Spike Lee Biography

SPIKE LEE is a notable Writer, Director, Producer, Actor, and Author who revolutionized both the landscape of independent cinema and the role of black talent in film. Widely regarded as a premiere African-American filmmaker, Lee is a forerunner in the ‘do it yourself’ school of filmmaking.

Currently in production on the Korean film "OLD BOY". Spike's most recent works are “Red Hook Summer” a feature film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012 and the documentary celebrates Michael Jackson's successful studio album, Bad 25". Which premiered international at the Venice Film Festival.  Previous to this he released the Peabody Award winning documentary sequel, “If God’s Willing and The Creek Don’t Rise,” which revisits the recently storm-ravaged Gulf Coast region as residents attempt to rebuild in their cities while also demanding assistance and accountability from their political leaders. This film comes on the heels of 2006’s “When the Levees Broke,” the groundbreaking first documentary that followed the plight of Americans stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  

Set in 1944, Lee’s 2008 theatrical release “Miracle At St. Anna” follows the story of four black American soldiers, members of the all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Division in the US army, while trapped behind enemy lines in Tuscany, Italy during World War II. An avid sports enthusiast, Lee also completed a one day 18 camera documentary shoot focusing on NBA standout Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Produced for ESPN, the unique piece is entitled "Kobe- Doin Work."  Another recent project, “Passing Strange” – the critically acclaimed Broadway musical - explores the travels of a young African American musician in search of himself.  Passing Strange debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.

Other critical and box office successes have included such films as “Inside Man,” “25th Hour,” “The Original Kings of Comedy,” “Bamboozled,” and “Summer of Sam,” Lee’s films “Girl 6,” “Get On the Bus,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Clockers” display his ability to showcase a series of outspoken and provocative socio-political critiques that challenge cultural assumptions, not only about race, but class and gender identity as well. 

His debut film, the independently produced comedy “She’s Gotta Have It,” earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film festival in 1986 and set him at the forefront of the Black New Wave in American Cinema. His second feature, the very profitable and critically acclaimed “School Daze,” helped launch the careers of several young Black actors. Lee’s timely 1989 film, “Do the Right Thing,” garnered an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film and Director awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.  Lee’s “Jungle Fever”, “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Clockers,” and “Crooklyn” were also well received by critics and fans alike.  His epic drama “Malcolm X,” starring Denzel Washington, received two Academy Award® nominations. 

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Brooklyn, Lee returned south to attend Morehouse College.  After graduation, he returned to Brooklyn to continue his education at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts in Manhattan, where he received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in film production.  He founded 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, based in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, where he has resided since childhood.  

In addition to his film achievements, Lee has produced and directed numerous music videos for diverse artists including Chaka Khan, Tracy Chapman, Anita Baker, Public Enemy, Bruce Hornsby and Michael Jackson.  His other music videos include work for the late Miles Davis and Phyllis Hyman, Naughty by Nature and Arrested Development.

Lee’s commercial work began in 1988 with his Nike Air Jordan campaign.  Collaborating with basketball great Michael Jordan on several commercials, Lee resurrected his popular character, Mars Blackmon from “She’s Gotta Have It.” He has also completed a PSA for UNCF entitled “Two Michaels,” which also features Michael Jordan.  Lee is also well known for his Levi’s Button-Fly 501, AT&T and ESPN television commercials. His other commercial ventures include TV spots for Philips, Nike, American Express, Snapple and Taco Bell.  Lee has also directed several Art Spot Shorts for MTV and a short film featuring Branford Marsalis and Diahnne Abbott for Saturday Night Live.  

Lee is also involved in documentaries and sports programs. He completed the Emmy- and Oscar®-nominated documentary “4 Little Girls” for HBO and received an Emmy Award for his piece on Georgetown’s John Thompson for HBO/Real Sports.  

Additionally, Lee has authored six books on the making of his films.  The fifth book, “Five For Five,” served as a pictorial reflection of his first five features.  He then followed up with “Best Seat in the House,” authored with Ralph Wiley. Lee co-authored a children’s book entitled, “Please, Baby Please” with his wife Tonya Lewis Lee, and most recently authored a retrospective book about his film career entitled, “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking To It.”

Ever moving into new areas, Spike Lee has combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture: partnering with DDB Needham, he created Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency.

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