Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Director of 'Do the Right Thing'


Filmmaker Spike Lee earned attention with his Masters’ thesis project, Joe’s
Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983). Thanks to his originality, Lee took
home a Student Academy Merit Award and an Ernest Artaria Award from the Locarno
International Film Festival. The moviemaker next displayed his unique style in
the romantic comedy She’s Gotta Have It (1986, swept up a Los Angeles Film
Critics Association’s New Generation Award, an Independent Spirit Award and an
Award of the Youth for Foreign Film from the Cannes Film Festival), Do the Right
Thing (1989, collected the Chicago Film Critics Association Award and the Los
Angeles Film Critics Association Award, as well as an Oscar and two Golden Globe
nominations), the drama Jungle Fever (1991, brought home a Cannes Film
Festival’s Special Mention Prize of the Ecumenical Jury) and Get on the Bus
(1996, collected a Berlin International Film Festival’s Special Mention Award).
His documentary film 4 Little Girls (1997) won a Golden Satellite Award and
earned an
Oscar and Emmy nomination. Furthermore, he was handed the 1992 Gotham’s
Filmmaker Award, the 2002 BAFTA Special Award and the 2004 American Black Film
Festival’s Innovator Award.

The owner of the production company “Forty Acres and a Mule” published the book
“She's Gotta Have It: Inside Guerilla Filmmaking” (1987), following the release
of his 1986 movie. Besides making films, Lee was also a Visiting Lecturer for
Afro-American Studies and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University
(in the early 1990s) and the Artistic Director of the graduate division of the
Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at his alma mater, the Tisch (2002). A
savvy businessman, the New York Knicks fan was also associated with the Sony
Music label and formed a record label called Forty Acres and a Mule Music Works,
appeared in several 1990s’ Nike campaigns, and opened the retail outlet “Spike’s

Lee currently lives on the Upper East Side of New York City with wife Tonya
Linette Lewis and their two children. The couple, who also owns a house in the
Martha Vineyard area, top W.E.B. DuBois’ “Talented Tenth” list.

Tough Boy

Childhood and Family:

Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia,
to jazz musician William “Bill” Lee and art teacher Jacqueline Shelton Lee (died
in 1977 of cancer). The first person who called him “Spike” was his mother,
referring to his toughness as a boy. Shortly after his birth, the whole family
briefly lived in Chicago and then Brooklyn. Spike and his siblings were given a
rich cultural and musical upbringing by their parents.

After graduating from John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, Spike first studied
Mass Communication at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He then became interested in
moviemaking and after interning for Columbia Pictures in Burbank, California, he
attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Subsequent to his
graduation, Spike briefly worked at a movie distribution house, cleaning and
shipping film.

On October 2, 1993, he walked down the aisle with legal professional Tonya
Linette Lewis (born in 1961). They have a daughter named Satchel (born on
December 2, 1994) and a son named Jackson Lewis (born on May 23, 1997).

Four Little Girls


Spike Lee made his first film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn (1977), while still
studying at Morehouse College. Continuing his studies at Tisch, Lee raised some
controversy with his first year project, the ten-minute The Answer (1980), which
told about a black screenwriter remaking D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a

He also made Sarah (1981) before gaining applause for his Masters thesis
project, the 60-minute crime drama comedy Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut
Heads (1983). Chronicling the dark side of a barbershop business, the satirical
movie granted Lee a Student Academy Merit award and an Ernest Artaria award from
the Locarno International Film Festival. He continued with the dark romantic
comedy She’s Gotta Have It (1986), in which he also starred as Mars Blackmon.
Lee was handed a Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s New Generation award, an
Independent Spirit award for Best First Feature and an award of the Youth for
Foreign Film from the Cannes Film Festival.

The new director then directed the school-set School Daze (1988, also played
Half-Pint) before directing and writing Do the Right Thing (1989, also appeared
as Mookie), which was about racial tension in the Brooklyn area. For his
brilliant effort in the latter, Lee collected Best Director awards from the
Chicago Film Critics Association and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
He also took home an Oscar, two Golden Globes and a Cannes Film Festival
nomination. In his next movie, Mo’ Better Blues (1990), the director also made
an acting appearance.

Lee scored another success with the dramatic Jungle Fever (1991), for which he
was garnered with a Special Mention Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and a Golden
Palm nomination, both from the Cannes Film Festival. The same year, he briefly
went to the stage and produced the off-Broadway play “Folks Remembers a Missing
Page” (1991). The recipient of the 1992 Gotham’s Filmmaker award, who also guest
starred in “Ghostwriter” (1992), received positive reviews for his adaptation of
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” in the biopic Malcolm X (1992, also played
Shorty), as well as for his drama comedy Crooklyn (1994, appeared as Snuffy).

Lee continued picking up praise for his directing in such drama features as
Clockers (1995, earned a Venice Film Festival nomination, also played Chucky)
and the historical Get on the Bus (1996, collected a Berlin International Film
Festival’s Special Mention award and Golden Berlin Bear nomination). Directing
his first documentary project, Lee was wildly congratulated for 4 Little Girls
(1997), a record of the racial terrorist bombing of an African American church
in the Civil Rights Movement-era. Before long, the filmmaker won a Golden
Satellite for Best Documentary Film, as well as earned an Oscar, an Emmy and an
International Documentary Association nomination for Best Documentary. He also
received a Black Film nomination for Best Director from the Acapulco Black Film

Next, Lee directed Denzel Washington and Ray Allen in the sport drama He Got
Game (1998), helmed the acclaimed thriller Summer of Sam (1999, also acted) and
worked with Damon Wayans and Jada Pinkett Smith in Bamboozled (2000).
Additionally, he made the short documentary Come Rain or Come Shine (2001),
revived the David Benioff’s novel 25th Hour (2002) and helmed the black comedy
She Hate Me (2004), which he co-wrote with Michael Genet.

Lee, who previously received a BAFTA Special award (2002) and an American Black
Film Festival’s Innovator award (2004), made his first TV series attempt in the
miniseries “Miracle’s Boys” (2005). Recently, the moviemaker helmed the robbery
thriller Inside Man (2006, featuring Denzel Washington and Clive Owen) and the
made-for-TV documentary about the American government’s relief attempt toward
victims of Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Lee is scheduled to release the horror thriller Selling Time in 2007.


American Black Film Festival: Innovator Award, 2004
BAFTA: Special Award, 2002
Golden Satellite: Best Documentary Film, 4 Little Girls, 1998
Berlin International Film Festival: Special Mention for the Exemplary
Ensemble Acting, Get on the Bus, 1997
Gotham: Filmmaker Award, 1992
Cannes Film Festival: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention,
Jungle Fever, 1991
Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Director, Do the Right Thing,
Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Director, Do the Right Thing,
Independent Spirit: Best First Feature, She’s Gotta Have It, 1987
Cannes Film Festival: Award of the Youth for Foreign Film, She’s Gotta
Have It, 1986
Los Angeles Film Critics Association: New Generation Award, She’s Gotta
Have It, 1986
Student Academy: Merit Award for Dramatic, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We
Cut Heads, 1983
Locarno International Film Festival: Ernest Artaria Award, Joe’s Bed-Stuy
Barbershop: We Cut Heads, 1983

I don't think I'm a total pessimist, so I think you can find hope in all my films.More Spike Lee quotes [03/12/2018 02:03:32]
Racism is when you have laws set up, systematically put in a way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people. Black people have never had the power to enforce racism, and so this is something that white America is going to have to work out themselves. If they decide they want to stop it, curtail it, or to do the right thing... then it will be done, but not until then.More Spike Lee quotes [01/01/2000 12:01:00]
I miss my brother. Prince was a funny cat. Great sence of humor.More Spike Lee quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.More Spike Lee quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
What's the difference between Hollywood characters and my characters? Mine are real.More Spike Lee quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]

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