films and projects for major studios, as well as working on story development, creating an internship program for aspiring filmmakers, releasing music, and community outreach and support.
He is married to Tonya Lewis Lee, and they have two sons, Satchel and Jackson.
|Tonya Lewis Lee||(2 October 1993 - present) 2 children|
Frequently casts himself
His films frequently involve African Americans and African-American themes
Films called "A Spike Lee Joint"
Frequently has characters directly address the camera. Frequently places actors on dollies to achieve a gliding or rotating effect against the background of the shot.
His films often have the phrase "Wake Up!" as in an urging to the awakening of maturity and social conscience.
Baseball: Every one of his narrative feature films makes reference to baseball teams and players.
Often casts Denzel Washington
Frequently uses a technique he calls the "double dolly." This is where the camera and the subject are placed on a dolly and pushed through the scene. This makes the subject look like they are floating or gliding.
Frequently casts Michael Imperioli
Cousin of Malcolm D. Lee.
Big New York Knicks fan: Has courtside seats for all games. Partially responsible for the "off colored" baseball caps, as he started wearing a red Yankees cap during the 1996 World Series.
His production company is 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks.
Son of Bill Lee.
Friend of Soledad O'Brien.
After the Columbine high school shootings Spike said that National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston should be shot. Heston replied that if Spike wanted to take a shot at him he should go ahead and try it. Lee later apologized for the comments.
Serves as a master teacher of film at the Tisch School of the Arts and Harvard University.
Graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1982.
Graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979.
Children, with Tonya Lewis Lee, Satchel (b. 1994) and Jackson (b. 1997).
His grandmother, Zimmie Shelton, an alumna of Spelman College (class of 1929), sent him to Morehouse College, the historically black all-male institution affiliated with the all-female Spelman College.
He has never learned how to drive an automobile.
He and producer/director Monty Ross are frequent collaborators and were classmates and graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Between the making of his award-winning student short, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983), and his debut feature, She's Gotta Have It (1986), Lee attempted to make a featured called "Messenger". Over $100,000 was raised, but the film never materialized.
The name of his production company, "40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks", came from an unfulfilled promise that many politicians made to freed slaves after the Civil War.
Was a Visiting Lecturer in Afro-American Studies and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University in the early 1990s.
Was featured in numerous Nike campaigns in the early '90s
Is now (2002) the Artistic Director of the graduate division of the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The position gives Lee an advisory position, allowing him to teach and advise third year students, as well as aid with industry networking.
Vied for the director's seat on Ali (2001). Says that he knew he wouldn't get the job after speaking to the movie's star, Will Smith (one of the many financiers on Lee's Get on the Bus (1996)), who wanted Lee to make a film with "a broader appeal".
Has been trying for more than ten years to direct his dream project: a film about the life and times of Jackie Robinson. Says that he personally promised to Robinson's widow, Rachel Isum, to make the film. Another as-of-yet (2003) project he has often spoke of but has yet to do is a film on the boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling.
Was voted the 48th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Often casts real-life family members in his films. In Do the Right Thing (1989) , for example, he cast Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (real-life husband and wife), himself and Joie Lee (real-life siblings), and Danny Aiello and Rick Aiello (real-life father and son). Other films he does this in include School Daze (1988), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991) and Malcolm X (1992).
Grandson of Zimmie Shelton, who helped finance his featurette, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983). She received a producing credit on the film, which went on to win a Merit Award at the Student Academy Awards.
Is a huge Arsenal fan and personal friend of team captain Thierry Henry. Is often known to wear Arsenal jerseys while on set.
When Norman Jewison was originally hired to direct Malcolm X (1992), Lee met with him and convinced him he needed to "sit this one out". Feeling that only a black director was qualified and would bring the necessary perspective, Lee then stepped in as director with Jewison's blessing.
One of his classmate at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts was director Ang Lee. The Taiwan-born Lee worked on the crew of Spike's thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983).
Made the introduction of the song "The Church" on De La Soul's album "The Grind Date".
The Lees bought their 9,800-sq.-ft. Italian palazzo-style home from Jasper Johns in 1998; it was originally built for a Vanderbilt.
Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2004.
Is a big fan of musicals from Hollywood's Golden Age.
His favorite movie is The Deer Hunter (1978). It is the movie that inspired him to be a director.
Nephew of Consuela Lee Morehead.
Mentioned in the song "Light My Candle" from Jonathan Larson's musical Rent. He was also considered to direct the movie version of Rent before Chris Colubus was chosen.
Is good friends with Martin Scorsese.
I've been blessed with the opportunity to express the views of black people who otherwise don't have access to power and the media. I have to take advantage of that while I'm still bankable.
What's the difference between Hollywood characters and my characters? Mine are real.
Making films has got to be one of the hardest endeavors known to humankind. Straight up and down, film work is hard shit.
Wim Wenders had better watch out 'cause I'm waiting for his ass. Somewhere deep in my closet I have a Louisville Slugger bat with Wenders' name on it.
"I respect the audience's intelligence a lot, and that's why I don't try to go for the lowest common denominator." -- at the New York premiere of his media satire "Bamboozled".
Agents aren't going to get you anywhere if you aren't established.
You just have to be on good terms with the actors and talk stuff out beforehand. A perfect example is She Hate Me - I had many different discussions with many different women, and also with [the actor] Anthony Mackie, so they knew. And this was before they even agreed to do the film. But actors want to know - 'Here, it says they make love. What type of acts are we talking about? What's going to be seen?' I have no problem with that. At the same time, I still want to allow myself some flexibility. But shooting a sex scene is very mechanical - 'Will you move this way? That way? Raise your leg?' And for the most part the crew isn't allowed to be there - I close the set, make it as comfortable as possible.
For me, a large part of Jungle Fever (1991) is about sexual mythology: the mythology of a white woman being on a pedestal, the universal standard of beauty, and the mythology about the black man as sexual stud with a ten-foot dick. Buying into the mythology is not a strong foundation for a relationship.
But actresses are asked to compromise themselves, not just from the director but the producer too - 'Are you going to show your tits or your ass?' They say that shit all the time. It is men making decisions. And of course they would rather have heads explode on screen than show a penis.
Amongst black people, you have always heard it said that once a black man reaches a certain level, especially if you are an entertainer, you get a white trophy woman. I didn't make that up.
You have to do the research. If you don't know about something, then you ask the right people who do. With She's Gotta Have It (1986), I don't think I got any revelation; it was just good to hear the women whom I interviewed confirm what I thought already.
[Speaking out after the death of comedian Richard Pryor]: "He was an innovator and a trailblazer. It's a great loss".
"Before, I used to think that everything was based on race. Now class matters just as much. If you are a poor person: black, white, Latino, whatever, the Bush Administration does not have your best interests at heart. If the Government thought poor people mattered, the response [to Katrina's disaster] would have been much quicker." (March 2006)
It has been my observation that parents kill more dreams than anybody.
Racism is when you have laws set up, systematically put in the way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people. Black people have never had the power to enforce racism, and so this is something that white America is going to have to work out themselves. If they decide they want to stop it, curtail it, or to do the right thing then it will be done, but not until then.
[on the Academy Awards] What film won Best Picture in 1989? Driving Miss motherfucking Daisy! That's why [Oscars] don't matter. Because, 20 years later, who's watching Driving Miss Daisy.
You gotta make your own way. You gotta find a way. You gotta get it done. It's hard. It's tough. That's what I tell my students every day in class. I've been very fortunate. Some people might call me a hardhead, but I'm not going to let other people dictate to me who I should be or the stories I should tell. That doesn't register with me.
Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I know it's making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. ... I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry's "Meet the Browns" (2009) and "House of Payne" (2006)), and I am scratching my head. We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep 'n' Eat?".
|Malcolm X (1992)||$3,000,000|
(January 2010) Preparing to make a follow-up film to "When the Levees Broke"
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