I had the opportunity to interview Spike Lee while I was at Toronto, where he and his cast presented the world premiere of Miracle at St. Anna. Mr. Lee has a reputation of being a tough and confrontational interview subject, but in his interview with me – the first after his press conference – he put me right at ease. Which was great, as I was coming off a sick day and was still not up to snuff. I didn’t feel well prepared and if he noticed, he never made an issue of it.
My interview with Spike Lee is in the P-I:
Seattle P-I: It’s clear in the first scenes of the soldiers marching through the marsh in Tuscany that many of them were poorly trained and completely unprepared for battle.
Lee: A lot of people didn’t get the training they needed, they were stuck in places where they were just fodder for the Nazis, to soften them up. In no way should they have gotten that high number of casualties. To be honest, the white commanders, General Almond (played in the movie by Robert John Burke), which those guys hated, had low regard for them as soldiers and as human beings and they were treated as such.
The four black American soldiers were like aliens to the Italian villagers, yet some of them had a lot in common, especially in terms of the centrality of religion in their lives.
Well, there’s commonality between human beings, even where you think there would not be, and that’s what makes interesting cinema. These Italian villages have never seen blacks before, these Buffalo Soldiers have never been in a foreign country and can’t speak Italian. There’s no way in the world they’re going to be able to communicate with each other, but that wasn’t the case.
Is there a reason you cast actors who are not well known to general audiences in your lead roles?
We wanted an ensemble piece. But, to be honest, it wasn’t like that at first. At first, Wesley Snipes was supposed to play Derek Luke’s role and Terrence Howard was supposed to play Michael Ealy’s role. It did not work out with Wesley because of the IRS and Terrence Howard was a scheduling problem. But it worked out for the best.
Read the complete interview here.
I also interview Tim Robbins about his new film, The Lucky Ones, where he plays an Iraq veteran trying to get home after his tour of duty is over.
The outspoken Robbins consciously avoided politics while talking about the film, as if he didn’t want his own views to get in the way of the film’s non-partisan story. “There’s a wide spectrum of people in the military. They don’t all think the same way, and I have a deep respect for people who make that kind of sacrifice.”
On the script:
One of the things that I responded to immediately with the script was that this story had a very human feel to it and had compassion for the struggle and the challenge for returning home to the country after serving overseas. That’s a story that I think is important to tell.
On supporting the troops:
I think it’s important that we understand that part of support for the troops is advocacy when they return. … There are an awful lot of challenges facing people coming home and I would hope the film perhaps makes people more sensitive to some of the needs of our veterans.
On his career choices:
I was offered many dolt-headed guys after “Bull Durham,” for lots of money, and didn’t find that to be something I wanted to do. I’m an actor, so I want to play different kinds of roles. I understand that’s not the road to multimillion-dollar contracts, but I’m not complaining. I have a very nice life and I’m very fortunate to have the outlets that I have.
Read the “Moment with” interview here.