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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Claim to Fame
Do The Right Thing (1989)
Director, Producer, Writer
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Profile Bio Text
Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated American film director, producer, writer, and actor, noted for his films dealing with controversial social and political issues. He also teaches film at New York University and Columbia University. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.
Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Jacqueline Shelton, a teacher of arts and black literature, and William James Edward Lee III, a jazz musician, and composer. Lee moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York when he was a small child. The Fort Greene neighborhood is home of Lee`s production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, and other Lee-owned or related businesses. As a child, his mother nicknamed him "Spike." In Brooklyn, he attended John Dewey High School. Lee enrolled in Morehouse College where he made his first student film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn. He took film courses at Clark Atlanta University and graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communication from Morehouse College. He then enrolled in New York University`s Tisch School of the Arts. He graduated in 1978 with a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television.
Lee`s thesis film, Joe`s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, was the first student film to be showcased in Lincoln Center`s New Directors New Films Festival.
In 1985, Lee began work on his first feature film, She`s Gotta Have It. With a budget of $175,000, the film was shot in two weeks. When the film was released in 1986, it grossed over $7,000,000 at the U.S. box office.
She`s Gotta Have It would also lead Lee down a second career avenue. After marketing executives from Nike saw and liked the movie, Lee was offered a job directing commercials for Nike. What they had in mind specifically was pairing Lee`s character from She`s Gotta Have It, the Michael Jordan-loving Mars Blackmon, with Jordan himself as their marketing campaign for the Air Jordan line. Later, Lee would be a central figure in the controversy surrounding the inner-city rash of violence involving Air Jordans. Lee countered that instead of blaming manufacturers of apparel, "deal with the conditions that make a kid put so much importance on a pair of sneakers, a jacket and gold". Lee, through the marketing wing of his production company, has also directed commercials for Converse, Jaguar, Taco Bell and Ben & Jerry`s.
Lee`s movies have examined race relations, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and political issues. Many of his films include a distinctive use of music.
Awards, honors and nominations
Lee`s film Do the Right Thing was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1989. Many people, including some in Hollywood, such as Kim Basinger, believed that Do the Right Thing deserved a Best Picture nomination, but the movie didn`t get the nomination, and "Driving Miss Daisy" won Best Picture that year. According to Spike in an April 7, 2006 interview with New York Magazine, this hurt him more than his film not receiving the nomination.
His documentary 4 Little Girls was nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Academy Award in 1997.
On May 2, 2007, the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival honored Spike Lee with the San Francisco Film Society`s Directing Award. He was most recently named the recipient of the next Wexner Prize.
Lee has never shied away from controversial statements and actions involving race relations. In 2002, after headline-grabbing remarks made by Mississippi Senator Trent Lott regarding Senator Strom Thurmond`s failed presidential bid, Lee charged that Lott was a "card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan" on ABC`s Good Morning America.
At the 2008 Cannes Film Festival Lee, who is making Miracle at St. Anna, about about an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy during World War II, criticized director Clint Eastwood for not depicting black Marines in his own WWII film, Flags of Our Fathers. Citing historical accuracy, Eastwood responded that his film was specifically about the soldiers who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima, pointing out that while black soldiers did fight at Iwo Jima, the U.S. military was segregated during WWII, and none of the men who raised the flag were black. Eastwood also pointed out that his 1988 film Bird, about the Jazz musician Charlie Parker featured 90% black actors, and that his upcoming movie about post-apartheid South Africa will not feature a white actor in the role of Nelson Mandela, angrily saying that Lee should "shut his face". Lee responded that Eastwood was acting like an "angry old man", and argued that despite making two Iwo Jima films back to back, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, "there was not one black soldier in both of those films". In fact, black
Couple Profile Source
B.A., Mass Communications, Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia, United States (1979), M.F.A., Film Production, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States (1982)
Full Name at Birth
Sheton Jackson Lee
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Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983.
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John Dewey High School, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States
Actor, director, producer, screenwriter