SPIKE LEE FEATURE
Malcolm X was still a project for respected veteran white liberal director Norman Jewison. Until. that is. Spike started lobbying to take on the job himself. throwing out black playwright Charles Fuller‘s script in favour of a much earlier version by James Baldwin (whose name does not appear on the credits. at the reqest of his estate) yet retaining the already-cast Denzel Washington.
‘I read The Autobiography OfMaleolm X in junior high school and it was a revelation to me. the most important book I‘ve ever read.‘ Lee explains. ‘and although I‘m not saying that black people should direct black films and white people direct white films. there‘s a lot of 3 experience that Norman Jewison couldn‘t bring to that material. Does he know what it’s like never being able to get a cab? Does he know what it‘s like being followed around in a department store because the security guys think you‘re just there to steal?‘
‘There’s a lot of experience that Norman Jewison couldn’t bring to that material. Does he know what it’s like never being able to get a cab? Does he know what it’s like being followed around in a department store because the security guys think you’re just there to steal?’
lt‘s moments like this. when he starts to get on a roll. that you get a glimpse of the commitment. anger and self-belief that make Lee such a powerhouse in current American cinema. Sure. his talk is imbued with a certain sense of self-importance. but Malcolm X has to be recognised as one of the most important Hollywood movies of recent years. a fact that seems to have fuelled Lee in his high-profile squabbling with Warners over the budget. Having spent an agreed $28 million (though it looks like it cost more) he went to the studio asking for a further 85 million to complete post-production. but got a No. ‘For two months we were in the editing room without any money.‘ he recalls. ‘until a number of black superstars wrote some big cheques to cover us. ; Tracy Chapman. Prince. Magic Johnson. Oprah ' Winfrey. Cosby all contributed. This was not a a loan. not an investment. this was a gift. Can you imagine a white filmmaker calling up John i McEnroe. Joe Montana. Andre Agassi . . . who else‘?‘
Offering a wry smile. Spike is obviously in his ‘I‘m-in-a-roomful-of-white-folks‘ mode. but. despite the fiery opening sequence that brings together footage of the Rodney King incident. a burning American flag. and the familiar X logo. he's keen to point out that the film has actually confounded the expectations of some viewers. 'What's surprised me about the reaction is that people seem to have expected more violence. When Malcolm said at one point that white people were devils. that‘s a statement I don‘t agree with but I can understand. because there‘s a lot of evidence to back it up. And even though people thought that l was going to make some sort of diatribe against white people. that’s not finally what Malcolm‘s book is about. and that‘s not my film. Like Malcolm said later on in his life. you can‘t make a blanket statement about any group of people.‘
Malcolm X is on wide release from Friday 5 Mare/1.
Win Spike Lee’sjacket
Few films produce merchandise that is a serious fashion statement in itself, but Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is an exception - silver X’s on black backgrounds have become the design status symbol of 1993. List readers have a once-in-a-Iifetlme chance to lump ahead of the trend-setting pack by winning an official Spike Lee ‘40 Acres and a Mule’ X leather jacket (as modelled by the man himself on the contents page), which is worth over £400 and is not available anywhere else. Runners up can win themselves a new documentary biography video
(exclusive to Virgin Megastores), a soundtrack CD (featuring the likes of Arrested Development and Aretha Franklin), a Malcolm X T-shirt and a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. All these items - with the exception of the jacket - are currently bestsellers at Glasgow and Edinburgh Virgin Megastores. All you have to do is answer the following question:
Which black political leader did Denzel Washington play in Cry Freedom?
Send your answers, along with name, address, and daytime telephone number to MALCOLM X COMPETITION, The List, 14 iiigh Street, Edinburgh EH1 115, to arrive no later than Thursday 11 March.
“The List in February—l 1 March 1993 9