Oscars? Spike Lee don’t need no stinkin’ Oscars.
Sure, the director votes for the Academy Awards. And the outspoken filmmaker would surely give an acceptance speech for the ages. But that doesn’t mean he’s waiting around for a golden statue to fall into his lap.
No, Lee is sticking to what he does best: making provocative films; running his ad agency, Spike DDB; and rooting for the Knicks.
Spike DDB has just released a three-minute movie to promote Microsoft’s new Wrist Net service, which beams information like headlines and sports scores directly into specially equipped watches. And Lee, 46, is finishing his new feature film, “She Hate Me,” about a man who starts a business impregnating lesbians.
AP: So you’re making this new movie, something with lesbians ...
Lee: No no no no no. It’s called ‘She Hate Me.’ It’s coming out this summer on Sony Classics, starring Anthony Mackie — he was the young brother battling Eminem at the end of “8 Mile” — Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Woody Harrelson, John Turturro, Brian Dennehy. Q-Tip’s in it. It’s about a young African-American who gets involved in some shady things and gets set up at his company and he’s fired. Because of his predicament he puts his morals and values aside and starts a business impregnating lesbians who want to have kids.
AP: Personally impregnating them?
Lee: It depends. Any way you want it. Artificial insemination or the real thing, $10,000 each. In a month he impregnates 19 women.
AP: How far into the movie before you get to that point?
Lee: That’s the first 10 minutes (big laughter). Nah, I’m joking. But really, it’s a comedy. What’s great about this film, this is an examination of what’s happening in this country that’s really demonstrated by the Super Bowl. I’m not just talking about Janet. You look at the commercials, the rest of the halftime show, it wasn’t just Janet, it was the whole thing. So this film really talks about the moral ethic of this country, and how money is God. It’s an examination of the moral and ethical decline of America, from the boardroom to the bedroom. We deal with Ken Lay and Enron, WorldCom, (former Tyco CEO Dennis) Kozlowski, Adelphia, all these crooks.
AP: You mentioned John Turturro is in it. You’ve “broken” a lot of actors in your movies.
Lee: I didn’t break John Turturro, but he’s one of my dear friends. I’ve done like 18 or 19 films, and he’s appeared in more of them than anyone. But I gave Rosie Perez her first role, Martin Lawrence’s first film, “Jungle Fever” was Halle Berry’s first film, Clockers was Mekhi Phifer’s first film ...
AP: Are these accidents or on purpose?
Lee: We always earmark two or three spots to give someone really talented a platform to shine, a jump-off.
AP: What was Halle like playing the crackhead in “Jungle Fever”?
Lee: I didn’t want to cast her. She looked too good! I said, “Halle, I can’t believe you as a two-dollar crack ho.” She said, “Spike, believe me.” She came to the set the first day, I ain’t recognize her.
AP: “Jungle Fever” was about interracial relationships. You ever date a white girl?
Lee: (Slowly shakes his head.) But it’s no big thing. The thing people misconstrued about “Jungle Fever” is that Spike Lee was saying all interracial marriages are awful. What we were showing was that the relationship between Wesley’s character and Annabella Sciorra’s character, it wasn’t built on a foundation. It was built on myths. She was with him because she heard about the prowess of the sexual black man. He bought into the myth that the white woman is the epitome of beauty.
AP: What’s your feeling about the Oscars these days? Do you vote?
Lee: I vote, but I take it with a grain of salt. Not just for African Americans, but just in general. You give an organization, some group, the power to validate your work of art — that can be paralyzing. ... “Malcolm X” was bigger than the Academy Awards. “Do the Right Thing” was bigger than the awards. We got two nominations for “Do the Right Thing.” I got a best original screenplay nomination. Danny Aiello got best supporting actor, and he lost to Denzel (Washington) in “Glory.” But you know what got best picture that year?
Lee: “Driving Miss Daisy.” “Do the Right Thing,” there are classes on that in universities all across the country. That film is still being watched. Every year it’s growing in stature. No one talks about “Driving Miss Daisy.” There’s nothing there.
AP: Any favorites for best actor this year?
Lee: Lemme ask a question. How many nominations did “Cold Mountain” get? ... When you ever seen a film that takes place during slavery with no slaves in it?
AP: People have been agitating about that.
Lee: Lemme ask you a question. When I was in third and fourth grade, there was a re-release of “Gone with the Wind,” and our teacher took us to see it. This was like ’67, ’68. Even at that young age, I knew those roles were stereotypical. Hattie McDaniel won the supporting actress Oscar, and another great African-American actress was in it, Butterfly McQueen. They were such great actresses, despite the straitjacket of those stereotypes, they were able to put some of their humanity into it. Now, both “Gone with the Wind” and “Cold Mountain” romanticize the South. But we’re going backward if “Gone with the Wind” is more progressive than “Cold Mountain.” “Gone with the Wind” was made in 1939. In 2004 we’re not even in it? We’re going backward. I don’t understand it.