Spike Lee


Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Spike Lee

About

Also Known As
Shelton Jackson Lee
Birth Place
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Born
March 20, 1957

Biography

Perhaps one of the most controversial filmmakers to emerge during the explosion of independent directors in the 1980s, Spike Lee single-handedly changed the way African-Americans were perceived in Hollywood films. Starting with "She's Gotta Have It" (1986), a stylish, ultra-low budget comedy that became an unexpected commercial success and planted him firmly on the map. Right out of the ...

Family & Companions

Halle Berry
Companion
Actor, model. No longer together.
Tonya Linette Lewis
Wife
Legal professional. Born c. 1961; graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988; graduated from University of Virginia's law school in 1991; married on October 2, 1993.

Bibliography

"Best Seat in the House"
Spike Lee with Ralph Wiley, Crown (1997)
"Five for Five: The Films of Spike Lee"
David Lee (1991)

Biography

Perhaps one of the most controversial filmmakers to emerge during the explosion of independent directors in the 1980s, Spike Lee single-handedly changed the way African-Americans were perceived in Hollywood films. Starting with "She's Gotta Have It" (1986), a stylish, ultra-low budget comedy that became an unexpected commercial success and planted him firmly on the map. Right out of the gate, Lee directed a series of films that dealt with the uneasy topic of race in his often brash, unapologetic style. His most widely known production, "Do the Right Thing" (1989), proclaimed with no uncertainty that dealing with racism on film could be both challenging and entertaining. Not satisfied with staying behind the camera, Lee stood front and center in a series of Nike and Levis commercials in the 1980s and 1990s, which featured the bicycle messenger character he played in "She's Gotta Have It." But like any filmmaker, Lee had his share of mediocre films - namely "'Mo Better Blues" (1990), "Girl 6" (1996) and "She Hate Me" (2004) - though the triumphs of "Malcolm X" (1992), "He Got Game" (1998), "25th Hour" (2002) and the mainstream crime thriller "Inside Man" (2006) more than made up for his missteps. Most surprisingly, the extremely outspoken and politically active Lee made his greatest contributions to cinema with two unflinching, but straightforward documentaries, "4 Little Girls" (1997) and "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (2006), both of which earned him considerable acclaim and several awards, confirming that Lee was no ordinary filmmaker content simply playing by the rules. And, as he would famously speak his mind on more than several occasions, he was not content to sit by and say nothing if he witnessed racial injustice, both in his chosen field as well as in the world at large.

Born Mar. 20, 1957 in Atlanta, GA, Lee was raised by his father, Bill, a jazz composer and bassist, and his mother, Jacquelyn, a teacher of art and black literature. Because of his father's itinerant work, the family moved from Atlanta to Chicago, IL and eventually settled in New York City. Lee attended St. Anne's, a parochial school where his mother taught, followed by attending John Dewey High School. After graduating in 1975, Lee matriculated at Morehouse College, becoming the third generation of his family to attend the all-male, historically black school in Atlanta. While at Morehouse, Lee wrote for the school paper, The Maroon Tiger, and was a disc jockey for a local jazz station. Two seminal events occurred during his sophomore year - he bought a Super-8 film camera, and his beloved mother succumbed to cancer. Meanwhile, he took film courses at Clark-Atlanta University and made his first film, "The Last Hustle in Brooklyn" (1977), a loose documentation of Black and Puerto Rican life on the streets of New York which he shot with his new camera.

Encouraged by the adulation he received for his first film, Lee applied to the top film schools in the country and was accepted at New York University, where he spent the next three years learning the language of cinema by making numerous films. His most significant was "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads" (1983), an hour-long drama set in a neighborhood barbershop, where the new manager tries to keep business legitimate after the old one was killed by gangsters for running numbers. Lee's thesis film won a Student Academy Award for Dramatic Merit and later became the first student film to be showcased at the Lincoln Center's New Directors New Films Festival. Lee spent the next two years waiting for Hollywood to coming knocking on his door. But they never did. Taking matters into his own hands, Lee began work on his first independent feature "Messenger," based on his own screenplay. He managed to secure the promise of financing from an alleged producer, who wound up failing to follow through with the money. Lee was forced to pull back after calling in favors, upsetting many people.

Despite wanting to quit, Lee picked himself off the mat and tried again. But this time, he learned to make a film that was within his means, and made the decision to write a feature with few characters and limited locations while shooting in black and white. After raising $175,000, Lee directed his first independent film, "She's Gotta Have It" (1986), a smart comedy about an independent woman (Tracy Camila Johns) juggling three boyfriends (Tommy Redmond Hicks, Canada Terrell and Lee) who all want her for themselves, despite her unflinching desire to cherish her freedom. Lee's film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where it helped usher in the American independent filmmaking movement of the 1980s. Although the sharp, witty direction impressed critics, Lee's portrayal of the streetwise bicycle messenger Mars Blackmon - and his trademark litany, "please, baby, please, baby, please, baby, please, baby" - proved to be the most memorable element. "She's Gotta Have It" went on to earn over $7 million at the box office - an almost unheard of sum at the time for an independent film. With one fell swoop, Lee had emerged as a young filmmaker worthy of note.

Building off his newly minted Mars Blackmon persona, Lee directed and appeared in the music video for Anita Baker's "No One in the World," and a few nationally televised Nike commercials for Air Jordan sneakers, starring alongside the basketball star and famously asking, "Is it the shoes?" In fact, television proved to be a fruitful avenue for his creative energy, thanks to resistance within Hollywood's white-dominated financing, production and distribution system to Lee's desire to make uncompromising, but commercial films about the black experience in America. Following the success of "She's Gotta Have It," a number of black musical artists, including Miles Davis, Branford Marsalis, Steel Pulse and Grandmaster Flash, sought Lee to direct music videos. With a film production team that included editor Barry Brown and the gifted cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, Lee completed a number of videos, five one-minute spots for MTV, another series of Nike commercials, and advertisements for Jesse Jackson's campaign in the 1988 New York Presidential primary. All of these projects helped fuel Lee's driving ambition and business for his newly formed production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, which became synonymous with Lee himself.

After the self-described "guerrilla filmmaking" techniques employed to make his first two films, Lee managed to get partial financing from Columbia Pictures for his second feature, "School Daze" (1988). Though Lee was only given a third of the usual Hollywood budget, "School Daze" remained true to his provocative vision and grossed twice its cost at the box office, despite poor promotion efforts from the studio and unenthusiastic reviews from critics. With an all-black ensemble cast, the film used the musical-comedy genre to satirically address class and color divisions within the student body of a black college: affluent, light-skinned "gammas" clash with underclass, dark-skinned "jigaboos." In the face of production problems - Lee's alma mater, Morehouse College, refused cooperation just before shooting began - "School Daze" was a notable achievement on two counts: Lee was perhaps the first black director given complete control by Hollywood over his film, and "School Daze," as one critic wrote, established a vehicle which "puts real African-American people on the screen" - redeeming a history of stereotyped screen images by speaking and acting from authentic experience.

Lee's next film, "Do the Right Thing" (1989), enlarged upon his successes on several levels - commercially, artistically and thematically. Based on several real-life racially motivated acts of violence in New York City, Lee's politically charged and polemical drama stirred controversy even before its release, with some critics believing the film would spark violence. The finished film, however, was widely praised for its exciting and flamboyant visual craftsmanship, particularly several characters directly addressing the camera in a memorable string of racial epithets. "Do the Right Thing" presented a slice-of-life look at a predominantly black environment in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Lee's portrait was both celebratory and critical: the "mise-en-scene," music and dialogue were rich in allusions to African-American cultural history - a deejay's litany of black musical stars mixed with the score written by Lee's father - and unflinchingly presented the divisions within the multi-ethnic community. More importantly, "Do the Right Thing" focused its tense drama on the interracial violence that occurs between Bed-Stuy's black underclass and the Italian family (headed by Danny Aiello) that runs a local pizzeria. Climaxing with the killing of a black youth at the hands of white policemen and a fiery street riot, the film - which earned Lee an Oscar nod for Best Screenplay - offered no easy answers for the racial violence that had plagued the city.

Lee's next two films failed to live up to the dramatic promise of "Do the Right Thing," though both boasted strong performances, increasingly showy camerawork and stylized imagery. "Mo' Better Blues" (1990) was Lee's first collaboration with charismatic leading man, Denzel Washington, who portrayed a self-absorbed jazz trumpeter forced to open his eyes and heart to the needs of those around him. The film, however, intensified the ongoing criticism of Lee for his shallow characterization of female characters, while he also fielded charges of anti-Semitism for his scathing depiction of a pair of Jewish night club owners. In interviews, Lee decried the inaccuracy of jazz films by white filmmakers - Clint Eastwood's "Bird" (1988) being a favorite target - claiming that as the son of a genuine jazz musician and a black man, he was better qualified to depict that milieu. Eastwood responded by saying, "Then why didn't you?" "Jungle Fever" (1991) again courted controversy for its depiction of a lusty affair between a black married professional man (Wesley Snipes) and his Italian-American working-class secretary (Annabella Sciorra). Despite some powerful scenes and performances, the film was sadly underwritten - the central relationship was neither adequately explained, nor realistically depicted, with the film emitting much heat but little illumination on race relations or black self-hatred or the allure of bi-racial romance.

Returning to the small screen, Lee made a series of commercials in 1991 for Levis Button-Fly 501 jeans, which usually ended with the tagline, "My fly is buttoned." His next film proved to be both his most ambitious and most controversial - indeed, the intensity of the controversy that surrounded "Malcolm X" (1992) even before shooting began made the completed film something of an anti-climax. The press gleefully related tales of Lee intimidating non-black director Norman Jewison into relinquishing the project to him. Lee persuasively argued that only a black filmmaker could tell this story, while some black intellectuals - notably poet/activist Amiri Baraka - publicly doubted that he was right for the job - believing Alex Haley's The Autobiography of Malcolm X was a revered historical document of a hero more important to black culture than any "Spike Lee Joint." Undeterred, Lee pressed ahead, even when the film's backers balked at escalating production costs. Instead, he turned to such black entertainment luminaries as Bill Cosby, Janet Jackson, Tracey Chapman, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan, who gave him the opportunity to complete the film as he envisioned.

The final product was a three-and-a-half hour, surprisingly traditional biopic that swiftly covered a great deal of the life of Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) - starting with his troubled early life as the son of a murdered preacher, leading to a life of petty crime and a prison conversion to the Nation of Islam - before culminating in an emotionally devastating climax. Though a huge production, the film remained a quintessential "Spike Lee Joint," encompassing everything from gangster action, flashy costumes and a big dance number, to location shooting in Mecca, with many jaunty directorial flourishes along the way. Most impressive, however, was Washington's towering performance as the influential black Muslim leader, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Almost inevitable for a mainstream project about such a complex and controversial figure, "Malcolm X" had its flaws and omissions. Malcolm's early delinquent phase, in particular, was cleaned up for mass consumption. Nor was the extent of his later radicalism - and the controversy it provoked among both whites and blacks - adequately addressed. Though the Hollywood blockbuster was never a convenient medium for overtly political filmmaking, "Malcolm X" was viewed as a triumph of Lee's will.

His next feature, "Crooklyn" (1994), was a loosely structured story of a jazz musician, his wife and their children in Brooklyn of the 1970s. Packed with the sounds of the seventies, and with little narrative, "Crooklyn" was viewed as a return to the kind of depictions of neighborhood, family and characters he delivered with such adeptness in "Do The Right Thing" and "She's Gotta Have It." Co-scripted by sister Joie Lee, "Crooklyn" emphasized a female protagonist, a rarity in his past films. Alternately sloppy and shrewd, wise and idiosyncratic, the film met with an extremely mixed critical reception and poor box office. Meanwhile, Lee was reportedly reluctant to direct "Clockers" (1995), a much anticipated adaptation of Richard Price's acclaimed 1991 novel about the world of low-level street crack dealers in Jersey City, NJ. Working with neophyte feature cinematographer Malik Sayeed, Lee painted a gritty canvas of urban life far more dark and "realistic" - though still highly stylized - than in his previous films. He placed another newcomer, first-time actor Mekhi Phifer, center stage as the tormented young drug dealer, Strike. Some reviewers quibbled over Lee's deviations from Price's admired original, but many more hailed it as the best work of his career to that point.

Despite continually making quality films hailed by critics, Lee suffered from multiple weak showings at the box office. Lee was hit with a double whammy - a critical and financial drubbing - for his next film, "Girl 6" (1996), a mediocre-at-best dramedy about an aspiring actress (Theresa Randle) who falls into working as a phone sex operator after a string of disappointments. While trying to fend off her shoplifting ex-boyfriend (Isaiah Washington), she suddenly finds herself falling for one of her regular callers (Peter Berg). Also that year, he helmed "Get On the Bus" (1996), a fictional account of a busload of men traveling to Washington, D.C. for Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. Despite the myriad differences between the group, they spend three days and thousands of miles struggling to understand each other, eventually emerging as brothers. "Get On the Bus" was largely overlooked by audiences, some of whom may have been afraid Lee had embraced the ideas of Farrakhan, which was not the case and beside the point. Regardless, the film was appreciated by critics and the small audience that managed to catch a screening in its limited release.

By the time of "Get On the Bus," Lee's filmmaking career seemed secondary to the headlines he made for creating controversy; most notably when he taunted Indiana Pacer's Reggie Miller during Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Lee's sideline heckling was credited by many angry New York fans for being the catalyst of Miller's 25-point 4th quarter explosion, resulting in a loss for the Knicks. In fact, Lee practically made a second career out his public outrages, creating more headline for things he said than films he made. In 1999, he made comments regarding National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston, being quoted by The New York Post that the NRA should be disbanded and said of Heston, "Shoot him with a .44 Bulldog." Lee meant the comment to be ironic, but caused former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, to respond, saying that Lee's "embrace of violence" had nothing to offer to the debate. Even when talking about his films, Lee has said on several occasions - most notably with "'Mo Better Blues" and "Malcolm X" - that only a black man was qualified to direct movies about the black experience - a comment many white directors found offensive, including Eastwood and Steven Spielberg, who had both helmed African-American-themed stories, including "Bird" and "The Color Purple" (1985).

He sparked further controversy when he called NBA star Larry Bird "overrated" because - as a white man - he was embraced by the white media over black players. Meanwhile, he tussle with Clint Eastwood - which started with his criticism of a white man directing a film about black jazz musician Charlie Parker - continued in 2008, when Lee decried the lack of black soldiers in "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006) and "Letters from Iwo Jima" (2006), saying that "Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen." In typically outspoken fashion, Eastwood responded, saying "[t]he story is 'Flags of Our Fathers,' the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn't do that." He then added, "A guy like him should shut his face." Of course, Lee would not let such insults slide and responded in kind, saying that "the man is not my father and we're not on a plantation either."

Meanwhile, Lee made his first foray into documentary filmmaking with "4 Little Girls" (1997), a forceful, but compassionate look at the lives of four young girls - Addie Mae Collins, Carole Denise McNiar, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Rosamond Robertson - who were killed in a terrorist bombing at the 16 Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL on Sept. 15, 1963, sparking national outrage during African-American's struggle for civil rights. For once, Lee was subdued with his approach, allowing the events and the interview subjects speak for themselves, instead of relying upon his typical stylistic flourishes. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Lee followed this triumph with one of his more underappreciated feature efforts, "He Got Game" (1998), a heartwarming, but gritty look at a promising high school basketball player (NBA star Ray Allen) whose father (Denzel Washington), a convicted felon, will receive a commuted sentence only if his son will sign with the governor's alma mater. But he must heal the wounds carried by his son, who blames his father for his mother's death. Despite exquisite performances from both Washington and Allen, as well as critical acclaim, "He Got Game" suffered the usual lack of robust box office performance for A Spike Lee Joint. For "Summer of Sam" (1999), Lee again returned to the 1970s of his youth, this time to focus on a married couple (John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino) contending with their unhappy lives while a NYC cowers in fear during serial killer David Berkowitz's murderous rampage in 1977.

He tackled racism head-on again with "Bamboozled" (2000), a scathing satire about a Harvard-educated television writer who, out of sheer frustration, creates a black-face variety show for a fledgling network, starring Mantan (Savion Glover) and his sidekick Sleep 'N Eat (Tommy Davidson). Much to his surprise - and certain dismay - the minstrel show becomes a huge hit. Another of Lee's underappreciated efforts, "Bamboozled" marked the first time he shot a film with digital video. After directing "A Huey P. Newton Story" (2001) for television, which interspersed Roger Guenveur Smith's acclaimed one-man show with archival footage of the Black Panther leader, Lee directed perhaps his finest film to date, "25th Hour" (2002). A bleak look at the last 24 hours of a man (Edward Norton) before he is sent off to a long prison term, "25th Hour" marked a poignant turn for Lee, who managed to direct a mainstream film that openly dealt with the aftermath of September 11th, while also delving into the personal struggles of a man about to lose everything in life. After directing "Jim Brown: All American" (2002), a documentary about the complicated, charismatic man who was one of the 20th Century's greatest athletes, Lee directed perhaps his weakest movie, "She Hate Me" (2004), a comedy about a fired biotech executive (Anthony Mackie) who gets into impregnating lesbian couples for $10,000 a pop.

But Lee was in top form with his next two projects, starting with "Inside Man" (2006), a tense heist thriller about a New York City detective (Denzel Washington) trying to solve a hostage situation after a master thief (Clive Owen) tries to commit the crime of the century. "Inside Man" was hailed by many critics for being Lee's best work to date and became a rare financial hit for the director. Meanwhile, he made one of his best documentaries, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" (HBO, 2006), a searing and impassioned look at the travesty surrounding those left behind by the U.S. government following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Divided into four parts, the film covered the horrific events immediately after the category 5 storm hit New Orleans, while dissecting the inept failure of the government's response, leading to thousands of poor, mostly black residents being without food or water for days. The documentary was hailed as a triumph for Lee, who earned several awards, including Creative Emmys for Best Director and Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking. Returning to features, Lee directed "Miracle at St. Anna" (2008), a look at four African-American soldiers serving in the all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Division during World War II who get trapped behind enemy lines after one tries to save an Italian boy during the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre.

In 2009, Lee unveiled "Kobe Doin' Work," an ESPN documentary about basketball superstar Kobe Bryant that, unsurprisingly, didn't find much of an audience beyond hoops fans. The next year, he followed up "When the Levees Broke" with another Katrina-related project, the HBO production "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise," which led to two Emmy nominations. Returning to both narrative features and his native Brooklyn, Lee co-wrote and directed "Red Hook Summer" (2012), a coming-of-age tale set in the titular NYC neighborhood. Despite charming performances and some positive reviews, the movie failed to garner significant attention. Shifting back into Hollywood mode, Lee made the unusual move of remaking an Asian cult classic when he took on the pulpy Korean tale "Oldboy," originally a 2003 Chan-wook Park film. The thriller, starring Josh Brolin as a wrongly imprisoned man out for revenge, proved to be Lee's grittiest movie by far, and showed that the director could remain unpredictable even decades into his career.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Black Klansman (2018)
Director
Pass Over (2018)
Director
The Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015)
Director
Chi-raq (2015)
Director
Oldboy (2013)
Director
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013)
Director
Bad 25 (2012)
Director
Red Hook Summer (2012)
Director
Fusion (2011)
Director
Passing Strange (2009)
Director
Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
Director
Sucker Free City (2005)
Director
She Hate Me (2004)
Director
Jim Brown: All American (2002)
Director
25th Hour (2002)
Director
Bamboozled (2000)
Director
The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
Director
Summer of Sam (1999)
Director
He Got Game (1998)
Director
4 Little Girls (1997)
Director
Lumiere Et Compagnie (1996)
Director
Get on the Bus (1996)
Director
Girl 6 (1996)
Director
Clockers (1995)
Director
Crooklyn (1994)
Director
Malcolm X (1992)
Director
Jungle Fever (1991)
Director
Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Director
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Director
School Daze (1988)
Director
She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Director
Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983)
Director
The Answer (1980)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Champs (2014)
Himself
Red Hook Summer (2012)
Poliwood (2009)
40X15: Forty Years of the Directors' Fortnight (2008)
How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy it) (2006)
Himself
3 AM (2001)
Summer of Sam (1999)
Split Screen (1997)
Himself
When We Were Kings (1996)
Himself
Girl 6 (1996)
Clockers (1995)
A Century Of Cinema (1994)
Crooklyn (1994)
DROP Squad (1994)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Himself--Film Director
World Beat (1993)
Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993)
Himself
The Last Party (1993)
Himself
Malcolm X (1992)
Jungle Fever (1991)
Lonely in America (1990)
Himself
Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Making "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
Himself
Do the Right Thing (1989)
School Daze (1988)
She's Gotta Have It (1986)

Writer (Feature Film)

Black Klansman (2018)
Screenplay
The Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015)
Screenplay
Chi-raq (2015)
Screenplay
Red Hook Summer (2012)
Screenplay
She Hate Me (2004)
Screenplay
Bamboozled (2000)
Screenplay
Summer of Sam (1999)
Screenplay
He Got Game (1998)
Screenplay
Clockers (1995)
Screenplay
Crooklyn (1994)
Screenplay
Malcolm X (1992)
Screenplay
Jungle Fever (1991)
Screenplay
Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Screenplay
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Screenplay
School Daze (1988)
Screenplay
She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Screenplay
Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983)
Screenplay
The Answer (1980)
Screenplay

Producer (Feature Film)

Pass Over (2018)
Producer
Black Klansman (2018)
Producer
Chi-raq (2015)
Producer
The Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015)
Producer
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013)
Executive Producer
Red Hook Summer (2012)
Producer
Bad 25 (2012)
Producer
Pariah (2011)
Executive Producer
Passing Strange (2009)
Producer
Saint John of Las Vegas (2009)
Executive Producer
Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
Producer
Sucker Free City (2005)
Executive Producer
She Hate Me (2004)
Producer
Good Fences (2003)
Executive Producer
Jim Brown: All American (2002)
Producer
25th Hour (2002)
Producer
3 AM (2001)
Producer
The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
Producer
Bamboozled (2000)
Producer
Love & Basketball (2000)
Producer
The Best Man (1999)
Producer
Summer of Sam (1999)
Producer
He Got Game (1998)
Producer
4 Little Girls (1997)
Producer
Get on the Bus (1996)
Executive Producer
Girl 6 (1996)
Producer
Get on the Bus (1996)
Producer
Clockers (1995)
Producer
Tales From the Hood (1995)
Executive Producer
New Jersey Drive (1995)
Executive Producer
DROP Squad (1994)
Executive Producer
Crooklyn (1994)
Producer
Malcolm X (1992)
Producer
Jungle Fever (1991)
Producer
Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Producer
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Producer
School Daze (1988)
Producer
Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Editor
Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983)
Editor

Music (Feature Film)

Mo' Better Blues (1990)
Song
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Song

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

Boyz N The Hood (1991)
Special Thanks To

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Get On Up (2014)
Other
Lisa Picard Is Famous (2000)
Other
When We Were Kings (1996)
Other
The Last Party (1993)
Other
Making "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
Other

Director (Special)

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise (2010)
Director
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
Director
The Concert For New York City (2001)
Segment Director
Pavarotti & Friends 99 (1999)
Director
Pavarotti and Friends (1998)
Director
John Leguizamo: Freak (1998)
Director

Cast (Special)

Black Movie Awards - Part 3 (2006)
Guest Star
Black Movie Awards (2006)
Guest Star
Black Movie Awards - Part 2 (2006)
Guest Star
Black Movie Awards - Part 1 (2006)
Guest Star
The 34th NAACP Image Awards (2003)
Reflections From Ground Zero (2002)
Host
New York at the Movies (2002)
The 2000 Essence Awards (2000)
Presenter
The Trumpet Awards (2000)
Presenter
The 10th Annual IFP Gotham Awards (2000)
Performer
Canned Ham: The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
It's Black Entertainment (2000)
I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts (1999)
Movies in Time Special: Summer of Sam (1999)
Interviewee
Delroy Lindo on Spike Lee (1999)
Interviewee
The Fine Art of Separating People From Their Money (1999)
The 10th Essence Awards (1997)
Performer
Music in Movies '96 (1996)
The Essence Awards (1994)
Performer
Abbey Lincoln, You Gotta Pay the Band (1993)
The Faltering Dream (1993)
The Great Ones: The National Sports Awards (1993)
Performer
Comic Relief V (1992)
The 64th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1992)
Presenter
Rock the Vote (1992)
A Comedy Salute to Michael Jordan (1991)
The Labor Day Show (1991)
MTV's 10th Anniversary Special (1991)
Entertainers '91: The Top 20 of the Year (1991)
Racism: Points of View (1991)
The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards (1990)
Performer
The New Hollywood (1990)
Spike & Co: Do It A Cappella (1990)
In Search of the Dream (1990)
The R.A.C.E. (1989)
Decade (1989)
The Debbie Allen Special (1989)
The 20th Annual NAACP Image Awards (1988)
Performer

Producer (Special)

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise (2010)
Producer
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
Producer
Coca-Cola Pop Music "Backstage Pass to Summer" (1991)
Segment Producer

Director (Short)

They Don't Care About Us (1996)
Director

Director (TV Mini-Series)

A Huey P. Newton Story (2001)
Director

Life Events

1980

Debuted thesis film "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads" at Lincoln Center's New Directors New Films Festival; the first student film to be showcased in the festival

1986

First feature film (directed, wrote, produced and starred), "She's Gotta Have It" (made for approximately $175,000 and shot in 12 days)

1987

First book published <i>She's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerilla Filmmaking</i>

1989

Helmed the controversial drama "Do the Right Thing"; earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay

1991

Produced first off-Broadway play, "Folks Remembers a Missing Page"

1992

Formed record label, Forty Acres and a Mule Music Works, a division of Sony; first artists signed: State of Arts, Youssou N'Dour and Lonette McKee

1992

Directed Denzel Washington as the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader in "Malcolm X"

1996

Filmed "Get on the Bus," about a group of African-American men taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March; released on the one year anniversary of the March

1997

Signed three-year, first-look production deal with Columbia Pictures

1997

Produced and directed the documentary "4 Little Girls"; earned Academy Award nomination

1998

First No. 1 hit with "He Got Game," starring Denzel Washington

1999

Helmed the controversial "Summer of Sam"

2000

Again courted controversy with "Bamboozled," about a TV executive who creates a modern-day minstrel show that becomes a surprise hit TV series

2000

Helmed the stand-up comedy feature "The Original Kings of Comedy" with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac

2002

Directed the documentary "Jim Brown: All American"; produced under the auspices of HBO sports (released theatrically in March)

2002

Directed the crime drama "The 25th Hour"

2006

Helmed the Hurricane Katrina documentary "When the Levees Broke" for HBO; earned an Emmy nomination for Producing

2006

Re-teamed with Denzel Washington to direct the hostage drama "Inside Man"

2008

Directed the WWII drama "Miracle at St. Anna," starring Derek Luke and Michael Ealy

2009

Helmed the ESPN sport documentary "Kobe Doin' Work"

2009

Directed "Passing Strange," a theatrical stage production of the original Broadway musical for "Great Performances" (PBS)

2010

Directed "If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise" for HBO

2011

Executive produced the critically acclaimed independent feature "Pariah," directed by Dee Rees and starring Adepero Oduye

2012

Helmed the feature film "Red Hook Summer"

2013

Adapted the Korean cult hit "Oldboy," with Josh Brolin in the lead

2014

Directed "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus"

2015

Directed "Chi-Raq"

2016

Began producing and directing a TV adaptation of his film "She's Gotta Have It"

2017

Released "Rodney King" biopic

2018

Directed the fact-based comedy drama "BlacKKKlansman"

Family

Bill Lee
Father
Composer, bassist. Born on July 23, 1928; graduated Morehouse College in Atlanta; scored Spike Lee's early films; nickname 'Bleek' used as main character's name in "Mo' Better Blues"; former accompanist to folksinger Leon Bibb in the 1960s; married second wife, Susan Kaplan after Jacquelyn Lee's death; has son, Arnold, born c. 1985; arrested for possession of heroin October 24, 1991.
Jacquelyn Lee
Mother
School teacher. Died in 1977; taught art and black literature at St. Anne's, a private school in Brooklyn.
Chris Lee
Brother
Born c. 1958; in charge of merchandising movie memorabilia at Spike's Joint, Spike Lee's Brooklyn store.
David Lee
Brother
Documentary photographer. Born c. 1960; served as still photographer on "She's Gotta Have It", "School Daze", "Do the Right Thing" and "Mo' Better Blues".
Joie Lee
Sister
Actor, screenwriter. Born c. 1963; appeared in brother's "She's Gotta Have It", "School Daze", "Do the Right Thing", "Mo' Better Blues".
Cinque Lee
Brother
Actor, screenwriter. Born Brooklyn c. 1968; videotaped documentary on the making of "Do the Right Thing".
Arnold Lee
Half-Brother
Born c. 1985; mother, Susan Kaplan.
Malcolm D Lee
Cousin
Director, screenwriter.
Satchel Lee
Daughter
Born on December 2, 1994.
Jackson Lewis Lee
Son
Born on May 23, 1997.

Companions

Halle Berry
Companion
Actor, model. No longer together.
Tonya Linette Lewis
Wife
Legal professional. Born c. 1961; graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1988; graduated from University of Virginia's law school in 1991; married on October 2, 1993.

Bibliography

"Best Seat in the House"
Spike Lee with Ralph Wiley, Crown (1997)
"Five for Five: The Films of Spike Lee"
David Lee (1991)