SPIKE LEE BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Producer, director, actor Spike Lee was born Shelton Lee on March 20, 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia. He got his nickname of “Spike” from his mother, who gave it to him as toddler because he was tough. Shortly after his birth, the family relocated to Chicago, Illinois. Then they moved to Brooklyn’s Forte Greene neighborhood, which was mostly made up of black families. His parents made sure that Lee grew up with culture by taking him to various museums, plays, music performances, and movies. He attended St. Anne’s, a school his mother taught at, John Dewey High School, and then Morehouse College, which made him the third generation of his family to enroll at the all male, traditionally black school.
During sophomore year he became interested in film, and simultaneously took film courses at Clark-Atlanta University, where he made his first movie, “Last Hustle in Brooklyn” (1977). After graduating from Morehouse with a B.A. in mass communications, he enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in film production. For his final film project, Lee made “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads” (1983), a drama set in a neighborhood barbershop. His thesis film won him a Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and also became the first student production to be showcased in Lincoln Center’s “New Directors, New Films” series.
In 1985 Lee began working on his first feature film, “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986). He shot the picture in two weeks with a budget of only $175,000. The movie, about a woman and her sexual relationships with three different men (one of them played by Lee), earned $7,000,000 once picked up by Island Pictures and distributed at the box office. Hollywood took major notice of the filmmaker, and in 1988 he had his major studio debut with “School Daze”. The picture, based off his four years at Morehouse College, explores the conflicts between light and dark-skinned blacks. It doubled its cost, but his next movie, “Do the Right Thing” (1989), really launched Lee to the top of the filmmaking community.
The picture was controversial, provocative, and illuminated the racial tension between Brooklyn’s Italians and African Americans. It was one of the year’s most talked about, earning Lee an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay. The director’s next, “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990), was the story of a jazz trumpeter, inspired by his father, who was a jazz composer and bassist. The film received modest success.
Lee stirred up controversy again with his subsequent feature “Jungle Fever” (1991), about interracial sex. He used another heated subject next, for “Malcom X” (1992), a three hour biopic on the influential black leader. The movie turned into a huge success.
Lee took a break from the controversial films he had been creating to make “Crooklyn” (1994), a comparatively light tale of a 1970s Brooklyn family. After, he filmed a crime drama titled “Clockers” (1995). In 1996, the filmmaker released “Girl 6”, a story about a young actress who is forced to take employment as a phone-sex operator, and “Get on the Bus”, a politically charged picture about twelve men who travel from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to take part in the Million Man March. In 1997 he made a powerful documentary style film about the lives of four girls who were killed in a terrorist bombing at a church in Birmingham, Alabama, called “4 Little Girls”. It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
Lee followed with “He Got Game” (1998), a collegiate film about the dark side of athletic recruiting. “Bamboozled” (2000), a satire on the stereotyping of African Americans by a predominantly white society, came shortly after, followed by a segment on “Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet” (2002), “25th Hour” (2002), and “She Hate Me” (2004).
2006 brought “Inside Man”, a top notch thriller about a heist turned hostage situation, as well as the critically acclaimed television documentary about Hurricane Katrina, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts”. Lee continued working in TV, returning to features in 2008 with “Miracle at St. Anna”, a look at four African American soldiers trapped in an Italian village during the Second World War. The movie was admired for bringing to attention the black soldiers that fought in the war –known as buffalo soldiers – although some critics complained that the film didn’t quite live up to its idea.
Lee’s most recent film was “Red Hook Summer” (2012), the story of a boy who goes to live with his grandfather (whom he has never seen before) for the summer. He is currently working on a film titled “Oldboy”, which explores the struggles a mediocre man has when he tries to discover why he has been imprisoned in a room for the past fifteen years.
2012 Red Hook Summer
2012 Evolution of a Criminal
2012 The Girl Is in Trouble
2012 You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You
2011 Doubles with Slight Pepper
2011 Da Brick
2010 If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise
2010 Dream Street
2009 Saint John of Las Vegas
2009 Kobe Doin' Work
2009 Great Performances
2008 Miracle at St. Anna
2007 Lovers & Haters
2006 When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
2006 Inside Man
2005 Miracle's Boys
2005 All the Invisible Children
2005 Jesus Children of America
2004 C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
2004 She Hate Me
2004 Sucker Free City
2003 Good Fences
2002 25th Hour
2002 Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet
2002 Jim Brown: All American
2002 25th Hour
2001 The Concert for New York City
2001 A Huey P. Newton Story
2001 The Making of 'Bamboozled'
2001 Home Invaders
2001 Come Rain or Come Shine
2001 3 A.M.
2000 The Original Kings of Comedy
2000 Love & Basketball
2000 And Ya Don't Stop: Hip Hop's Greatest Videos, Vol. 1
1999 Pavarotti & Friends 99 for Guatemala and Kosovo
1999 The Best Man
1999 Summer of Sam
1998 He Got Game
1998 Great Performances
1997 Michael Jackson: HIStory on Film - Volume II
1997 4 Little Girls
1996 Get on the Bus
1996 Girl 6
1995 Lumière and Company
1995 Tales from the Hood
1995 New Jersey Drive
1994 Drop Squad
1992 Malcolm X
1991 Jungle Fever
1991 Coca Cola Pop Music Backstage Pass to Summer
1990 Mo' Better Blues
1989 Do the Right Thing
1988 School Daze
1986 She's Gotta Have It
1983 Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads
1980 The Answer
1977 Last Hustle in Brooklyn