Spike Lee and Crew Rein­vent the 1970s

How the team that made ‘Blackkklans­man’ cap­tured the look and feel of a past that’s not en­tirely for­got­ten

Variety - - Artisans - Story by TIM GRAY

SPIKE LEE, who co-wrote and di­rected Fo­cus Fea­tures’“blackkklans­man,” says it was not an easy movie to make, but that ev­ery­body worked to­gether. “We were all mak­ing the same film,” he ex­plains, “which doesn’t al­ways hap­pen.”

The fact-based story cen­ters on Ron Stall­worth, a black cop who went un­der­cover in Colorado Springs in the 1970s to ex­pose lo­cal Ku Klux Klan ac­tiv­i­ties. Lee pays trib­ute to some of his below-the-line col­leagues as well as to such re­spected per­form­ers as Harry Be­la­fonte, who co-stars in the film. “He’s cut al­most ev­ery­thing for me; we go way, way back. For the se­quence in­volv­ing Mr. Be­la­fonte, who brings such weight and grav­i­tas — he was in the trenches with Dr. King — Kevin [Will­mott, a co-writer] and I wanted him to talk about a real-life in­ci­dent of lynch­ing, which is the legacy of the Ku Klux Klan. There was an in­ci­dent in Waco, Texas, in 1916, with the lynch­ing of Jesse Wash­ing­ton, and there is a first-per­son ac­count wit­nessed by his best friend. And that’s who we wanted Mr. B. to play. In the se­quence, we in­cluded pho-

Set­ting the Scene

tos of lynch­ings. And we in­ter­cut this with the KKK ini­ti­a­tion of Flip [Adam Driver] as well as scenes from ‘Birth of a Na­tion.’ In film school, you’re taught that di­rec­tor D.W. Grif­fith is the father of cin­ema, and he in­vented cross-cut­ting. I for­got that! So Barry and I were us­ing some­thing that Grif­fith in­vented by show­ing mo­ments from ‘Birth,’ his movie about the Klan!”

Spike Lee di­rects Adam Driver on the set of “Blackkklans­man.”

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