91ST OSCARS BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW: Spike Lee

WINNER – WRITING ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – BLACKKKLANSMAN

(Spike Lee) This is my sixth glass. And you know why.

Q. I want to say the Academy did the right thing by giving you this award.
A. Thank you very much.

Q. So I actually recently interviewed Ron Stallworth and he said that he couldn’t imagine anyone else helming this film. And so I want to ask, what would you say to Ron now that you have this award for writing this film?
A. Well, first of all, he lived that life. He infiltrated the Klan. He talked to David Duke on the phone. He was David Duke’s bodyguard, and he lived to write a book to tell about it. Next.

Q. You’ve mentioned DO THE RIGHT THING in your speech and with your accessories today, so does this make up for DO THE RIGHT THING not winning the Oscar for you right now?
A. I’m a snake pit. I mean, every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose. But they changed the seating arrangement. But in ’89 I didn’t get nominated, so this one we did. For Best Picture.

Q. I just wanted to ask you, we saw a little bit of a reaction to the GREEN BOOK win. Can you give us your thoughts on that Best Picture win?
A. Let me take another sip. Next question. Oh, wait a minute. What reaction did you see? What did I do?

Q. A little bit of maybe a little [inaudible] reaction.
A. No. I thought I was courtside at the Garden. The ref made a bad call. The world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Knicks are coming back next year.

Q. You’ve been a critic of the Academy for some years. How do you feel about the progression of black filmmakers after this year?
A. Here’s the thing. Without April Green (sic) April Reign, excuse me, without April Reign, #OscarsSoWhite, and the former president of the Academy Award of Motion Picture Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, I wouldn’t be here tonight. They opened up the Academy to make the Academy look more like America. It’s more diverse. So that’s why three black women, if I’m counting correctly, won Oscars. That would not have happened without OscarsSoWhite and Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Facts. As my brother Jay Z says, facts.

Q. That reaction we saw of you and Samuel L. Jackson, walk us thorough that just a little bit. Talk about that moment.
A. Well, first of all, Samuel Jackson and I went to the same college. We went to Morehouse College, so I’ve known Sam from way, way, way back. These were my school SCHOOL DAZE. We were very close, our families, and for him, my brother Samuel Jackson, to open up the envelope and say my name, it was a great thing. And did I jump up on him?

Q. You did. Yes, you did.
A. Let me take another sip. That was a genuine, genuine reaction. And my co writers all look, it’s not just for me, the people in front of the camera and behind the camera, and I was just here’s the thing though. I had two speeches. Now, I’m going to call this “I’m keeping it 100.” That means I’m keeping it real, for those that don’t live in Brooklyn, New York, 100. Had two speeches; one with a list of the people I was going to thank and the other one was what you heard me say. So I said to myself, “Self, your black ass may not be up here again, so let me go with the speech.” And I did not get to thank read the one with the thanks. So I apologize for the people I didn’t get a chance to thank.

Q. So a lot of us have been with you since DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, yay, it feels good today.
A. I’m back in the day.

Q. He’s back in the day. But I have a different kind of question. You mentioned David Duke, the whole thing. Do you think he’s watched the movie? And if he has or if he hasn’t, what’s your message to him?
A. No. David Duke told Ron Stallworth he saw the film.

Q. What do you have to say to him?
A. (Press Room Monitor) We’re going to go back to 250 and then 255.
A. (Spike Lee) Thank you.

Q. I’m in this room because of Cheryl Boone Isaacs, FYI. So I was interviewing Robi Reed, and she helped me compose this question. She told me that she was part of your A team, and she told me it was a really beautiful interview what it was like in the early days. And so the question is: Spike, what keeps you motivated after all this work?
A. Well, I’m one of the blessed people in the world who gets to make a living doing what they love. It’s simple. Most people who go to their grave have worked a job they hated. That’s it.

Q. First of all, I’m born and raised in Minnesota and I love your Prince outfit tonight.
A. It’s homage.

Q. Obviously, a lot was said about DO THE RIGHT THING in ’89. How have you changed, do you think, as a filmmaker? If you made that film today, how might it be different or
A. I do not answer hypothetical questions. The film was made when it was made, but the thing is, the film, I wrote that in ’88 and in ’88 I was talking about gentrification, ’88 I was talking about global warming and that stuff. June 30th this year will be the 30th anniversary of DO THE RIGHT THING, and all the stuff we talked in that film is still relevant today.

Q. So how has this film changed society? Because a lot of people did not realize that the Klan was still around. They didn’t know when this film came out. They sort of know now after last week and the week before, but how has this changed society?
A. Well, that’s a hard question for me to answer, but I do know that the coda of this film where we saw homegrown red, white and blue terrorism. Heather Heyer, her murder was a American terrorist act. When that car drove down that crowded street in Charleston (sic), Virginia, and the President of the United States did not refute, did not denounce the Klan, the alt right, and neo Nazis. And this film, whether we won Best Picture or not, this film this film will stand the test of time being on the right side of history. Thank you.

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Matthew Sardo
Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.

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