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Do the Right Thing (1989) Poster

Trivia

Jump to: Spoilers (4)
During the 1990 Oscar ceremony, while announcing the Best Picture nominees, Kim Basinger caused some controversy when she ignored her scripted text and said: "We've got five great films here, and they're great for one reason: because they tell the truth. But there is one film missing from this list, that deserves to be on it, because ironically, it might tell the biggest truth of all, and that's Do the Right Thing (1989)." Spike Lee would later thank her for it in a 2019 episode of the podcast "Unspooled".
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Graffiti on the wall behind Mookie and Jade reads "Tawana told the truth" in reference to the Tawana Brawley alleged rape and abduction case of 1987.
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All of the scenes of the corner men (Robin Harris, Paul Benjamin, and Frankie Faison) were improvised.
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Spike Lee originally wanted Robert De Niro for the role of Sal Fragione. But De Niro turned down the part, saying that it was too similar to many of the parts he had played in the past. In the end, the part went to Danny Aiello. De Niro's photo is one of the pictures that appear on Sal's "Wall of Fame." Both De Niro and Aiello appeared alongside in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
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Spike Lee criticized several (white) critics for their perceived racist reviews, in which they stated that the movie would incite anger and cause riots in the black population, and if this were to happen, the blood would be on Lee's hands. Lee defended his movie by stating that if white people can contain themselves from causing trouble after seeing movie violence in Arnold Schwarzenegger films, then so can black people. He would later praise Roger Ebert as one of the few white critics who understood the film's message of mutual understanding.
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Radio Raheem's explanation of the love and hate rings he wears, is an homage to the speech that The Preacher gave in The Night of the Hunter (1955). Robert Mitchum's preacher has tattoos on his hands that say "Love" and "Hate".
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Spike Lee wrote the script in two weeks.
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According to Spike Lee, the casting of Rosie Perez came about during a birthday party he was hosting in a club in LA. When the R&B song "Da Butt" by Experience Unlimited from Lee's previous movie School Daze (1988) started playing, a spontaneous "butt contest" was held. Lee saw Perez dancing on top of a speaker, and told her to come down, fearing that she would fall off and hurt herself, and he would get sued. Security had to step in to force Perez down, after which she profusely cursed at Lee. Lee was in awe of her voice, and quickly learned that they were both from the same part of Brooklyn. He offered her the part of Mookie's girlfriend on the spot, deciding that she would be Puerto Rican.
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Ossie Davis (Da Mayor) and Ruby Dee (Mother Sister) were wife and husband in real life and frequently performed together until Davis' death in 2005.
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The key scene when Danny Aiello and John Turturro talk alone, approximately midway through the film, was partly improvised. The scripted scene ended as the character Smiley approached the window. Everything after that, until the end of the scene, was completely ad-libbed.
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Feature film debut of Martin Lawrence (Cee).
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This film was inspired by an actual incident in New York City, where some black youths were chased out of a pizzeria by some white youths in a section of New York City known as Howard Beach.
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According to Rosie Perez, her face is not shown in her nude scene, because she felt exploited and was crying. She later decided she didn't mind, and appeared nude again in other movies.
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According to former President Barack Obama at a fundraiser in New York City, he and First Lady Michelle Obama saw the movie on their first date, in 1989, though they were also planning on seeing Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Spike Lee later joked that their relation would probably not have happened if Barack had chosen the latter.
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The opening dance sequence with Rosie Perez, was inspired by the opening credit sequence with Ann-Margret, in Bye Bye Birdie (1963).
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The character of Smiley was not originally in the script. Roger Guenveur Smith approached Spike Lee requesting a role, and his scenes were added in during shooting.
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Laurence Fishburne was offered, but turned down the role of Radio Raheem.
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Features Danny Aiello's only Oscar nominated performance.
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The title comes from a Malcolm X quotation that goes, "You've got to do the right thing."
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Ice Cube sampled Pino's "You gold teeth, gold chain wearing, fried chicken and biscuit eating, monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast running, high jumping, spear-chucking, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree basketball dunking, titsun, spade, Moolignan. Go the fuck back to Africa. Go the fuck back to Africa. Go the fuck back to Africa..." rant for his 1990 song "Turn Off The Radio."
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On both an interview, and the audio commentary for the Criterion DVD of the film, Spike Lee says that the project was originally at Paramount Pictures, but the studio was worried about the climax, and wanted it toned down. Lee refused, and in the same weekend Paramount Pictures turned the project down, Universal Pictures picked it up for distribution.
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Danny Aiello admitted that he almost turned down the part of Sal when he saw that he'd be playing the owner of a pizzeria, believing it to be a lazy stereotype of Italian-Americans despite the high number of pizzerias that are owned by Italian-Americans.
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The word "fu-ck" is used approximately two hundred forty times in this film, an average rate of two per minute.
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Spike Lee credits then-president of Universal Pictures Thomas Philip Pollock for standing by the movie, even after it caused considerable controversy during its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie was planned for a summer 1989 USA release, but Pollock was under heavy pressure to release it in the fall out of fear of inciting riots. This was all the more pressing since Pollock was still under bodyguard protection after releasing The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), as he and his family had been getting death threats. Even Lee told Pollock that he would understand if the movie were released at a later time, but Pollock stood by his decision and released the film on the intended date.
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Rick Aiello, who played Officer Long in the movie, is the real-life son of Danny Aiello, who played Sal.
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The opening sequence, which featured the song "Fight The Power", was written especially for the movie. Rosie Perez dancing to the song took eight hours to film.
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The building Sal's Pizzeria was in did not exist before shooting. Rather, it was constructed on an empty lot by the production company, and subsequently torn down after shooting wrapped.
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Wesley Snipes turned down a role in the film in order to star in Major League (1989). He teamed up with writer and director Spike Lee for Mo' Better Blues (1990), and was the lead in Jungle Fever (1991).
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The first words spoken, "Wake Up," are the last words spoken in Spike Lee's previous movie School Daze (1988).
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In a conversation with Mother Sister, Da Mayor reminisces about a similarly hot day in 1939 in Snow Hill, Alabama. Snow Hill is the hometown of Spike Lee's father, composer Bill Lee.
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The idea for the heatwave was inspired by a script for Predator 2 (1990), which had not yet been made. "I just thought, you know, Predator 2 had a lot to say about race relations so I took that, you know, like race is the Predator in my joint," director Spike Lee was quoted as saying.
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When the Italian-American Pino calls the African-American Mookie a "tutsoon" he's using a Southern Italian slang word, which refers to the blackened wood in a fire pit, or the burnt end of charred stick.
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There are seventy-four musical artists cited by name during Love Daddy's "roll call." The first is Boogie Down Productions and the last is Mary Lou Williams.
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James Earl Jones was originally offered the role of "Da Mayor", but turned it down in order to make Best of the Best (1989).
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Spike Lee spent his free time on the set writing the screenplay for Mo' Better Blues (1990).
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Director of photography Ernest R. Dickerson determined they'd have to shoot on an East-West street in Manhattan, so that the light would be constant on both sides of the street.
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In 2019, Spike Lee became the first person of color to be nominated for the Academy Awards for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. He was nominated for writing Do the Right Thing (1989) and BlacKkKlansman (2018), respectively, winning the latter.
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The entire shoot took place on one commandeered block in Brooklyn. Extra care was taken to ensure the experience was palatable to the residents of that block, and the production even hired a couple of residents on that block.
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According to the newspaper, the date on the first day is August 5, 1989.
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Rick Aiello and Miguel Sandoval, who played Officers Long and Ponte, reprised their roles in Jungle Fever (1991), which was also directed by Spike Lee.
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In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #96 Greatest Movie of All Time. It was the first inclusion of this film on the list.
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Spike Lee turned down Tougher Than Leather (1988) to direct this film.
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Spike Lee's first choice for the role of Pino was Matt Dillon.
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The scene in which Sal and Buggin' Out argue about there being no "brothers" (people of the African-American persuasion) on the wall of the restaurant, only "American Italians", is ironic due to the fact that Giancarlo Esposito is half Italian, being that his father is originally from Napoli.
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This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #97.
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Spike Lee reprised his role as Mookie in Red Hook Summer (2012), which is also written and directed by him.
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Joe Mantegna and Joe Pesci were considered for Sal.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the four hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Delroy Lindo was offered the chance to audition as one of the "Corner Men" but turned it down. Lindo later starred in Crooklyn (1994),Clockers (1995) and Da 5 Bloods (2020), three other Spike Lee joints.
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The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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The character of Buggin' Out, portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito, angrily protests that Sal's Pizzeria only features people of Italian descent on the wall. He demands that some photos of black Americans be displayed. In reality, Esposito himself is half-Italian, hence his name. He was born Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito, to an Italian father from Naples, and to an African-American mother.
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The cast includes one Oscar winner: Spike Lee; and four Oscar nominees: Danny Aiello, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson and Rosie Perez.
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One of only five theatrical films to be selected by the Library of Congress for addition to the National Film Registry in their first year of eligibility. The others are Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Toy Story (1995), and Fargo (1996).
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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This film is in the Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films on Letterboxd.
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Giancarlo Esposito plays a revolutionary character who is mostly shunned by the community he is trying to engage in social activism. In Spike Lee's preceding film, School Daze (1988), he plays a character who shuns a revolutionary character trying to raise social awareness about injustice.
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On the window of Sals pizzeria, there is a special for 2 slices and a soda for $2.75
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Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Vincent later appeared in Goodfellas (1990).
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In School Daze (1988), the character Samuel L. Jackson plays is ridiculed for publicly wearing a shower cap over his jheri curl. In Do the Right Thing, Jackson's character, radio DJ Senior Love Daddy warns his listeners that the excess heat could be a danger for anyone with a jheri curl.
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Samuel L. Jackson and Miguel Sandoval both later appeared in Jurassic Park (1993).
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Out of all the credited characters, six were not present during the riot scene: Tina, Hector, Tina's mother, Clifton, Charlie, and the Puerto Rican Icee Man.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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The scene where Mother Sister does Jade's hair represents a frequently used device in several Spike Lee films: his first film revolves around a barbershop; School Daze (1988) has a musical number, "Good and Bad Hair"; in one of the opening scenes in Malcolm X (1992), the titular character is getting his first conk, She's Gotta Have It (1986) features a scene where Nona oils Mars' scalp to his delight.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2004 list of the top 100 America's Greatest Music in the Movies for the song "Fight the Power."
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

In the original scripted ending, Sal and Mookie reconcile. Sal, although upset, tells Mookie that he understands that Mookie had to do the right thing. Spike Lee claimed that original producer Paramount even demanded at the last moment that Sal and Mookie should hug. Lee refused, calling it a "Hollywood bullsh#t ending", as he wanted the epilogue to remain truthful to the characters, and took the project to Universal Pictures.
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Spike Lee has repeatedly stated that in his view, the reason that Mookie threw the garbage can through the window was because he saw his best friend Raheem being murdered in front of him. Lee acknowledged the alternative theory that Mookie did it to save Sal, Pino and Vito, and although that was never his intention, he liked the fact that the scene has sparked such different interpretations.
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This movie takes place in the same universe where vampires exist. To explain, Spike Lee would later reprise his role as Mookie in his film Red Hook Summer (2012), making that film a quasi-sequel to "Do The Right Thing." But, Spike Lee then proceeded to make the vampire film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), which included sequences filmed at the same church as "Red Hook Summer" and had several actors briefly reprising their roles, not only making that film a quasi-sequel to "Red Hook Summer," but also to "Do The Right Thing" and establishing vampires in this universe.
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When Radio ask Sonny what the expiration date on the batteries are . He says the releases date on the batteries is March 1991 . March 1991 would be the same date that the movie New Jack City (1991) premiere in theaters and Bill Nunn who played Radio also played Duh duh duh man in that movie.
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