Lee, Spike, 1957-

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Screenwriter, actor, director and producer of motion pictures and music videos.

Spike Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1957, where he attended Morehouse College, 1979. He continued his education at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in film production. Spike Lee has established himself as one of Hollywood's most important and influential filmmakers in the past decade. In 1986, his debut film, the independently produced comedy, "She's gotta have it" earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film festival and set him at the forefront of the Black Wave in American Cinema. He continues to create films that explore provocative topics like race, politics and violence, through movies such as his 2018 film, 'BlacKkKlansman'.

In addition to his achievements in feature films, Lee produced and directed numerous music videos for such diverse artists as Miles Davis, Tracy Chapman, Anita Baker and Bruce Hornsby. Additionally, Spike has authored six books on the making of his films. He is the founder and director of Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Brooklyn, established in 1986. Spike Lee's awards include: Student Director's Award from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1982, for "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barber Shop: we cut heads"; Prix de Jeunesse from Cannes Film Festival and New Generation Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics, both 1986, for "She's gotta have It."


In May 1999, the New York Post reported that Lee made an inflammatory comment about Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association, while speaking to reporters at the Cannes Film Festival. Lee was quoted as saying the National Rifle Association should be disbanded and, of Heston, someone should "Shoot him with a .44 Bull Dog." Lee said he intended it as a joke. He was responding to coverage about whether Hollywood was responsible for school shootings. "The problem is guns", he said. Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey condemned Lee as having "nothing to offer the debate on school violence except more violence and more hate".

In October 2005, Lee responded to a CNN anchor's question as to whether the government intentionally ignored the plight of black Americans during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina catastrophe by saying, "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."In later comments, Lee cited the government's past including the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Lee, who was then 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 World War II film, Flags of Our Fathers. Citing historical accuracy, Eastwood responded that his film was specifically about the Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, pointing out that while black Marines did fight at Iwo Jima, the U.S. military was racially segregated during World War II, and none of the men who raised the flag were black. He angrily said 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".He added that he and Eastwood were "not on a plantation".Lee later claimed that the event was exaggerated by the media and that he and Eastwood had reconciled through mutual friend Steven Spielberg, culminating in his sending Eastwood a print of Miracle at St. Anna.

Lee has been criticized for his representation of women. For example, bell hooks said that he wrote black women in the same objectifying way that white male filmmakers write the characters of white women. Rosie Perez, who was in an acting role for the first time as Tina in Do the Right Thing, said later that she was very uncomfortable with doing the nude scene in the film:

"My first experience [with doing nude scenes] was Do the Right Thing. And I had a big problem with it, mainly because I was afraid of what my family would think — that's what was really bothering me. It wasn't really about taking off my clothes. But I also didn't feel good about it because the atmosphere wasn't correct. And when Spike Lee puts ice cubes on my nipples, the reason you don't see my head is because I'm crying. I was like, I don't want to do this."

In March 2012, after the killing of Trayvon Martin, Spike Lee was one of many people who used Twitter to circulate a message that claimed to give the home address of the shooter George Zimmerman. The address turned out to be incorrect, causing the real occupants, Elaine and David McClain, to leave home and stay at a hotel due to numerous death threats.[109] Lee issued an apology and reached an agreement with the McClains, which reportedly included "compensation", with their attorney stating "The McClains' claim is fully resolved". Nevertheless, in November 2013, the McClains filed a negligence lawsuit which accused Lee of "encouraging a dangerous mob mentality among his Twitter followers, as well as the public-at-large". The lawsuit, which a court filing reportedly valued at $1.2 million, alleged that the couple suffered "injuries and damages" that continued after the initial settlement up through Zimmerman's trial in 2013. A Seminole County judge dismissed the McClains' suit, agreeing with Lee that the issue had already been settled previously.

In March 2020, a video of Lee was released on Twitter showing the director having an altercation with the security team near the elevators at Madison Square Garden. Speculation arose as to whether Lee was being removed from the building. The New York Knicks released a statement saying, "The idea that Spike Lee is a victim because we have repeatedly asked him to not use our employee entrance and instead use a dedicated VIP entrance — which is used by every other celebrity who enters The Garden — is laughable. He is welcome to come to The Garden anytime via the VIP or general entrance; just not through our employee entrance, which is what he and Jim (James Dolan) agreed to [Monday] night when they shook hands." Lee refuted Dolan's story alleging that he had been using the same entrance for the past 28 years. Lee stated he wouldn't attend the rest of the games for the season.

In June 2020, Lee defended filmmaker Woody Allen despite his sexual abuse allegation during a radio interview stating: "I'd just like to say Woody Allen is a great, great filmmaker and this cancel thing is not just Woody. And I think when we look back on it we are going to see that short of killing somebody, I don't know you that you can just erase somebody like they never existed. Woody's a friend of mine. I know he's going through it right now." Following social media backlash, Lee issued an apology on Twitter.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lee, Spike. Jungle fever : [screenplay] / by Spike Lee. University of Michigan
referencedIn Guide to the Daily Worker and Daily World Photographs Collection, 1920-2001 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Bamboozled (Motion picture) [clippings]. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Ira Berkow, papers, undated, 1960-2011 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn Lothar and Eva Just Film Stills Collection Harvard Film Archive, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn William Wolf film & theater interview collection sound recordings The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Richard Hoffman collection of American and British theater and film scripts, 1958–2006 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Wallace, Michele. Michele Wallace papers, ca. 1940-2004. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Lee, Spike. Spike Lee screenplays, 1980-1990. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Washington Square Park (New York, N.Y.), Washington Square Area, and Campus Buildings Image Collection, 1850-1990 New York University. Archives
referencedIn Bates Worldwide, Inc. Records, 1934-2003 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn RIT event ticket stubs, 1936-1991. RIT Library, Wallace Library
creatorOf Lee, Spike. Jungle fever / by Spike Lee. Eastern Illinois University, Booth Library
creatorOf Lee, Spike. She's gotta have it : [screenplay] / by Spike Lee. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Office of the Administrator (Lisa P. Jackson) - Speaker Series with Spike Lee National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Lee, Spike. School daze / by Spike Lee. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
creatorOf Lee, Spike. She's gotta have it : [screenplay] / by Spike Lee. Broken Bow Public Library
creatorOf Lee, Spike. He got game : an original screenplay / by Spike Lee. Broken Bow Public Library
referencedIn Bamboozled (Motion picture) [clippings] New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bates Worldwide, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Berkow, Ira person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Dowell, Raye. person
associatedWith Heys, Ted. person
associatedWith Hicks, Tommy. person
associatedWith Hoffman, Richard Lee. person
associatedWith Johns, Tracy Camila. person
associatedWith New York University. corporateBody
associatedWith Terrell, John Canada. person
associatedWith Wallace, Michele person
associatedWith Wolf, William person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Atlanta GA US
African American actors
African American authors
African American college students
African American motion picture producers and directors
African Americans in motion pictures
African Americans in television broadcasting
African Americans in the motion picture industry
Comedy films
Man-woman relationships
Motion picture producers and directors
Motion picture plays


Birth 1957-03-20




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