By Spike Lee and Jason Matloff
AMMO Books, $39.95, 360 pages
In 1989, when Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing was released, it was groundbreaking. It remains one of the most important and controversial films of its era because of its raw honesty about race and class relationships, and Lee’s exacting movie-making methods. Not only did he write and produce the film, he also starred in it. It garnered both critical and popular success, and established Lee as a major director in American cinema.
Now 20 years later, Lee and Jason Matloff have published a beautiful, glossy, over-sized book called Spike Lee: Do the Right Thing. It gives an insider’s look into the process of making the film, including oral histories as remembered by different cast and crew. Many of them disagree as to what happened during filming, which makes for interesting reading. The first draft of the script is reproduced from Lee’s notes of printing on simple lined paper. This provides a fascinating peek into the way words, that look so mild on the page, came alive when performed by a cast that included Danny Aiello, Ruby Dee, John Turturro and Rosie Perez.
Finally, the photographs are worth the price of admission. Large color prints of behind-the-scenes moments capture the feel of what it was like to film on location in the middle of what can only be described as the very dangerous neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Apparently, the drug dealers were not at all happy to have their business interrupted. This is an amazing book!
Reviewed by Diane Prokop