Spike Lee doesn’t want to get into the whole drama with Boots Riley after the Sorry to Both You director laid into his recent work, Blackkklansman. By doing so, Lee believes it’ll only further “dilute the message” of his film.
In an interview with the UK Times, Lee said he’s “done” beefing with other filmmakers and celebrities: “I’m a young chap, a young man aged 61, but before I was an even younger chap. Now when I get a hint that this stuff is maybe going to dilute the message of my film, I know it is not going to do me any good to comment.”
Days earlier, Riley had posted an essay on social media criticizing Lee’s work on Blackkklansman for taking creative liberties with the based-on-a-true-events premise. While this may be a common practice in Hollywood, Riley claimed it was done to paint a more positive image of law enforcement at a time when “people of color deal with actual physical attacks and terrorizing due to racism and racist doctrines” from police “on a day-to-day basis” — among other points of contention.
“Well, I’m not going to comment on that,” Lee said when prompted. “Look at my films: they’ve been very critical of the police, but on the other hand I’m never going to say all police are corrupt, that all police hate people of color. I’m not going to say that. I mean, we need police.”
Lee famously got into a spat with Clint Eastwood for leaving out black soldiers from two of Eastwood’s war films. Now, Lee continued his new approach.
“Unfortunately, police in a lot of instances have not upheld the law; they have broken the law. But I’d also like to say, sir, that black people are not a monolithic group,” he said. “I have had black people say, ‘How can a bourgeois person like Spike Lee do Malcolm X?'”
Blackkklansman stars John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, who resolves to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Adam Driver plays Flip Zimmerman, Ron’s recruit to assist the undercover operation of a lifetime. The film is based on Stallworth’s 2014 book Black Klansman: A Memoir.
Riley acknowledged Lee “has been a huge influence” on him as a filmmaker. Nevertheless, he wrote, “I’m not gonna hold my tongue.”