“Black Panther” filmmaker Ryan Coogler has made no bones about his affection for fellow director Spike Lee’s sprawling filmography, including using a post-screening Q&A of his own boundary-breaking Marvel film to heap praise on both Lee’s “Malcolm X” and “Do the Right Thing,” and now the Brooklyn mainstay is returning the favor. During an hour-long conversation at the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday evening, Lee was asked by an audience member if he’d seen Coogler’s film and what he thought of it.
“I loved it! My brother, I’ve seen it four times,” Lee answered. (Lee just so happened to be in attendance at that same screening where Coogler named his most influential films, so we’ve long known he’d seen the film at least once.)
Lee continued, “I will say, I look at the world now differently, before ‘Black Panther’ and after ‘Black Panther.’ That shit changed everything, especially for people of color.”
Rumors had previously persisted that Lee himself might have been in the mix for the “Black Panther” gig, and in February, it was hinted at that Lee could finally go the superhero route with a “Nightwatch” film. Lee’s next film, “BlacKkKlansman,” will debut in competition at Cannes next month, before hitting theaters with a planned late summer release date.
Lee was on hand at Tribeca to chat with actor Alec Baldwin, and while the pair initially announced that they’d be dedicating the hour to discussing a pair of favored films (Lee picked “On the Waterfront,” while Baldwin opted for “A Place in the Sun”), the wide-ranging conversation soon spun off into all manner of topics.
For a born storyteller like Lee, the discussion offered the chance to trot out some of his favorite filmmaking tidbits, including how “Bye Bye Birdie” inspired the opening of “Do the Right Thing” and his continued wish to make his long-gestasting Joe Louis film (incidentally, penned alongside late “Waterfront” writer Budd Schulberg).
Lee also drew a line between the seminal “Waterfront” and the Colin Kaepernick controversy, comparing the former NFL football player and civil rights advocate to Marlon Brando’s character in the Elia Kazan classic. “The stuff that Kaepernick was saying was the same stuff that Marlon Brando was saying: ‘I want my rights!,'” he said. “And you could see the mob [in the film] was the NFL owners.”
In the film, Brando’s character Terry Malloy eventually testifies against a local mob boss, leading to Terry being shunned in his own community and kept from getting work on the eponymous waterfront where he has long labored.
“The NFL, these motherfuckers hire motherfucking quarterbacks that are horrible, so what they’re doing to Terry Malloy, they’re doing to Kaepernick!,” Lee said. “Kaepernick still can’t get a job. It was amazing, what they were doing to Terry Malloy, it was the same thing the NFL was doing to Kaepernick. Kaepernick said, ‘well, I know my rights,’ Terry Malloy [said], ‘I want my rights.'”
Watch the full conversation with Lee and Baldwin over on Tribeca’s Facebook page or embedded below.