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Drop Squad DVD A sell-out ad man is de-programmed by a team of vigilantes in the... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

4 Little Girls DVD Spike Lee directs this quietly gripping documentary exploring the 1963 bombing... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise... Spike Lee's follow-up to When the Levees Broke (2006) revisits New Orleans and... more info $24.98was $24.98 Buy Now

Inside Man DVD Experience cinema at its finest in this thrilling heist flick featuring a... more info $12.98was $12.98 Buy Now

Mo' Better Blues DVD Enter the dark smoky world of a jazz club filled with women, music, gambling and... more info $5.98was $5.98 Buy Now

The Spike Lee Joint Collection... Acclaimed Brooklyn filmmaker Spike Lee peels back the layers of New York life,... more info $26.98was $26.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: Shelton Jackson Lee Died:
Born: March 20, 1957 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, producer, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Perhaps one of the most controversial filmmakers to emerge during the explosion of independent directors in the 1980s, Spike Lee single-handedly changed the way African-Americans were perceived in Hollywood films. Starting with "She's Gotta Have It" (1986), a stylish, ultra-low budget comedy that became an unexpected commercial success and planted him firmly on the map. Right out of the gate, Lee directed a series of films that dealt with the uneasy topic of race in his often brash, unapologetic style. His most widely known production, "Do the Right Thing" (1989), proclaimed with no uncertainty that dealing with racism on film could be both challenging and entertaining. Not satisfied with staying behind the camera, Lee stood front and center in a series of Nike and Levis commercials in the 1980s and 1990s, which featured the bicycle messenger character he played in "She's Gotta Have It." But like any filmmaker, Lee had his share of mediocre films - namely "'Mo Better Blues" (1990), "Girl 6" (1996) and "She Hate Me" (2004) - though the triumphs of "Malcolm X" (1992), "He Got Game" (1998), "25th Hour" (2002) and the mainstream crime thriller "Inside Man" (2006) more than made up for his missteps. Most...

Perhaps one of the most controversial filmmakers to emerge during the explosion of independent directors in the 1980s, Spike Lee single-handedly changed the way African-Americans were perceived in Hollywood films. Starting with "She's Gotta Have It" (1986), a stylish, ultra-low budget comedy that became an unexpected commercial success and planted him firmly on the map. Right out of the gate, Lee directed a series of films that dealt with the uneasy topic of race in his often brash, unapologetic style. His most widely known production, "Do the Right Thing" (1989), proclaimed with no uncertainty that dealing with racism on film could be both challenging and entertaining. Not satisfied with staying behind the camera, Lee stood front and center in a series of Nike and Levis commercials in the 1980s and 1990s, which featured the bicycle messenger character he played in "She's Gotta Have It." But like any filmmaker, Lee had his share of mediocre films - namely "'Mo Better Blues" (1990), "Girl 6" (1996) and "She Hate Me" (2004) - though the triumphs of "Malcolm X" (1992), "He Got Game" (1998), "25th Hour" (2002) and the mainstream crime thriller "Inside Man" (2006) more than made up for his missteps. Most surprisingly, the extremely outspoken and politically active Lee made his greatest contributions to cinema with two unflinching, but straightforward documentaries, "4 Little Girls" (1997) and "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (2006), both of which earned him considerable acclaim and several awards, confirming that Lee was no ordinary filmmaker content simply playing by the rules. And, as he would famously speak his mind on more than several occasions, he was not content to sit by and say nothing if he witnessed racial injustice, both in his chosen field as well as in the world at large.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Oldboy (2013)
3.
4.
  Bad 25 (2012)
5.
  Fusion (2011)
6.
8.
9.
  She Hate Me (2004) Director
10.
  25th Hour (2002) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Red Hook Summer (2012)
2.
 Poliwood (2009)
5.
 3 AM (2001) Himself--Filmmaker
6.
 Summer of Sam (1999) John Jeffries
7.
 When We Were Kings (1996) Himself
8.
 Girl 6 (1996) Jimmy
9.
 Clockers (1995) Chucky
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Enrolled in New York University's Tisch School of the Arts
1980:
Debuted thesis film "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads" at Lincoln Center's New Directors New Films Festival; the first student film to be showcased in the festival
:
Founded the production company 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks
1986:
First feature film (directed, wrote, produced and starred), "She's Gotta Have It" (made for approximately $175,000 and shot in 12 days)
1987:
First book published <i>She's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerilla Filmmaking</i>
1989:
Helmed the controversial drama "Do the Right Thing"; earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay
1991:
Produced first off-Broadway play, "Folks Remembers a Missing Page"
1992:
Formed record label, Forty Acres and a Mule Music Works, a division of Sony; first artists signed: State of Arts, Youssou N'Dour and Lonette McKee
1992:
Directed Denzel Washington as the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader in "Malcolm X"
1996:
Filmed "Get on the Bus," about a group of African-American men taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March; released on the one year anniversary of the March
1997:
Signed three-year, first-look production deal with Columbia Pictures
1997:
Produced and directed the documentary "4 Little Girls"; earned Academy Award nomination
1998:
First No. 1 hit with "He Got Game," starring Denzel Washington
1999:
Helmed the controversial "Summer of Sam"
2000:
Again courted controversy with "Bamboozled," about a TV executive who creates a modern-day minstrel show that becomes a surprise hit TV series
2000:
Helmed the stand-up comedy feature "The Original Kings of Comedy" with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac
2002:
Directed the documentary "Jim Brown: All American"; produced under the auspices of HBO sports (released theatrically in March)
2002:
Directed the crime drama "The 25th Hour"
2006:
Re-teamed with Denzel Washington to direct the hostage drama "Inside Man"
2006:
Helmed the Hurricane Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke" for HBO; earned an Emmy nomination for Producing
2008:
Directed the WWII drama "Miracle at St. Anna," starring Derek Luke and Michael Ealy
2009:
Directed "Passing Strange," a theatrical stage production of the original Broadway musical for "Great Performances" (PBS)
2009:
Helmed the ESPN sport documentary "Kobe Doin' Work"
2011:
Executive produced the critically acclaimed independent feature "Pariah," directed by Dee Rees and starring Adepero Oduye
2010:
Directed "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise" for HBO
2012:
Helmed the feature film "Red Hook Summer"
2013:
Adapted the Korean cult hit "Oldboy," with Josh Brolin in the lead
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Morehouse College: Atlanta , Georgia -
John Dewey High School: Brooklyn , New York - 1975
New York University: New York , New York - 1978

Notes

Lee delivered the keynote address at the 1998 Independent Spirit Awards.

"I have the best of both worlds, because I'm an independent filmmaker but I don't have to scrape around for money. I go directly to Hollywood for my financing. It doesn't really mess with my creativity, because I have the final cut and the control over the film that I would have had if I'd raised the money all by myself. Even if I had, I'd still have to go to Hollywood for distribution anyway--there's just no way I'm going to reach the people I want to reach carrying a film can under my arm and going from theater to theater across the country--so why waste two or three years scraping for money? The studios want to make as much money off you as possible, basically just pimp you. Yet it is possible to keep your agenda and make films too." --Spike Lee to Premiere, August 1989.

"I'm a filmmaker. I feel that's what I was put on earth to do. But there are certain issues I have opinions about. Film's the most powerful medium in the world. I think I should have been shot if I didn't use this advantage to talk about things that affect us, being a black American today." --Spike Lee quoted in Newsweek, October 2, 1989.

"His style is inseparable from his content: he's subverting the conventional ways Hollywood has programmed us to read movies. He doesn't give you good guys and bad guys; he doesn't provide role models and tidy resolutions; his movies don't fall into neat generic categories. In Lee's films, realism and cartoon brush wings, and the narrative flow will suddenly break for a dance, a comic riff, a rant directed straight at the camera. Propelled by music, his rough-edged, seam-showing movies have the urgency of rap, the rhythms of the inner city and the revelations that only an insider can convey." --David Ansen in Newsweek, October 2, 1989.

Lee has produced and directed music videos for Public Enemy, Miles Davis, Anita Baker, E.U., Tracy Chapman, Branford Marsalis, Steel Pulse and Phyllis Hyman.

Named honorary co-chairman with NY Gov Mario Cuomo of a plan to preserve the "Negro Burial Ground", a site utilized between 1710 and 1790 (16th Century) at downtown New York City.

Lee was interviewed by Anna Deavere Smith as part of "The Filmmaker Series" in Premiere (October, 1995).

SMITH: Do you think it's important that a black man seem fierce? What if your whole persona was completely different, like "Oh, sweet Spike"--would you still get power?

LEE: Well, I mean, there's two ways to get power. You can ha-ha and chee-chee and roll your eyes and do the bug dance. Or you can say, "Look, I'm not doing that shit." White America, they just want black men to always be smiling. So if you don't do that all the time, then they label you the Angry Black Man. As if we had nothing to be angry about, anyway! I mean, a lot of people's attitude is "Look, you're successful, you have money--what do you have to be angry about?"

SMITH: And your answer is?

LEE: "I was one of the lucky ones."

Lee received an honorary degree from Emerson College in 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Halle Berry. Actor, model. No longer together.
wife:
Tonya Linette Lewis. Legal professional. Born c. 1961; graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988; graduated from University of Virginia's law school in 1991; married on October 2, 1993.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Bill Lee. Composer, bassist. Born on July 23, 1928; graduated Morehouse College in Atlanta; scored Spike Lee's early films; nickname 'Bleek' used as main character's name in "Mo' Better Blues"; former accompanist to folksinger Leon Bibb in the 1960s; married second wife, Susan Kaplan after Jacquelyn Lee's death; has son, Arnold, born c. 1985; arrested for possession of heroin October 24, 1991.
mother:
Jacquelyn Lee. School teacher. Died in 1977; taught art and black literature at St. Anne's, a private school in Brooklyn.
brother:
Chris Lee. Born c. 1958; in charge of merchandising movie memorabilia at Spike's Joint, Spike Lee's Brooklyn store.
brother:
David Lee. Documentary photographer. Born c. 1960; served as still photographer on "She's Gotta Have It", "School Daze", "Do the Right Thing" and "Mo' Better Blues".
sister:
Joie Lee. Actor, screenwriter. Born c. 1963; appeared in brother's "She's Gotta Have It", "School Daze", "Do the Right Thing", "Mo' Better Blues".
brother:
Cinque Lee. Actor, screenwriter. Born Brooklyn c. 1968; videotaped documentary on the making of "Do the Right Thing".
half-brother:
Arnold Lee. Born c. 1985; mother, Susan Kaplan.
cousin:
Malcolm D Lee. Director, screenwriter.
daughter:
Satchel Lee. Born on December 2, 1994.
son:
Jackson Lewis Lee. Born on May 23, 1997.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Five for Five: The Films of Spike Lee"
"Best Seat in the House" Crown

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