This article originally appeared in
July 10, 2007
Lee says he is not part of the
By ERIC J. LYMAN
FIESOLE -- Spike Lee, in Tuscany, Italy, to scout locations for his next film
and to receive the 41st Fiesole Master of Film Award, took swings Monday at
Hollywood for its portrayal of black characters, at Washington for its foreign
policy and at the film industry in general for leaving him on the outside
Lee was introduced to a standing-room-only news conference at the Hotel
Villa San Michelle in Fiesole, just outside Florence, by town Mayor Fabio
Incatasciato and a handful of other local figures who praised the director's
work. But there was no shortage of opinions once Lee started speaking.
Said the two-time Oscar nominee, here for preproduction work on his latest
project, "Miracle at St. Anna," a $45 million World War II drama set in Italy: "My
last feature film, 'Inside Man,' was my most successful so far, and I was
naive enough to think that that meant I could go from there and make any
film I wanted to make. But I was very, very wrong about that. Anybody who
thinks that I've become part of the mainstream doesn't understand the way it
Lee sparked laughter
several times by saying
he would only win an
Oscar when he was so
old he would have to be
pushed onstage in a
threatening to fine two
cell phones rang during
the hourlong briefing.
"On my set, the rule is
that if your phone goes
off while we're shooting,
that's $50 in my pocket," he said.
Lee said "Miracle" -- which will be his first film shot mostly outside of the U.S.
-- would be the first WWII film to feature a largely black cast.
"I'm a big fan of World War II movies, but up until now I've only seen two that
featured any black soldiers," Lee said. "There was Jim Brown in 'Dirty Dozen'
and (James Edwards), who was Gen. Patton's valet in 'Patton.' I know we
can do better than that."
Commenting on Washington, Lee said there had been no war since WWII in
which the U.S. had been involved that he would consider a "just" war.
Lee said he has been to Italy at least 20 times over the past two decades
and has wanted to make a movie in the country for years. The opportunity
arose three years ago when he read the James McBride novel "Miracle at St.
"I'm a storyteller, and so I needed a story," Lee said. "I knew I had it when I
read the novel."
Lee said McBride already has produced three "strong" drafts of the
screenplay for the film, which will be filmed using U.S., Italian and German
actors, with a mostly Italian crew. Filming will take place in Tuscany, Rome's
Cinecitta Studios and New York.
Lee was well received by the Italian crowd, including Fielsole's Incatasciato,
who recalled seeing Lee's 1989 classic "Do the Right Thing" in nearby
Florence as a young man.
On Tuesday, Incatasciato will be among the dignitaries on hand to present
Lee with the Masters of Cinema Award. Traditionally a European prize given
in recognition of a director's body of work, Lee will be just the third American
awarded the prize in 41 years, joining Orson Wells (1974) and Stanley
Other notable Fiesole Master of Cinema award winners include "Death in
Venice" director Luchino Visconti (1966), master of suspense Alfred
Hitchcock (1979), Japan's Akira Kurosawa (1986), Swedish auteur Ingmar
Bergman and Wim Wenders of "Buena Vista Social Club" fame (1994).
Lee, with the author (left) and translator.
Photo: Carolina Mancini