Screen Studies - Spike Lee
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Projections 11
Projections 11

Tod Lippy, John Boorman

John Boorman was born in London in 1933. After working as a film reviewer for magazines and radio, he joined the BBC in 1955 as an assistant editor, and later directed a number of documentaries. His first feature was ‘Catch Us If You Can’ in 1965. His latest film, Country of My Skull, opens in 2003. He is a five-time Academy Award-nominee, and was twice awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for Leo the Last (1970) and The General (1998). He is the author of Money Into Light: The Emerald Forest - A Diary, as well as the being the co-founder and editor of Faber and Faber's long-running series Projections: Film-makers on Film-making. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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and Walter Donohue (eds)

Faber and Faber Limited, 2002

Subjects

Content Type:

Book chapter

Genres, Movements and Styles:

American Independent

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Spike Lee

DOI: 10.5040/9780571344475.0009
Page Range: 67–78

Spike Lee's films include She's Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Crooklyn, Clockers, Girl 6, and Summer of Sam. Lee's NYU short, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1982), won a student Academy Award, and his documentary, 4 Little Girls, was nominated for an Oscar in 1997. Lee, founder of 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks, has also directed numerous commercials, short films, and music videos, and has executive-produced a number of films, including Gina Prince's Love & Basketball (2000).

Tod Lippy:

I know your family moved to Brooklyn from Atlanta when you were two years old. Did you enjoy growing up here?

Spike Lee:

It was a great experience. For a person my age – who wasn't old enough for the Vietnam War, but old enough to know what was going on in the sixties – it was a great time to grow up here. Especially with sports – the Mets in '69, the Jets, the Knicks. New York City is the greatest city in the world, despite the fact that you get politicians – mayors – who try to fuck it up. Or the police.

Q:

Why did you choose to come back here to NYU after your four years at Morehouse College? Did you ever consider going to one of the film schools in LA?

A:

I didn't have the grades for USC or UCLA. You had to get an astronomical score on the GRE, and I didn't get it. For NYU, all you had to do was submit a creative portfolio. To this day, I still feel that it's so small-minded to base everything on standardized testing. And it's been proven that that stuff is culturally biased.

But it obviously worked out for me. The way you choose a film school is by looking at the people who came out of there. If you want to make personal, more independent films, I think NYU is a good place. You want to make studio, formulaic bullshit . . . [Laughs.] I'll take that back – a lot of good people have graduated from those schools. But people who really want to make standardized Hollywood films, they know that USC and UCLA are the schools to go to, because they plug directly into the studio system. I'm not negating one or the other – it's a personal choice.

Q:

Who else was at NYU when you were there?

A:

Ang Lee, Ernest Dickerson, Jim Jarmusch. I tell this story all the time: The biggest thing that happened at NYU while I was there was when Stranger Than Paradise came out. When that film hit, all of us really believed that we could make it, too. This was one of our classmates – NYU product. So I tried to follow everything Jim did – go to Cannes, do the film festival thing – with She's Gotta Have It.

Q:

What did you think of the school?

A:

Well, NYU has its problems, but to tell you the truth, I never really expected the teachers there to teach me. That's not to say that I knew anything – I still don't know everything – but I really thought my education would come from making my films out in the street, and working on my classmates' films. I mean, they could teach you how to read a light meter, but as far as telling a story and that type of stuff, I never really felt I was going to learn that from anybody. You become a film-maker by making a film, not by talking about it. You get insights from others, but you still have to go out there and shoot that stuff yourself.

Q:

Why did you stay in New York after you graduated?

A:

I never ever wanted to live in Los Angeles. There have been models. Woody Allen was here, and Sidney Lumet, Scorsese. So it was not absurd to think that you could be a film-maker and still live in New York.

Q:

When did you start working at First Run Features?

A:

I started working there while I was in school. NYU grad school is a three-year programme, and I started working at First Run part-time my second year. When I graduated, I worked there full-time. I cleaned films, ran errands, kept inventory. It was great, because I got to see all the films they were handling. Plus, before we moved, we were right above the Bleecker Street Cinema – that's where I met John Pierson, who was programming there.

Q:

So you were seeing a lot of films at the repertory theatres?

A:

Yeah. I went to the Thalia, and to the St Mark's – where The Gap is now. That used to be a regular theatre with two-dollar movies.

Q:

How do you think the environment of the city has affected you creatively?

A:

Well, I think that if you live here and you're open, you just come into contact with so many different cultures, languages and races – so many different people – and that's bound to affect your work. It's definitely affected mine.

You know, Woody Allen is one of the all-time great film-makers – and a fellow New York Knicks season-ticket holder – but up until he got with Soon-Yi, I would look at his movies, and I was like, 'Where are the Black people? Where are the Puerto Ricans?'

Q:

Where is anyone who doesn't live on the Upper West Side?

A:

But even the Upper West Side! Go to Central Park – every little kid in a stroller is being pushed by a West Indian nanny! Anyway, that just used to perplex me. But he's definitely changed since he's been with her – his films are lot more colourful. [Laughs.] I mean, he's a great film-maker, but I just scratch my head and say, 'What Manhattan is this?' Man, Woody . . . Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like she has influenced him in that regard. Just look at the films, before and after.

I read somewhere that you got your first camera back when you were in college ...

Yeah, it was a Super-8 camera, in the summer of 1977. I had just finished my sophomore year at Morehouse College, and came back to New York from Atlanta. I didn't have a job, and I'd bought this camera, so I just spent the whole summer running around New York shooting stuff. That's when I decided I wanted to be a film-maker.

Q:

Didn't you get some footage of the riots resulting from the '77 blackout?

A:

Yeah. On 125th Street in Harlem, and Brooklyn.

Q:

And that was the subject of Last Hustle in Brooklyn, your first film?

A:

That film combined that footage with people dancing – in the streets, at block parties, in parks. Shots of DJs plugging electricity into lampposts, stuff like that. That was really the first summer of disco.

Q:

It sounds like that film could almost be a study for Summer of Sam.

A:

There's definitely a connection there. You know, some things just work their way back in.

Q:

Your diaries for several of your films have been published with the screenplays, and they provide a great record of the way you approach a subject. I've also noticed that you occasionally jot down ideas for other films. Do you find that you go back and plumb the diaries for ideas for new movies?

A:

No. I've just been too busy. Basically, we've made a film a year since 1985.

Q:

You said at one point you were working at such a high volume because you wanted to 'keep the momentum going'. What did you mean by that?

A:

I'm a film-maker. I like the work. I never ran away from hard work, and that's what film-making is. And I want to tell stories – that's what good directors do. But I'm not going to kill myself. [Laughs.]

Q:

Is there any difference between directing your own scripts and those you've worked on with other writers?

A:

Even if I don't write something, I'm still very passionate about it. I don't feel like, you know, 'I wrote this, so I'm going at it one hundred and fifty per cent.' Or, 'Ehhh – I didn't write this one; I'm not going to give it everything this time.' Whether I write it, co-write it or have nothing to do with the writing, I'm still going to be passionate about it.

Q:

Right after School Daze, you said, 'Just because I present problems, people expect me to solve them. That's really unrealistic. It's a burden I won't assume.' That made me think of the two conflicting quotes – Malcolm X's endorsing violence when necessary, King's calling it immoral – you throw up on screen at the end of Do The Right Thing. Why is it important to you to leave a degree of ambiguity in your work?

A:

Well, I would say that with ninety-five per cent of the films put out by studios, everything is tied up in a neat little bow. Maybe it's my duty to be that quirky five per cent where everything isn't done like that. Of course, that's going against the grain, and a lot of times audiences resent that. Maybe you're making them work too much, or think too much.

It all really depends on the story, too. I mean, I don't know how I could have ended Do The Right Thing any differently. How was I going to give it an ending that suggested a solution to racism and prejudice? I'm not interested in any of that Driving Miss Daisy bullshit.

Q:

You think it's important for audiences to have to synthesize the differing points of view you're presenting?

A:

Well, as I said before, the majority of films don't do that, especially the films that come out in the summertime. And of course, I'm like everybody else – there are certain times where you want to go see a movie and not think, and that's fine, but I don't think that should be the total content of the films Hollywood puts out. And those films that make you think are getting rarer and rarer, and that much harder to get financed.

Q:

Along those lines, most of your films feature at least one scene with a series of compelling characters offering equally compelling – and usually conflicting – views on the subject at hand. Those segments always crackle with energy, because the viewer is constantly being asked to rethink the issue from all these different perspectives. I'm thinking, for example, of the scene with all of the women in Jungle Fever.

A:

The 'war council' scene . . .

Q:

Your character in the film actually refers to it in those terms.

A:

Yeah. The skeleton of that scene was written, but I knew that the only way it was going to work was if I just told the women, 'This is what the scene's about. Once the cameras start to roll, talk about your personal experiences with the Black men you've dealt with in your life.' And we just rolled. [Laughs.] That scene could have been a mini-series. We shot so much footage for that . . .

Q:

Didn't you do something similar for She's Gotta Have It? I recall reading that you polled a bunch of your female friends when you were writing the character of Nola Darling.

A:

But this was different. This wasn't a survey or anything. We just rolled the cameras.

Q:

Another variation on that is the 'racial-slurs' sequence in Do the Right Thing.

A:

That stuff carries a risk, though. If I have characters in my films who say terrible things or do terrible things or are just terrible people then there is always the chance, for whatever reason, that people will think those characters are, basically, me. I've been called homophobic because I have characters who say the word 'faggot'. Or if I have male characters in my films who treat women like pieces of meat, people assume those are my sympathies. But you know what? People really pick and choose which directors they do that kind of thing with. I've talked about this with Marty – not only did he direct a film like Taxi Driver, but he actually played a character in the movie who's saying all sorts of shit about 'niggers' and what a '.44 does to a pussy', etc. etc. Now, as far as I know, Martin Scorsese hasn't ever been linked to any of that himself– when critics watch his films, they never do that. But if I played a character in one of my films that said some anti-Semitic shit? That would be the end of me. I'd be 'white-balled'. Because it's not Spike Lee playing a character, it's Spike Lee saying it from the depths of his heart, because Spike Lee is racist, he's prejudiced, anti-Semitic, and he hates white people. But I can't worry about that. You have to let your characters speak.

Q:

You talked about how there was no other way to do the ending of Do The Right Thing

A:

That film was set up at Paramount. And the reason why they didn't end up doing it was because they wanted some kind of reconciliation between Mookie and Sal at the end. And we didn't want to do it like that, and luckily, Universal Pictures was there to pick it up.

Q:

But generally speaking, it seems like the conclusions of many of your films are extremely open-ended. You know, the movie ends – often with a symbolic image, or gesture – but there is a minimum of narrative closure.

A:

I've always thought that just because the movie ends, and the credits have started to roll, these characters are still alive – they still have life. What's happening to them now? Or what's going to happen? I'm not doing that because I'm planning for the sequel or whatever – I've never done that. But I don't know, I think it's interesting to leave everything open for thought sometimes.

Q:

So traditional closure doesn't interest you?

A:

Oh, it interests me. But I don't think films always have to do that kind of thing. That's another one of the formulas – everything needs to be tied up. The movie's over, that's it – you know exactly where everybody is.

Q:

When you end with one of those more symbolic images – like Wesley Snipes embracing the young crack addict in Jungle Fever – is it something you've already latched on to before you start writing?

A:

It really depends. Sometimes I do know, sometimes I don't. There's not a standard. With Jungle Fever, I just felt that – despite the fact that the interracial stuff got the all the attention – the most important story we were telling there was the chronicling of the destruction crack has had on generations of families. In the beginning of the film, you see Halle Berry's character telling another character she'll do him for five dollars, and at the end of the movie you see someone who must be twelve or thirteen, and now the price has dropped to two dollars. The reason why he screams there is because he realizes that in a couple of years it could be his own daughter, selling her body for a two-dollar piece of crack.

Q:

In your diaries, you spend a fair amount of time anticipating the reactions – often negative – of people to the different choices you're in the process of making. A lot of your sentences start with, 'If I do that, then they'll say . . .' or 'I have to be careful not to do this, because . . .' Do you find that you self-censor a lot in the writing stage?

A:

Oh, I think every artist self-censors. I just don't know whether everybody writes it down or not. It's like you've got a checklist of what to do and what not to do. That's part of being an artist; artists make choices, and when you make choices, you're picking one of many options. You know, those other four didn't make it for whatever reason. So, yeah, I do that all the time.

Q:

But I also get the sense that you're trying to gauge the kinds of reactions something will provoke in an audience . . .

A:

Well, I'm not one of these film-makers who say they never think about the audience. You have to – I mean, I don't have the luxury of just saying, 'This is what we're going to do, fuck the audience.' So, yeah, I'm thinking about its effect. But a lot of times, my first question is, 'What will its effect be on me?'

It's a balancing act. And despite what people may feel about Steven Spielberg, his gift is that he knows exactly what people want. You can't say nothing about that.

Q:

A lot of your films tend to have the adjective 'controversial' attached to them. Do you think that's more to do with your choice of subject matter, or is it often just a function of people attaching that tag to whatever you happen to be working on?

A:

Both. I've always said this, and it's true: When I sit down and decide what I'm going to do next, I'm not thinking, 'What controversial subject matter will I choose from this time?' The criterion is, 'What story do I want to tell now? What story do I want to spend the next year or year-and-a-half with?' Or longer – really, it's your lifetime, because that stuff sticks around, it stays with you.

Q:

Well, for example, what drove you to make Mo' Better Blues?

A:

My father is a jazz musician, and I always wanted to do a jazz film. But I remember seeing Bird and 'Round Midnight, and both of those films were – at least to me – so depressing. I mean, it was raining in every scene. These tragic Black musicians. I mean, come on – Sonny, Duke, Count Basie – none of these guys ever laughed before? They didn't have any joy in their lives? Never smiled? Never loved?

Q:

It's sort of the flipside of what you said about Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field ...

A:

When I said that about Sidney, it wasn't a knock on Sidney. It was about the character he was playing. Sidney had to do that kind of stuff because he felt he didn't have an alternative. Because of our history of being betrayed by the media, he had to choose roles like that. He had to be the Super-Negro. I mean, even when he makes a phone call at Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's house in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, he leaves a dime by the phone. But because he did all of that stuff – because he was a trailblazer – people like me have been able to do other stuff, which is the antithesis of those squeaky-clean characters he played. But his character in Lilies of the Field was, I don't know - too pristine. I mean, the minute I get my flat fixed, I'm outta there. [Laughs.] I'm not hanging around until these nuns say I raped them, then my Black ass gets lynched.

When I saw Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile, I knew he was getting nominated. I knew it. It was that same stereotypical thing you saw in Driving Miss Daisy. That's not to say the performance wasn't good, but I think it was the role, more than his acting, that grabbed the Academy. I knew they were gonna love that role.

Q:

Early on in your career, you talked about being pretty 'hands-off' with your actors . . .

A:

Not 'hands off. I was scared of actors. The biggest weakness of film school is that they really don't prepare you to work with actors. Technically – moving the camera, figuring out lenses, that kind of stuff – it was fine, but the one thing I was lacking when I came out of film school was the knowledge of how to work with actors. It wasn't until Do The Right Thing that I really felt comfortable talking to them. You have to know how to do that, because most actors are crazy. And that's not a generalization. I mean, I understand why they're unstable – it's an unstable business, and they put up with so much rejection. But most of them are nuts.

Q:

Can you talk about why you've begun making documentaries? Your first one, I believe, was 4 Little Girls in 1996, and now you're working on The Original Kings of Comedy. What attracted you to the form?

A:

I'm a film-maker. I've never considered film-making to be only narrative.

Q:

Weren't you at one point thinking about making a narrative feature about the Birmingham church bombing, the subject of 4 Little Girls?

A:

In film school.

Q:

Why did you decide to do a documentary instead?

A:

Because I thought it was important to hear from the witnesses themselves. The family, friends and foes like George Wallace. The people who were there.

Q:

How do you think your work as a director of commercials fits into the rest of your career?

A:

It's all film-making. All of it is about telling a story. A commercial, you've got thirty seconds to tell a story. A music video, four minutes. But they're all about telling stories.

Q:

But you obviously approach a Nike commercial differently than you would a film like Do The Right Thing, which must have greater personal significance for you . . .

A:

Do The Right Thing took me two weeks to write the script, eight weeks of pre-production, eight weeks to shoot; a commercial usually takes one day to shoot. And I don't know if it's fair to compare a Nike commercial to Do The Right Thing. But any film-maker with any pride is going to do their best, whether it's on a commercial, music video, documentary, or feature film.

Q:

You once said, 'The most powerful nations are not the ones that have the nuclear bomb, they're the ones that control the media. That's where you control people's minds.' What kind of responsibility do you feel you have to assume, particularly as you're working in all of these various forms?

A:

Everybody has their own personal code of ethics or morals. Deep down in their heart – whether it's for the money or whatever – they know when they're doing wrong. That's something they really have to deal with themselves. Film is a very powerful medium, and it's just going to get more powerful. At the same time, I don't think Taxi Driver made John Hinckley shoot Reagan, or Natural Born Killers caused those kids who saw it to commit murder. I don't know where that case is standing now, but it's very important. If a decision on something like that ever goes against an artist, there are some deep ramifications, because no record company, no publishing house, no studio, no television network is going to want to touch anything that they think they may be sued over. And that's going to be the end of free expression as we know it.

Q:

Do you have final cut on your films?

A:

Mm-hmm. Since School Daze. I'm not going to do a film where I don't have final cut.

Q:

My impression is that your control often extends into marketing, merchandising, even design of the posters . . .

A:

Well, I don't have control. I have influence. I mean, unless you're Spielberg or Lucas, the studio's going to tell you how many theatres, and when it's going to open, and how much money is going to be spent.

Q:

You talked earlier about following the example of Jarmusch. Have you ever thought about owning your negatives, like he does?

A:

I would love to own my negatives. But I haven't had the success Jim's had in markets outside of the US. That's how he gets his films financed. He finances them overseas, and then he just sells the domestic rights.

Q:

Your first student film at NYU, The Answer, is about a struggling Black filmmaker who is offered the chance to do a fifty-million-dollar remake of Birth of a Nation. In one scene, a guy in a Ku Klux Klan robe presents him with the contract – which he signs. It reminds me of the scene in Girl 6, when Theresa Randle reluctantly takes off her shirt in an audition for Tarantino, playing himself. This whole issue of compromise is one that obviously interests you as a film-make ...

A:

It's something that every artist has had to grapple with. There's always that line they tell you: 'Just do this stuff – we know it's bullshit, but once you become a star you can do whatever you want to do.' But it rarely works out that way. Once they get you, you're got. [Laughs.] People get trapped. They have kids, they've got a mortgage, a house. I was very lucky – when I was starting out, it was just me, so I could miss a couple meals. And it just wasn't the money – I could be totally focused on the goal at hand: to be a film-maker. I had only myself to think about.

Q:

Do you feel you've had to make any serious compromises in your career?

A:

Nothing that was harmful. I'd be lying if I said I never had to compromise in my life. It's not true – the only situation where that could happen would be if I had all the money to finance my movies.

Q:

When Malcolm X went over budget during post-production, you were able to circumvent the studio by raising your own money from prominent members of the Black community like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby. How did you come up with that idea?

A:

Well, in doing the film, I became a student of Malcolm X, and he always talked about Black people being self-reliant – we have great resources, and we should be using them. So when we hit this impasse with Warner Bros. and the bond company, I made a list of African-Americans who had money, and who could contribute it to tide us over. It's funny, too, because Warner Bros. had absolutely no idea of how we were going to continue to finance post-production – they had fired everybody on the editing staff. So after I raised this money, I thought it would be a great idea to have a press conference announcing it on Malcolm's birthday, up at the Schomburg Library in Harlem. And very soon after that press conference, we started getting funded by the studio again. Funny how that works. [Laughs.]

Q:

Do you conceptualize your opening credits? They're always so good.

A:

I do, along with Balsmeyer & Everett – there are times when they've thought up the idea, and times when I have. I think that opening credits, besides being contractually necessary, should be creative – they're like an invitation to the audience to what's going to follow. They should be the appetizer. Try to cultivate their minds, prepare them for what's going to happen in the next couple of hours. The best designer in that regard was Saul Bass – he made them an art form.

Q:

You're a serious student of film, and I know you've talked before about influences on your work. I was wondering if there was anyone in particular who has had a major impact on your aesthetic?

A:

Martin Scorsese. Billy Wilder. Kazan. Budd Schulberg. You can't do any better, I feel, than On the Waterfront or A Face in the Crowd. Or What Makes Sammy Run. The Harder They Fall. Budd's one of the greats. A good friend, too.

Q:

I know you like to pay homage to other films and directors in your work, but you're also a great mimic. I'm thinking specifically of the three segments in Girl 6 which refer to Carmen Jones, The Jeffersons and the blaxploitation genre. They're so dead-on.

A:

The idea for that really came from Suzan-Lori Parks, the screenwriter. We just felt it made sense that, you know, here's a woman who wants to be an actress, and those actors are her role models.

They're all playing different parts – different representations of Black womanhood – which is really relevant to the film's subject. Right. She can see herself in each of them. You know, of all my films, Girl 6 is the one that people dislike the most.

Q:

I think it's a great film.

A:

It's the one that's the most misunderstood. I guess the whole phone-sex thing threw people off. Everybody's like, 'What's up with you with that film? What the hell were you thinking about?'

Q:

I love the fact that Theresa Randle uses a monologue by Nola Darling for her audition. And like She's Gotta Have it, I think it really explores the dynamics of power in gender relations – the shiftiness of the whole thing.

A:

And it explores the choices you have to make – how far you're willing to go – to achieve your goals. That character gets so hooked up, so tangled in the phone-sex world, by the end of the movie she's forgotten why she even took the job in the first place, which was to get enough money to move to LA to jumpstart her stagnant acting career.

And the music, too – all the stuff by The Artist Formerly Known as Prince . . .

Q:

Speaking of homages, wasn't that scene with the falling telephones near the end referencing Sid & Nancy?

A:

Yeah. [Laughs.] That was a fantastic scene in that film, when that garbage started falling when Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb were kissing.

Q:

You made a note in one of your diaries about how you hate 'preachy' films

A:

Well, I'm sure some people would find that ironic, because I'm accused of being preachy sometimes. When did I say that?

Q:

It was around the time of Do The Right Thing. You also said, 'I can't have too many of these speeches. This is cinema, not theatre.'

A:

Well, you're always going to walk the tightrope, and sometimes you slip off. I guess that's the thinking behind those statements.

Q:

You mentioned somewhere that you find New York actors less into the 'star thing'.

A:

Well, that's not necessarily the case any more. All the actors I was talking about who've become big have probably moved to LA. [Laughs.]

Q:

Do you use a lot of theatre actors in your films?

A:

Yeah. If there was no theatre here, there would be little reason to shoot films in New York. You've got the locale, but the talent pool is what New York is really about. It's the only place in the world with this kind of abundance of good actors.

Q:

Do you ever find walking around the city to be a problem?

A:

Nah. Taxi drivers blow their horns, stuff like that – especially during the playoffs.

Q:

Do you think New Yorkers are generally pretty low-key about celebrity?

A:

It depends on who the person is. Michael Jackson can't walk the streets of New York. Neither can Michael Jordan. People recognize their faces and go crazy, which doesn't happen with me. It really depends who you're talking about.

Q:

You live on the Upper East Side now. Didn't you get a lot of flack when you moved out of Brooklyn?

A:

There really wasn't that much. I thought it was going to be more.

Q:

But you're living in a pretty conservative, somewhat segregated neighbourhood.

A:

When Tonya and I decided that we had to move out of SoHo – because we needed more space – we realized the space we needed we just couldn't get there. Not in a residential building. And I didn't want to be in some kind of illegal real-estate situation, so we started looking at houses, and it just so happened that the best deal we found was on the Upper East Side. It wasn't by design, though, because we wanted to stay in SoHo.

Q:

I know you're working on a new documentary, The Original Kings of Comedy, but there's a new feature, too, right?

A:

Bamboozled.

Q:

That was shot on digital?

A:

Mini-DV. That's was a first for us. Ellen Kuras, the DP who shot 4 Little Girls and Summer of Sam, hadn't used it yet, either, so it was a learning experience for all of us. And then we were able to utilize that knowledge for The Original Kings of Comedy, which was also shot in Mini-DV.

Q:

What was the budget for Bamboozled?

A:

Ten million. Rest assured, ten million was not the original budget – we had to cut it down. It was a risky film, with a risky subject matter. We had a long list of 'nos' with that film. But Mike DeLuca, Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne at New Line stepped up.

Q:

Why is it considered risky?

A:

It's a satire about television. But it addresses stereotypical images of African-Americans throughout the history of cinema and television.

Q:

I know you've been trying to make the Jackie Robinson biopic for some time. Do you know when that's going to happen?

A:

I've just got to get the money. One day, I will.

Q:

Do you feel like you're at the top of your game right now?

A:

Gotta keep getting better . . .