‘Red Hook Summer’ Director Spike Lee Talks HBCUs, Independent Filmmaking & Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ Anniversary

Check out extras from VIBE's interview with Spike Lee. The iconic director's latest film, Red Hook Summer hits theaters nationwide today.
Previously: Spike Lee Talks Bad Religion, Knicks, 'Red Hook Summer'

On attending Morehouse
I was raised in a very politically aware family. That was embedded in not just me, but also my brothers and sisters. ut Morehouse gave me a great foundation. It helped me throughout my life. I’m a strong proponent for Historically Black institutions who are now under, you might say attack. A lot aren’t doing well. I still think there’s a great need there. Being taught by African American faculty, people really took a deep, interest in educating and one of the things I learned at the early age was the importance of education. There’s a long line of teachers on both sides of my family. For the past 15 years, I’ve been a professor at NYU grad school, where I went.

On discovering his love of filmmaking
I was invisible until I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. And that’s when I declared my major as Mass Communications, which I took across the street at Clark College. A Clark teacher, Dr. Herb Ickleberger, for some reason took an interest in me and he’s a large hand in my being a filmmaker. He encouraged something in me that really nobody had seen then. He nurtured my interests at that time. He’s still teaching at Clark.

On doing Hollywood films versus independent
I’m an independent filmmaker who also works in Hollywood. It’s not an either/or. My first film was She’s Gotta Have It in 1986. I raised the money myself. And for my latest film Red Hook Summer, I raised the money for that myself. So I feel comfortable working as an independent filmmaker and in Hollywood.

On great, realistic Black women’s dialogue
That didn’t come from my sister. My [dialogue between Black women] comes from listening. To write dialogue, period, you have to be a good listener. I am a good listener. You just listen to what people are talking about. You hang around any Black women and eventually the subject will turn to Black men. In Jungle Fever, a lot of that was improv. We talked about it and we made sure that certain things were going to hit and we just put the slate in and then the ladies just went off.

On hosting dinners with President Obama
For Tonya and I to come together and raise money for Barack Obama, that’s a plus. That’s totally different than posing on the cover, the hot new couple… Look, if that’s what people want to do, that’s up to them. I will say that marriage, you gotta work at it. If you want longevity, you really have to work it.

On working with Denzel Washington
I always go back to the Denzel story on Malcolm X where there was one scene with a speech. All of the speeches in the film were verbatim from Malcolm’s own speeches. There was one speech were he was doing a great performance and then it was an eight-page speech and I was about to yell cut because he was at the conclusion of the speech and Denzel kept going. And everything he was saying was perfect and it was like a magical mystical moment were Malcolm’s spirit was in Denzel and he went on for another two minutes. I finally had to call cut because there was no more film in the 35 mm magazine. And the whole cast was shocked and amazed because we were seeing the reincarnation of Malcolm X right before our eyes. Afterward, I meekly, sheepishly went over to Denzel because I was still spooked and I said, “Do you know what you just said? Do you know that you went on for another two minutes after the script? Do you know what you said?” He said, “I can’t tell you what I said.” He couldn’t remember. Denzel is the smartest actor out today. He understood that when you play a role of someone that walked the earth, it’s more than looking or sounding like them. Those things are very superficial. Denzel understood that he had to get his vessel to a place where he could be receptive to the spirit of Malcolm. And that’s what he did in that role.

On not getting an award for Malcolm X
We’re not going to get into that.

On Samuel L. Jackson
When we were doing pre-production on Jungle Fever, I didn’t know that Sam was taking Halle to his old spots. I was very naïve. I didn’t know that Sam had just come out of rehab. Everyone knew but me. He was phenomenal. Halle Berry came in two or three times and I just wasn’t buying it. She just didn’t look like a two-dollar crack ho. The third time she came in all disheveled and that’s when she got the part. And I’m not saying this because it was my film, but that was her best performance. She dated Wesley. Halle Berry and I never held hands, no nothing.

On “Niggas In Paris,” Watch The Throne and hip-hop today
A lot of people don’t give a fuck what I have to say and that’s all right, but in my opinion that’s a monumental album. It’s a monumental collaboration. I saw them in New York twice and saw them in L.A. Took my son to London for his birthday to see it because my son Jackson is a Kanye West head. I think that Watch The Throne is their viewpoint on what’s happening today. I’m just saying, people might talk about the opulence but I’m a fan of both of them.

On the directing a documentary on the 25th anniversary of Bad
We’re talking to the musicians, engineers, singers--the people who were with Michael, the people who helped sell the record. The biggest surprise to me was filming Martin Scorsese watch what he directed in “Bad” because he hasn’t watched it in 25 years.

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Taraji P. Henson Criticized For Comparing R. Kelly And Harvey Weinstein

Taraji P. Henson is under fire after she appeared to compare the backlash and response surrounding the sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein. Henson seemed to question why Kelly was being slammed more than Weinstein, and Twitter users were not happy about her argument to say the least.

Henson shared her thoughts on her Instagram Stories on Tuesday (Jan. 22). She shared a series of videos, first of her looking up the hashtag and fan pages under "Mute R. Kelly." To no surprise, she found a handful of pages advocating for the complete dismissal of R. Kelly.

I love me some Taraji but GIIIIIIRRRRRLLLLLLAAAAAAAA. Make it make sense. pic.twitter.com/qBtYuwpio0

— sie (@NOPussBoys_) January 22, 2019

She then searched for similar tags and pages for Weinstein, but was unsuccessful. She also looked up pages under his full name to no avail. Henson then shared an emoji along with a simple "hmmm." The message suggested that she was confused as to why Weinstein and Kelly – both of whom have been accused of sexually abusing dozens of women through their career – were not receiving the same backlash. It appeared her argument regarding the discrepancy might have something to do with race.

Twitter users were not persuaded by Henson's thesis however. Surviving R. Kelly show-runner, dream hampton promptly responded to Henson's story, saying, "no idea why Taraji Henson wouldn't know that there are not one, but two projects abt Harvey Weinstein. But this is an oft-invoked deflection. While I care abt the Hollywood stars Weinstein abused, I care more abt Asante, Kitty, Jerhona, Lisette, Azriel & Joy & others, even more." Others criticized the actress for not acknowledging the black women and girls who had allegedly been abused by Kelly throughout the years.

While there may not be pages about muting Weinstein on Instagram, the Hollywood mogul is facing consequences for his heinous actions. Weinstein was forced to step down from his company, and he was arrested in May 2018 and charged with "rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women." He later made bail but was mandated to surrender his passport and wear an ankle monitor.

Check out the Twitter reactions to Taraji P. Henson's comments below.

No idea why Taraji Henson wouldn't know that there are not one, but two projects abt Harvey Weinstein. But this is an oft-invoked deflection. While I care abt the Hollywood stars Weinstein abused, I care more abt Asante, Kitty, Jerhona, Lisette, Azriel & Joy & others, even more.

— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) January 22, 2019

All of us watching Taraji’s instastory pic.twitter.com/VbcmMY3t7U

— Kayla Marie (@Maria_Giesela) January 22, 2019


— fads (@azuIair) January 22, 2019

Yall.....Taraji P Henson done lost her entire mind....I... pic.twitter.com/8CuLCy19h2

— future librarian ♏️ (@blkbravado) January 22, 2019

Harvey Weinstein has been booked, charged, etc. the purpose of #MuteRKelly is to silence his music. For him to be held accountable for his actions. I really need taraji to know better. Unbelievable.

— Krissy Brierre-Davis (@krissys_kitchen) January 22, 2019

Taraji is dumb ass bricks. She really tried to compare mute R. Kelly hashtags to Mute Harvey Weinstein! News flash, Taraji, Harvey is about to go to trial. There are people willing to testify against him. His businesses and career are DONE! R. Kelly is still out here functioning!

— Where Is Yo Scoota? Where Is It?! (@AshleyShyMiller) January 22, 2019

Taraji, why? pic.twitter.com/6a4CenaNg3

— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) January 22, 2019

1. Why would “Mute” apply to people who aren’t in the music industry?2. Weinstein has several documentaries coming about his allegations. 3. Weinstein is also going to trial over his allegations. 4. Between Taraji and Erykah “What Men Want” is a no go. pic.twitter.com/DLzvq32VKy

— M’BlockU (@rodimusprime) January 22, 2019

I wanna have a conversation about women Taraji's/Erykah's age and their obsession with "being a man's peace/shield/sponge because society brings them down enough" but I've already hit my 1 thread a day limit.

— Mári 🇵🇷 (I'm Black. This isn't hard.) (@_ItsMarisWorld_) January 22, 2019


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Kelly Rowland Becomes Gladys Knight For 'American Soul'

Kelly Rowland will reprise a multi-episode role as Gladys Knight on BET's newest series, American Soul.

The forthcoming series explores Don Cornelius' journey to creating Soul Train, the first nationally-syndicated show centered around black music, chronicling the uphill battling with record labels and off-camera drama with dancers, artists and more. The '70s set also painted pictures of the racially charged issues that plagued that generation.

It's almost as if the black entertainment channel is creating a Destiny's Child reunion, because Michelle Williams has been announced as the series' Diana Ross.

In a first look clip provided to VIBE, Cornelius is seen pitching the idea to a seemingly uninterested Knight (Rowland). The Chi-town DJ wants to create a show centered around black singer, dancer and performers.

"I’m talking about a national television show written, produced, and owned by black folks. I’m talking about bringing us — not whitewashed, not toned down, but us — into millions of homes, like it or not,” Cornelius' character says to Knight. Non-spoiler alert: Knight would eventually go on to be the first guest on Soul Train if history is any indication.

American Soul will premiere Feb. 5 on BET at 9 pm ET/PT on BET. Watch Kelly Rowland bring Gladys Knight's character to life in American Soul above.

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Spike Lee Earns Six Academy Award Nominations For 'BlacKkKlansman'

It’s been long overdue, but Spike Lee is finally an Oscar-nominated director for 2018’s acclaimed BlacKkKlansman. In addition to being nominated for Best Director, Lee earned six nominations in total, The Los Angeles Times reports.

According to CNN, the Brooklyn director will compete against Black Panther, Green Book, VICE, A Star Is Born and Netflix’s Roma for the Best Picture category. Adam Driver who stars in BlacKkKlansman alongside John David Washington is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The film is also being nominated for Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.


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A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on Jan 22, 2019 at 7:00am PST

In 1990, Lee was nominated for Best Original Screenplay of his classic Do The Right Thing and in 1998 he was nominated for Best Documentary for 4 Little Girls. Previously, Lee has been critical of the Academy for its lack of diversity in their nominations. In 2016, when Hollywood experienced a boycott for the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Lee spoke about the conundrum with a grain of salt.

"We talk about the lack of diversity at the Oscars almost every year. Last year people were calling me about Selma and now they are calling me again," he told VIBE. "Every 10 years we get the nominations….but the other nine years we get a drought. But I had to learn the hard way. If your sh*t is good it’s going to stand the test of time. I have to draw up my own history with Do The Right Thing. You know what film won Best Picture in 1989?"

Lee also earned an honorary award at the Academy in 2015. The Oscars will take place on Feb. 24 at The Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

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