On Tuesday night, UT film professor and Grainy Pictures co-president John Pierson hosted a highly-anticipated chat with legendary filmmaker Spike Lee. Old friends from Lee’s beginning, Pierson (who was an early supporter and representative for 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It) left virtually no stone unturned during the packed house at the University’s Austin City Limits studio. It was one for the ages. In fact, I was so thrilled just to be a fly-on-the-wall, that I didn’t bother taking notes or photos. But, for “The Austin Movie Blog,” Chris Garcia recaps some of the many highlights:
— About the Don Imus flap, Lee said Imus and his radio sidekick referred to “Do the Right Thing” when they really meant “School Daze.”
“They didn’t even get the reference right,” Lee said. “They were trying to use me to validate what they said. I’ve never used the two terms — “nappy-headed hos” — together… . Don Imus — here’s a cat who tried to have it both ways. He had this two part act: serious political interviews and low-brow stuff. He’s been doing this for years, and I think everybody is complicit — MSNBC and CBS. For years they’ve been doing racist and sexist stuff and they got away with it.
“Many of their attacks were on famous people, but when they picked on young innocent women, student athletes, that was the wrong target. Sometimes you go to the well once too often. And he did, and it blew up in his face. What really did him in was when the Rutgers team under the guidance of a great coach, a great woman, C. Vivian Stringer, had that press conference. When America got to see how dignified and poised and articulate these women are, (Imus) was done…”
— On Matty Rich, wunderkind director of 1991’s “Straight Out of Brooklyn,” who famously bad-mouthed Lee when “Brooklyn” was released at the same time as “Jungle Fever”:
“Some (African Americans) got into (filmmaking) who weren’t equipped to do it. The poster boy is Matty Rich. If you’re passionate you should have at least one film in you, because that’s your story. What are you going to do after that?
“Matty Rich’s whole thing was messed up because he somehow saw me as the adversary. So to stake his place, I was the middle-class, educated black man, who went to Morehouse and film school, while he was from Red Hook, the streets, and he didn’t read no film books, he knows no film history. He professed his ignorance. It was crazy. It was the wrong thing to do.”
One of my personal highlights of the night was when Spike Lee discussed the possibility of working on a stage production. In this case, it was bringing the play Stalag 17, back to Broadway. Billy Wilder’s 1953 screen version is one of my favorite films of all time… and seeing Lee give it his touch would be fascinating. Don’t hold your breath, though. Lee just mentioned it as one of the many projects that has been circulating around him for years.