Spike Lee doesn’t like to be considered a spokesman for black filmmakers, and it shows. He has clearly been expected to ‘get political’ with probing journalists for almost a couple of decades, and now it’s his turn to call the shots. Sauntering down the line of overexcited hacks, he wants to talk about his new film, The 25th Hour, and little else.
Fair enough, this is the premiere after all, so it probably deserves a mention. But where’s the racial angst that so dominates a lot of his work? ‘I do stories I wanna tell,’ he says, gazing at me, dozily. ‘Just ‘cos it’s full of white people ain’t gonna stop me telling the story’.
That’s another thing about Spike. He’s sleepy. Those droopy eyelids hang somewhat disconcertingly over the upper half of his pupils. Wake up Spike, let’s get down to some issues! Why such a deliberated effort to portray a post 9/11 New York in your film? There is silence for a moment. Spike?
I assume, incorrectly, this is the lull before the storm. It is in fact merely another short nap. ‘I’m a New-Yorker,’ he says on waking, ‘so I think it shouldn’t be overlooked’.
Spike has freshened up a little after the film, and does a surprisingly good George W. Bush impression. He turns to the auditorium and demands, ‘Where are the weapons of mass destruction?’ to rapturous applause. Then silence.
Clearly the audience doesn’t know. But Spike is now excited, and we get a glimpse of the attitude that fuels his filmmaking. Now he wants to address the issues he politely avoided in the VIP room.
‘We thought it was necessary to put references to Bin Laden in the film… What happened to this guy? The United States is very slick, and once he disappeared I knew that very soon they’d pick the next bogie man, so they went through the book and, oh this guy tried to kill my father, ok he’ll do.’ He is suddenly animated, like a demented wizard. ‘Hocus pocus… Bin Laden has gone! Hocus pocus. Saddam is here! Hocus pocus. The weapons of mass destruction have gone!’
Mid-flow Spike is distracted by a raised hand in the audience. ‘Do you fancy making a sci-fi movie?’ The moment has gone. ‘Not really’, he says looking sleepy again.