Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Infobox actor
name = Spike Lee

caption =Spike Lee, 2007
birthname = Shelton Jackson Lee
birthdate = birth date and age|1957|3|20
birthplace = Atlanta, Georgia
yearsactive = 1977 - present
spouse = Tonya Lewis (1993-)
baftaawards = Special Award
cesarawards = Honorary César
2003 Lifetime Achievement
emmyawards = Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking
2007 "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts"
Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming
2007 "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts"
naacpimageawards = Outstanding Directing in a Feature Film/Television Movie - Comedy or Drama
2007 "Inside Man"

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated American film director, producer, writer, and actor, noted for his films dealing with controversial social and political issues. He also teaches film at New York University and Columbia University. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since fy|1983.

Early life

Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Jacqueline Shelton, a teacher of arts and black literature, and William James Edward Lee III, a jazz musician, and composer. [ [http://www.filmreference.com/film/19/Spike-Lee.html Spike Lee biography at filmreference.com] ] Lee moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York when he was a small child. The Fort Greene neighborhood is home of Lee's production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, and other Lee-owned or related businesses. As a child, his mother nicknamed him "Spike." In Brooklyn, he attended John Dewey High School. Lee enrolled in Morehouse 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 College. He then enrolled in New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He graduated in 1978 with a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television.

Film career

Lee's thesis film, "", 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, the film was shot in two weeks. When the film was released in 1986, it grossed over $7,000,000 at the U.S. box office. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091939/business Box Office & Business page for "She's Gotta Have It" at the Internet Movie Database] ]

"She's Gotta Have It" would also lead Lee down a second career avenue. After marketing executives from Nike saw and liked the movie, [ [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1208/is_n29_v221/ai_19625060 Kindred, Dave; "Mars points NBA to next Milky Way - advertising character Mars Blackmon"; findarticles.com; July 21, 1997.] ] Lee was offered a job directing commercials for Nike. What they had in mind specifically was pairing Lee's character from "She's Gotta Have It", the Michael Jordan-loving Mars Blackmon, with Jordan himself as their marketing campaign for the Air Jordan line. Later, Lee would be a central figure in the controversy surrounding the inner-city rash of violence involving Air Jordans. [ [http://chucksconnection.com/articles/ConverseArt08.html Your Sneakers or Your Life ] ] Lee countered that instead of blaming manufacturers of apparel, "deal with the conditions that make a kid put so much importance on a pair of sneakers, a jacket and gold". Lee, through the marketing wing of his production company, has also directed commercials for Converse, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry's.

Lee's movies have examined race relations, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and political issues. Many of his films include a distinctive use of music.

Awards, honors and nominations

Lee's film "Do the Right Thing" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989. Many people, including some in Hollywood, such as Kim Basinger, believed that Do the Right Thing deserved a Best Picture nomination, but the movie didn't get the nomination, and "Driving Miss Daisy" won Best Picture that year. According to Spike in an April 7, 2006 interview with New York Magazine, this hurt him more than his film not receiving the nomination. [ [http://nymag.com/anniversary/40th/culture/45772/ "Q&A with Spike Lee on Making 'Do the Right Thing"; New York Magazine] ]

His documentary "4 Little Girls" was nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Academy Award in 1997.

On May 2, 2007, the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival honored Spike Lee with the San Francisco Film Society's Directing Award. He was most recently named the recipient of the next Wexner Prize. [ [http://www.wexarts.org/about/wexner_prize/spikelee/ "Spike Lee to Receive the Wexner Prize"; Wexner Center for the Arts] ]


* The borough of Brooklyn is the setting for many of Lee's theatrical releases.
* Lee often has a role in his films ranging from small cameo ("Clockers") to leading role ("Do the Right Thing").
* His films are referred to in their credits as "A Spike Lee Joint", except "When the Levees Broke" and "Inside Man", which are each referred to as "A Spike Lee Film".
* There is commonly a sequence using a "floating" effect, when a character seems to glide in the air like a ghost instead of walking to make it look like they are in a world of their own. Usually the actor is on a camera dolly, framed in a way that one doesn't see their feet. Denzel Washington has been the focus of this shot in "Mo' Better Blues", "Malcolm X", and "Inside Man". Mekhi Phifer is given the same treatment in "Clockers", as well as Laurence Fishburne in the film "School Daze". Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anna Paquin have similar shots in "25th Hour".
* Lee incorporates something related to the sport of baseball in every one of his movies. Examples include the New York Mets in "Mo' Better Blues" and "Jungle Fever", Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens in "Do The Right Thing", Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente in "Clockers", Reggie Jackson and the New York Yankees in "Summer of Sam", and Jackie Robinson in "Malcolm X", amongst other recurring themes in his movies such as "She Hate Me".

Recurring actors

A number of actors have appeared in multiple Spike Lee productions. Joie Lee (Spike's sister) and John Turturro lead the list, each having appeared in nine Spike Lee films.

Public figures as actors

Several well-known public figures have appeared in Spike Lee films portraying characters other than themselves, particularly in "Malcolm X". 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", "Sucker Free City")
* 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")
* Wyatt Tee Walker ("Malcolm X")


Lee has never shied away from controversial statements and actions involving race relations. In 2002, after headline-grabbing remarks made by Mississippi Senator Trent Lott regarding Senator Strom Thurmond's failed presidential bid, Lee charged that Lott was a "card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan" on ABC's "Good Morning America". [ [http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=101153&page=1 "Spike Lee Blasts Trent Lott" ABC News; December 19, 2002.] ]

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival Lee, who is 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 soldiers who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, pointing out that while black soldiers 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 that his upcoming movie about post-apartheid South Africa will not feature a white actor in the role of Nelson Mandela, angrily saying 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". [ [http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=5015524&page=1 Marikar, Sheila; "Spike Strikes Back: Clint's 'an Angry Old Man'"; abcnews; June 6, 2008] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7439371.stm BBC News: Eastwood hits back at Lee claims] ] cite journal
last = Lyman
first = Eric J.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Lee calls out Eastwood, Coens over casting
journal = The Hollywood Reporter, The Daily from Cannes
volume =
issue = 8
pages = pp.3,24
publisher =
location = Cannes
date = 2008-05-21
url = http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3if545c66bc7e57054b34aaa6cd2b36458
format =
issn =
accessdate =
] In fact, black Marines are seen in scenes during which the mission is outlined, as well as during the initial landings, when a wounded black Marine is carried away.Fact|date=September 2008 During the end credits, historical photographs taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima show black Marines.Fact|date=September 2008 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. [ [http://www.mpma28.com/page/page/2271596.htm Rundles, Jim; "Black Marines Were Fighting on Iwo Jima" at Montford Point Marines] ]

Lee was the executive producer of the 1995 film "New Jersey Drive", which depicted young African-American auto thieves in northern New Jersey. At the time, the city of Newark had the highest automobile theft rate in the country, and Newark mayor Sharpe James refused to allow filming of "New Jersey Drive" within the city limits. Years later in the hotly-contested 2002 Newark mayoral campaign, Lee endorsed James's opponent, Cory Booker.

In May 1999 The "New York Post" reported that Lee said of National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, "Shoot him with a .44 Bulldog." Lee contended, "I intended it as ironic, as a joke to show how violence begets more violence," Lee said Thursday. "I told everyone there it was a joke. I said I did not want to read in the papers, 'Shoot Charlton Heston.'" Insisting that he has no reason to apologize, Lee further explained that the remark was in response to a question about whether Hollywood was responsible for the then-recent rash of school shootings, saying, "The problem is guns," he said. Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey issued a statement condemning Lee as having "nothing to offer the debate on school violence except more violence and more hate." [ [http://www.salon.com/ent/log/1999/05/28/spike/index.html "Living foot to mouth"; salon.com; May 28, 1999.] ]

In 2003, Lee filed suit against the Spike TV television network claiming that they were capitalizing on his fame by using his name for their network. The injunction order filed by Spike Lee was eventually lifted.

More recently, 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. [ [http://youtube.com/watch?v=R7j0SqSn14A Clip of Lee expressing his views of the Hurricane Katrina and Tuskegee matters on "Real Time with Bill Maher"] ]

Spike Lee is well-known for his devotion to the New York Knicks professional basketball team. Much of the blame for the Knicks' loss (93-86 to the Indiana Pacers) in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, in which "Knick-killer" Reggie Miller scored 25 points in the 4th quarter, was given to Lee. Lee was apparently taunting Miller throughout the 4th quarter, and Miller responded by making shot after shot. Miller also gave the choke sign to Lee. The headline of the "New York Daily News" the next day sarcastically said, "Thanks A Lot Spike". [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1546/is_n5_v10/ai_18053730 Fitzgerald, Sharon; "Spike Lee: fast forward"; findarticles.com; Oct-Nov, 1995] ]

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.” [cite web
title=Double Standards
author=Daniel Sterman
date=April 13, 2004
publisher=The Columbia Spectator
] [cite web
title=Racial Double Standard. Spike Lee's comments unacceptable
author=J. Colin Trisler
date=March 24, 2004
publisher=The Daily Reveille

Personal life

Lee and his wife, attorney Tonya Lewis, had their first child, daughter Satchel, in December 1994.cite news |title= Milestones |url= |publisher="Time Magazine" |date=December 19, 1994 |accessdate=2007-07-22 ]



External links

* [http://www.depauw.edu/news/index.asp?id=12593 Ubben Lecture at DePauw University]
* [http://www.criterion.com/asp/release.asp?id=97&eid=105&section=essay Criterion Collection Essay on Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing"]

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