Mar. 20th, 1957
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Spike Lee's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles2015 - Champs
2013 - 20 Feet from Stardom
2012 - Red Hook Summer
2010 - Cleanflix
2009 - PoliWood
2005 - Through the Fire
2005 - Street Fight
2000 - Michael Jordan to the Max
1999 - Summer of Sam
1997 - 4 Little Girls
1996 - When We Were Kings
1995 - Lumière et compagnie
1995 - Clockers
1994 - Crooklyn
1994 - Hoop Dreams
1992 - Malcolm X
1991 - Jungle Fever
1990 - Mo' Better Blues
1990 - Lonely in America
1989 - Do the Right Thing
1988 - School Daze
1986 - She's Gotta Have It
Guest TV Roles
Special Agent Pete
Himself - Guest
Himself - Panelist
Himself - Guest
Spike Lee was born Shelton Lee in 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from a proud and intelligent background. His father was a jazz musician, and his mother, a school teacher. His mother dubbed him Spike, due to his tough nature. He attended school in Morehouse College in Atlanta and developed his film making skills at Clark Atlanta University. After graduating from Morehouse, to go to the Tisch School of Arts graduate film program. He made a controversial short, The Answer (1980), a reworking of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) -- a ten-minute film. Lee went on to produce a 45-minute film Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983), which won a student academy award. However, success did not mean money, and Lee's next film, "The Messenger," in 1984, was somewhat biographical.
In 1986, Spike Lee made the film, She's Gotta Have It (1986), a comedy about sexual relationships. The movie was made for 175,000 dollars, and made seven million. Since then, Lee has become a well-known, intelligent, and talented film maker. His next movie was School Daze (1988), which was set in a historically black school and focused mostly on the conflict between the school and the Fraternities, of which he was a strong critic, portraying them as materialistic, irresponsible, and uncaring. With School Daze (1988) in profit, Lee went on to do his landmark film, Do the Right Thing (1989), a movie specifically about his own town in Brooklyn, New York. The movie portrayed a neighborhood (Bed-Stuy, to be exact) on a very hot day, and the racial tensions that emerge. The movie garnered an Oscar nomination, for Danny Aiello, for supporting actor. It also sparked a debate on racial relations and exactly where Lee was taking the film.
Lee went on to produce the jazz biopic Mo' Better Blues (1990), which is often considered heavy handed, but still good, and did not seem to be as controversial as his previous efforts, but showed his talent for directing and acting, and was the first of many Spike Lee films to feature Denzel Washington. His next film, Jungle Fever (1991), was about interracial dating. Lee's handling of the subject proved yet again highly controversial although it did not quite arouse the debate that similar earlier films did, such as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). Lee's next film was the self-titled biography of Malcolm X (1992), which had Denzel Washington portraying the civil rights leader. The movie was a success, and resulted in an Oscar nomination for Washington.
His next films were the comparatively light, Crooklyn (1994), and the intense crime drama, Clockers (1995). In 1996, Lee directed two movies: the badly received comedy, Girl 6 (1996), and the politically pointed, Get on the Bus (1996), about a group of men going to the Million Man March. His next film, He Got Game (1998), proved to be another excursion into the collegiate world as he shows the darker side of recruiting college athletes. The movie, in limited release, yet again featured Denzel Washington. It was well received and well liked, if for nothing else than the fine quality of acting and directing the film showed its audience.
Bamboozled (2000), proved so over the top and too much for Hollywood. The movie made a near mockery out of television and the way African-Americans are perceived by white America and the way African-Americans perceive themselves. The movie, however, was a resounding critical success.
Lee also has produced films like New Jersey Drive (1995), Tales from the Hood (1995), and Drop Squad (1994). He also has produced and or directed movies about Huey P. Newton, Jim Brown (I), and has commented in many documentaries about varied subjects.
His personal life has become somewhat well known, too. He had a relationship with Halle Berry and started a family with Tonya Lewis Lee, with whom he has two children. Lee is also known to have an obsessive love of the New York Knicks.
With pointed political messages, insightful, different and intelligent films, Spike Lee has become a well known political presence. He looks likely to have further success in the film business.
- Friend of 'Soledad O'Brien' (qv).
- Graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979.
- Was a Visiting Lecturer in Afro-American Studies and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University in the early 1990s.
- Was featured in numerous Nike campaigns in the early '90s
- The name of his production company, "40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks", came from an unfulfilled promise that many politicians made to freed slaves after the Civil War.
- His favorite movie is The Deer Hunter. It is the movie that inspired him to make movies and be a director.
- Is now (2002) the Artistic Director of the graduate division of the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The position gives Lee an advisory position, allowing him to teach and advise third year students, as well as aid with industry networking.
- The Lees bought their 9,800-square-foot Italian- palazzo-style home from Jasper Johns in 1998; it was originally built for a Vanderbilt.