When it comes to movies, Spike Lee is a lot like the rest of us. The award-winning director, writer and producer celebrated his fandom of movies at the annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City by trading cinema stories with decorated actor Alec Baldwin.
Spike began the conversation by laying down the roots of his movie fandom growing up in Brooklyn in the late '60s and '70s. While he got his love of sports from his father (Lee is a notorious Knicks fan), it was his mother that helped seed his passion for film.
“My father hated movies, so I was my mother’s movie date. The first movie she took me to was Bye Bye Birdie on Easter Sunday,” Lee said. “The opening sequence of Do The Right Thing of Rosie Perez dancing, that came from Bye Bye Birdie. Anne Margaret. I must have been like seven years old.”
Lee learned to heed his mother’s warnings about films after going to see Bonnie & Clyde on his own and admitted that he couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward because of the violence.
Though Lee insisted that he didn’t want to speak much about his own films, Baldwin did ask him if he was ever turned down by any actor he wanted to work with.
“The role of Sal, I offered to Mr. [Robert] De Niro,” Lee said of the iconic pizza shop owner from his classic Do The Right Thing, played by Danny Aiello. “But he didn’t want to do it.”
At the conclusion of the talk an audience member asked Lee what he thought of the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther and he replied, “My brother, I’ve seen it four times. And I will say that now I look at the world differently; Before Black Panther and after Black Panther. That changed everything, especially for people of color.”
Not missing a beat, Baldwin quipped. “Now wait a second. I think in these modern times we’re trying to be more sensitive and inclusive. Don’t you want to know what I think of Black Panther?” bringing out roaring laughter and applause from the crowd.
Spike Lee’s next film, BlackKKlansman, about a Black detective in Colorado who infiltrates the KKK, will be in theaters on August 10. Co-produced with Jordan Peele, Denzel Washington’s son, John David, will be starring in the film alongside Corey Hawkins and Harry Belafonte.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival