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Spike LeeDirector | Producer | Writer
Date of Birth 20 March 1957, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Birth Name Shelton Jackson Lee
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)
Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from artistic, education-grounded background; his father was a jazz musician, and his mother, a schoolteacher. He attended school in Morehouse College in Atlanta and developed his film making skills at Clark Atlanta University. After graduating from Morehouse, Lee attended the Tisch School of Arts graduate film program. He made a controversial short, The Answer (1980), a reworking of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915), a ten-minute film. Lee went on to produce a 45-minute film Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983) which won a student Academy Award. In 1986, Spike Lee made the film, She's Gotta Have It (1986), a comedy about sexual relationships. The movie was made for $175,000, and earned $7 million at the box office, which launched his career and allowed him to found his own production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. His next movie was School Daze (1988), which was set at a historically black school, focused mostly on the conflict between the school and the Fraternities, of which he was a strong critic, portraying them as materialistic, irresponsible, and uncaring. With his School Daze (1988) profits, Lee went on to make his landmark film, Do the Right Thing (1989), a movie based specifically his own neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The movie portrayed the racial tensions that emerge in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood on one very hot day. The movie garnered Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay, for Danny Aiello for supporting actor, and sparked a debate on racial relations. Lee went on to produce and direct the jazz biopic Mo' Better Blues (1990), the first of many Spike Lee films to feature Denzel Washington, including the biography of Malcolm X (1992), in which Washington portrayed the civil rights leader. The movie was a success, and garnered an Oscar nomination for Washington. The pair would work together again on He Got Game (1998), an excursion into the collegiate world showing the darker side of college athletic recruiting, as well as the 2006 film Inside Man (2006). Spike Lee's role as a documentarian has expanded over the years, highlighted by his participation in Lumière and Company (1995), the Oscar-nominated 4 Little Girls (1997), to his Peabody Award-winning biographical adaptation of Black Panther leader in A Huey P. Newton Story (2001), through his 2005 Emmy Award-winning examination of post-Katrina New Orleans in When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) and its follow-up five years later If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise (2010). Through his production company 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks, Lee continues to create and direct both independent films and projects for major studios, as well as working on story development, creating an internship program for aspiring filmmakers, releasing music, and community outreach and support. He is married to Tonya Lewis Lee, and they have two sons, Satchel and Jackson.
Tonya Lewis Lee (2 October 1993 - present) (2 children)
Frequently casts himself
Frequently casts John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Delroy Lindo, Kim Director and Roger Guenveur Smith
His films frequently involve African Americans and African-American themes
Films called "A Spike Lee Joint"
Frequently has characters directly address the camera. Frequently places actors on dollies to achieve a gliding or rotating effect against the background of the shot.
His films often have the phrase "Wake Up!" as in an urging to the awakening of maturity and social conscience.
Baseball: Every one of his narrative feature films makes reference to baseball teams and players.
Often casts Denzel Washington and Michael Imperioli.
Frequently uses a technique he calls the "double dolly." This is where the camera and the subject are placed on a dolly and pushed through the scene. This makes the subject look like they are floating or gliding.
Cousin of Malcolm D. Lee.
Big New York Knicks fan: Has courtside seats for all games. Partially responsible for the "off colored" baseball caps, as he started wearing a red Yankees cap during the 1996 World Series.
His production company is 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks.
Son of Bill Lee.
Brother of Joie Lee, Cinqué Lee and David Lee.
Friend of Soledad O'Brien.
After the Columbine high school shootings Spike said that National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston should be shot. Heston replied that if Spike wanted to take a shot at him he should go ahead and try it. Lee later apologized for the comments.
Serves as a master teacher of film at the Tisch School of the Arts and Harvard University.
Graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1982.
Graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979.
Children, with Tonya Lewis Lee, Satchel (b. 1994) and Jackson (b. 1997).
His grandmother, Zimmie Shelton, an alumna of Spelman College (class of 1929), sent him to Morehouse College, the historically black all-male institution affiliated with the all-female Spelman College.
His grandmother, Zimmie Shelton, helped fund his first full-length feature film, She's Gotta Have It (1986).
He has never learned how to drive an automobile.
He and producer/director Monty Ross are frequent collaborators and were classmates and graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Between the making of his award-winning student short, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983), and his debut feature, She's Gotta Have It (1986), Lee attempted to make a featured called "Messenger". Over $100,000 was raised, but the film never materialized.
The name of his production company, "40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks", came from an unfulfilled promise that many politicians made to freed slaves after the Civil War.
Was a Visiting Lecturer in Afro-American Studies and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University in the early 1990s.
Was featured in numerous Nike campaigns in the early '90s
Is now (2002) the Artistic Director of the graduate division of the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The position gives Lee an advisory position, allowing him to teach and advise third year students, as well as aid with industry networking.
Vied for the director's seat on Ali (2001). Says that he knew he wouldn't get the job after speaking to the movie's star, Will Smith (one of the many financiers on Lee's Get on the Bus (1996)), who wanted Lee to make a film with "a broader appeal".
Has been trying for more than ten years to direct his dream project: a film about the life and times of Jackie Robinson. Says that he personally promised to Robinson's widow, Rachel Isum, to make the film. Another as-of-yet (2003) project he has often spoke of but has yet to do is a film on the boxing match between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling.
Was voted the 48th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Often casts real-life family members in his films. In Do the Right Thing (1989) , for example, he cast Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (real-life husband and wife), himself and Joie Lee (real-life siblings), and Danny Aiello and Rick Aiello (real-life father and son). Other films he does this in include School Daze (1988), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991) and Malcolm X (1992).
Grandson of Zimmie Shelton, who helped finance his featurette, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983). She received a producing credit on the film, which went on to win a Merit Award at the Student Academy Awards.
Is a fan of Michael Moore's films. Bowling for Columbine (2002) was his favorite film of 2002.
Is a huge Arsenal fan and personal friend of team captain Thierry Henry. Is often known to wear Arsenal jerseys while on set.
When Norman Jewison was originally hired to direct Malcolm X (1992), Lee met with him and convinced him he needed to "sit this one out". Feeling that only a black director was qualified and would bring the necessary perspective, Lee then stepped in as director with Jewison's blessing.
One of his classmate at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts was director Ang Lee. The Taiwan-born Lee worked on the crew of Spike's thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983).
Made the introduction of the song "The Church" on De La Soul's album "The Grind Date".
The Lees bought their 9,800-sq.-ft. Italian palazzo-style home from Jasper Johns in 1998; it was originally built for a Vanderbilt.
Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2004.
Is a big fan of musicals from Hollywood's Golden Age.
His favorite movie is The Deer Hunter (1978). It is the movie that inspired him to be a director.
Nephew of Consuela Lee Morehead.
Has directed 2 actors to Oscar-nominated performances: Danny Aiello (Best Supporting Actor, Do the Right Thing (1989)), and Denzel Washington (Best Actor, Malcolm X (1992)).
Mentioned in the song "Light My Candle" from Jonathan Larson's musical Rent. He was also considered to direct the movie version of Rent before Chris Colubus was chosen.
He's good friends with Martin Scorsese.
Preparing to make a follow-up film to "When the Levees Broke" [January 2010]
Endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election of the United States.
Attended John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, New York. Director Larry Charles also went to Dewey, but graduated one year later.
He is left-handed.
Friends with Bill Nunn.
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