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Do the Right Thing ... Nominated for two Academy Awards Including Best Original Screenplay, Do the... more info $16.95was $19.98 Buy Now

Malcolm X (1992) ... Adapted from the novel, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" written by Alex Haley,... more info $21.95was $26.98 Buy Now

Do The Right Thing (Criterion... Tempers flare, emotions run high, and a white-run pizza parlor in a black... more info $22.95was $29.95 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

ings he said than films he made. In 1999, he made comments regarding National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, being quoted by The New York Post that the NRA should be disbanded and said of Heston, "Shoot him with a .44 Bulldog." Lee meant the comment to be ironic, but caused former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, to respond, saying that Lee's "embrace of violence" had nothing to offer to the debate. Even when talking about his films, Lee has said on several occasions - most notably with "'Mo Better Blues" and "Malcolm X" - that only a black man was qualified to direct movies about the black experience - a comment many white directors found offensive, including Eastwood and Steven Spielberg, who had both helmed African-American-themed stories, including "Bird" and "The Color Purple" (1985).He sparked further controversy when he called NBA star Larry Bird "overrated" because - as a white man - he was embraced by the white media over black players. Meanwhile, he tussle with Clint Eastwood - which started with his criticism of a white man directing a film about black jazz musician Charlie Parker - continued in 2008, when Lee decried the lack of black soldiers in "Flags of Our...

ings he said than films he made. In 1999, he made comments regarding National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, being quoted by The New York Post that the NRA should be disbanded and said of Heston, "Shoot him with a .44 Bulldog." Lee meant the comment to be ironic, but caused former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, to respond, saying that Lee's "embrace of violence" had nothing to offer to the debate. Even when talking about his films, Lee has said on several occasions - most notably with "'Mo Better Blues" and "Malcolm X" - that only a black man was qualified to direct movies about the black experience - a comment many white directors found offensive, including Eastwood and Steven Spielberg, who had both helmed African-American-themed stories, including "Bird" and "The Color Purple" (1985).

He sparked further controversy when he called NBA star Larry Bird "overrated" because - as a white man - he was embraced by the white media over black players. Meanwhile, he tussle with Clint Eastwood - which started with his criticism of a white man directing a film about black jazz musician Charlie Parker - continued in 2008, when Lee decried the lack of black soldiers in "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006) and "Letters from Iwo Jima" (2006), saying that "Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen." In typically outspoken fashion, Eastwood responded, saying "[t]he story is 'Flags of Our Fathers,' the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn't do that." He then added, "A guy like him should shut his face." Of course, Lee would not let such insults slide and responded in kind, saying that "the man is not my father and we're not on a plantation either."

Meanwhile, Lee made his first foray into documentary filmmaking with "4 Little Girls" (1997), a forceful, but compassionate look at the lives of four young girls - Addie Mae Collins, Carole Denise McNiar, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Rosamond Robertson - who were killed in a terrorist bombing at the 16 Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL on Sept. 15, 1963, sparking national outrage during African-American's struggle for civil rights. For once, Lee was subdued with his approach, allowing the events and the interview subjects speak for themselves, instead of relying upon his typical stylistic flourishes. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Lee followed this triumph with one of his more underappreciated feature efforts, "He Got Game" (1998), a heartwarming, but gritty look at a promising high school basketball player (NBA star Ray Allen) whose father (Denzel Washington), a convicted felon, will receive a commuted sentence only if his son will sign with the governor's alma mater. But he must heal the wounds carried by his son, who blames his father for his mother's death. Despite exquisite performances from both Washington and Allen, as well as critical acclaim, "He Got Game" suffered the usual lack of robust box office performance for A Spike Lee Joint. For "Summer of Sam" (1999), Lee again returned to the 1970s of his youth, this time to focus on a married couple (John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino) contending with their unhappy lives while a NYC cowers in fear during serial killer David Berkowitz's murderous rampage in 1977.

He tackled racism head-on again with "Bamboozled" (2000), a scathing satire about a Harvard-educated television writer who, out of sheer frustration, creates a black-face variety show for a fledgling network, starring Mantan (Savion Glover) and his sidekick Sleep 'N Eat (Tommy Davidson). Much to his surprise - and certain dismay - the minstrel show becomes a huge hit. Another of Lee's underappreciated efforts, "Bamboozled" marked the first time he shot a film with digital video. After directing "A Huey P. Newton Story" (2001) for television, which interspersed Roger Guenveur Smith's acclaimed one-man show with archival footage of the Black Panther leader, Lee directed perhaps his finest film to date, "25th Hour" (2002). A bleak look at the last 24 hours of a man (Edward Norton) before he is sent off to a long prison term, "25th Hour" marked a poignant turn for Lee, who managed to direct a mainstream film that openly dealt with the aftermath of September 11th, while also delving into the personal struggles of a man about to lose everything in life. After directing "Jim Brown: All American" (2002), a documentary about the complicated, charismatic man who was one of the 20th Century's greatest athletes, Lee directed perhaps his weakest movie, "She Hate Me" (2004), a comedy about a fired biotech executive (Anthony Mackie) who gets into impregnating lesbian couples for $10,000 a pop.

But Lee was in top form with his next two projects, starting with "Inside Man" (2006), a tense heist thriller about a New York City detective (Denzel Washington) trying to solve a hostage situation after a master thief (Clive Owen) tries to commit the crime of the century. "Inside Man" was hailed by many critics for being Lee's best work to date and became a rare financial hit for the director. Meanwhile, he made one of his best documentaries, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (HBO, 2006), a searing and impassioned look at the travesty surrounding those left behind by the U.S. government following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Divided into four parts, the film covered the horrific events immediately after the category 5 storm hit New Orleans, while dissecting the inept failure of the government's response, leading to thousands of poor, mostly black residents being without food or water for days. The documentary was hailed as a triumph for Lee, who earned several awards, including Creative Emmys for Best Director and Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking. Returning to features, Lee directed "Miracle at St. Anna" (2008), a look at four African-American soldiers serving in the all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Division during World War II who get trapped behind enemy lines after one tries to save an Italian boy during the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre.

In 2009, Lee unveiled "Kobe Doin' Work," an ESPN documentary about basketball superstar Kobe Bryant that, unsurprisingly, didn't find much of an audience beyond hoops fans. The next year, he followed up "When the Levees Broke" with another Katrina-related project, the HBO production "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise," which led to two Emmy nominations. Returning to both narrative features and his native Brooklyn, Lee co-wrote and directed "Red Hook Summer" (2012), a coming-of-age tale set in the titular NYC neighborhood. Despite charming performances and some positive reviews, the movie failed to garner significant attention. Shifting back into Hollywood mode, Lee made the unusual move of remaking an Asian cult classic when he took on the pulpy Korean tale "Oldboy," originally a 2003 Chan-wook Park film. The thriller, starring Josh Brolin as a wrongly imprisoned man out for revenge, proved to be Lee's grittiest movie by far, and showed that the director could remain unpredictable even decades into his career. Bus" was largely overlooked by audiences, some of whom may have been afraid Lee had embraced the ideas of Farrakhan, which was not the case and beside the point. Regardless, the film was appreciated by critics and the small audience that managed to catch a screening in its limited release.

By the time of "Get On the Bus," Lee's filmmaking career seemed secondary to the headlines he made for creating controversy; most notably when he taunted Indiana Pacer's Reggie Miller during Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Lee's sideline heckling was credited by many angry New York fans for being the catalyst of Miller's 25-point 4th quarter explosion, resulting in a loss for the Knicks. In fact, Lee practically made a second career out his public outrages, creating more headline for th

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Chi-raq (2015)
3.
  Oldboy (2013)
5.
6.
  Bad 25 (2012)
7.
  Fusion (2011)
8.
10.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Champs (2014)
2.
 Champs (2014)
3.
 Red Hook Summer (2012)
4.
 Poliwood (2009)
8.
 3 AM (2001) Himself--Filmmaker
9.
 Summer of Sam (1999) John Jeffries
10.
 When We Were Kings (1996) Himself
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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