This article originally appeared in
July 17, 2007
Lee scouting Tuscany for next film
By ERIC J. LYMAN
FIESOLE -- Sitting under a 16th century fresco of the Last Supper painted by
Tuscan Renaissance Master Nicodemo de Ferruzzi, Tuscany's newest
master, film director Spike Lee, spoke about the importance of place.
The setting was a press conference at the decadent Villa San Michele in
Fiesole, near Florence. Lee was in town to receive the 41st Fiesole Master of
Film prize, presented each year in recognition of a director's body of work.
But the 50-year-old Lee double-
dipped on a two-week trip to
Italy, using his visit to the boot-
shaped peninsula both for
functions related to the Fiesole
prize and also to scout locations
for "Miracle at St. Anna," his
latest film project that will start
shooting in Tuscany next year.
While some directors may start
out to make a film in a certain
location or set in a certain time
period, Lee said he always
starts out with a good story. But
he was quick to add that without
the right place, a story will
"I consider myself a storyteller
above all else, so the story has
to come first" Lee said in an
interview. "I'd love to make a film
in Rio de Janeiro or Paris, but it
doesn't work like that. I need a
Tuscany is a perfect example. Lee said he's made more than 20 trips to Italy
over the past two decades and has thought all along that he'd like to make a
film in the country. But before reading the James McBride novel the film is
based on in 2004, Lee never had the story he needed.
The book tells the story of a group of four black soldiers fighting in Italy
during World War II. On the run, the men get involved in a local plot to
uncover a traitor in a community of Italian partisans.
"This is a story about a lot of things, about camaraderie, about that period in
time, and about the heroism of black soldiers fighting for a country that
treated them like second-class citizens," Lee said. "But it's also about this
place, this setting. That's an essential part of the story."
Though a small part of Lee's "Malcolm X" was filmed in Egypt, this will be his
first project to be shot predominantly abroad. Filming the bulk of the film in
one of the most expensive parts of Italy with an Italian crew and high
transportation costs will surely ramp up the costs of the project, which Lee
says has a budget of about $45 million. But Lee said he never considered
trying to find an alternative location for the film that might have reduced costs
or made logistics easier.
"This story is set in Tuscany and so Tuscany is the only place it could be
filmed," he said. "Find another place that looks like the place the film is
supposed to be set? I have never filmed in Toronto and pretended it was
New York, and I'm not going to go somewhere else and pretend it is
Tuscany. I don't do that. The place has to be real."
Lee, with the Mayor of Fiesole (left) and a