Mr. Lee, a number of your films have been termed controversial, what drives you to make a movie?
I consider myself a storyteller. I feel that is what good directors do, they are really just following criteria: is this a good story? Is this the story I want to tell? All we’re trying to do is the hard task of making interesting, thought-provoking films. I don’t choose stories based on how controversial they are… I’ve never wanted to make mindless entertainment.
Jazz musician Branford Marsalis said that when an actor once asked you about your vision for a film, you responded, “I paid you good money to act, now act, that’s my vision.”
Branford’s exaggerating a little bit, I would never tell an actor that. When they ask a question, I try to give them what they need… A lot of actors like direction so what I try to do is not over direct.
Do you think you’re often misunderstood?
There have been more occasions than not where critics review what they feel is the persona of Spike Lee, what their personal views are about me, as opposed to reviewing the film. Therefore they neglect the people who work behind the camera and those who work in front of the camera and focus on Spike Lee — to the detriment of the film.