I remember when I first saw “She’s Gotta Have It” in 1986. It was like a smack in the face, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. At the time, portrayals of African Americans in films basically consisted of criminals, drug dealers and pimps. Having grown up in Detroit in a racially diverse community, I knew these stereotypes to be utter bullshit. Hollywood seemed only to be interested in typecasting Black actors into certain roles. Lee’s debut feature film “She’s Gotta Have It” portrayed Blacks as people. It was about damn time.
Spike Lee’s films don’t just push buttons — they become the subject of national discussions. His latest, Bamboozled, is a controversial comedy that stars Damon Wayans as a frustrated TV executive. He comes up with an idea for a show he thinks will never make it on the air. It’s called “Mantan: The New Millenium Minstrel Show,” and it’s about a pair of lazy, homeless black men. If anyone ever questioned whether Spike Lee has balls as a filmmaker, don’t even bother asking. Lee has the biggest balls of any filmmaker currently alive on the planet! This is intelligent, volatile stuff.
Bamboozled cleverly deals with the subject of racism using over the top, satirical humor. Spike Lee has delivered an amazing movie on, what I believe, is the most important issue facing our country today. This is a remarkable film that will provoke thoughtful discussion about racial stereotypes in America. It is his angriest and most brilliant film.
I caught up with Spike in the hopes of discussing and dissecting this one together.
Have things gotten better for Black filmmakers since “She’s Gotta Have It” came out almost 15 years ago? Or black actors? ^ I’d say definitely better for black actors. You’ve got people like Denzel (Washington), and Will (Smith), Chris Tucker, and Martin (Lawrence). You know, making $20 million now per film. So it’s definitely better for them. Not so much for African American directors, but it’s a lot better than it was back in 1986. And I would like to say also that it was Robert Townshend’s film “Hollywood Shuffle” that also changed the landscape. So together “She’s Got to Have It” and “Hollywood Shuffle.”
Right. Those two films blew the door wide open. So let me ask, are things better as far as perception of African Americans in the media? ^ I think it’s opened up a little bit, but it really depends what you’re talking about. This film was the hardest film to get made. If New Line didn’t come at the last moment I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. Nobody wanted to make this film.
In Bamboozled, Pierre Delacroix says he wants to “wake up America.” Is this film going to do it? What will it take? ^ Well, it’s going to take more than a movie. I think any artist, that’s their role to stimulate and provoke. You’re not necessarily going to get answers from the artists, but you know it’s their job. It’s their job to reflect the times they live in.
The film criticizes Quentin Tarantino’s liberal use of the “N-word” – if you could talk to him face-to-face, what would you say? ^ I wanted to poke a little fun at him and myself, because in the same scene I say, you know, the character played by Michæl Rappaport, “I don’t care what Spike Lee says, Tarantino was right!”
Read on and get the complete story! Click on the link to continue I LIKE SPIKE: A SPIKE LEE INTERVIEW (part 2) >>>
Posted on May 11, 2001 in Interviews by Chris Gore
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