Spike Lee says he has ‘more joints to make’ as he accepts American Cinematheque honor

The Oscar-winning director was celebrated by Hollywood royalty including Angela Bassett and Ryan Coogler

Loading the player...

Spike Lee was given a tribute at American Cinematheque’s fundraiser and the legendary director promised that there was more output to come.

The American Cinematheque usually holds its marquee fundraiser at a star-studded event. However, COVID-19 forced the event to be held virtually on Thursday evening. Still, the lack of pomp and circumstance did not take away from the celebration of Hollywood royalty as the Oscar award-winning Lee was honored with the 34th American Cinematheque Award.

Spike Lee thegrio.com
Spike Lee attends the 24th annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 13, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards)

Read More: Spike Lee says Trump has blood on his hands: ‘That’s going to be part of his legacy’

Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, who is a previous American Cinematheque honoree, hosted the 90-minute event and moderated a Q&A with Lee, Deadline reported. Some of his collaborators and luminaries appeared, including Ryan Coogler, Rosie Perez, Jonathan Majors, Angela Bassett, Ruth E. Carter, Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clarke Peters, and Norm Lewis.  

“There are filmmakers who create entertainment for the world and there are those who create commentaries for our world. Personally, I don’t know another person that so naturally and so honestly creates both time and time again,” Majors said as he presented Lee with the award. “Hopefully all artistic artists grow in their craft, Spike, but you started with compassion and guts and truth. Vision ferocious before anyone knew who you were, and passion before anyone knew that you are.”

Lee returned the affection as he accepted the honor.

“You know I love you,” he said and added, “Thank you for the support you have given me over the years. Let’s keep it going.”

Read More: Angela Bassett, Ryan Coogler to honor Spike Lee at American Cinematheque ceremony

Foster praised Lee as “magnificent” for his achievements such as helming Malcolm X and Do The Right Thing and asked how he felt about being given a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“You have to work on your craft no matter what it is — you have to work, you have to work, you have to work,” Lee, 63, said. “If you love what you are doing you can delay Father Time, so I have some more joints to make…At the very beginning, I wanted to build a body of work because I noticed the artists I admired kept building their body of work. It wasn’t just a one-and-done thing. Over the years they kept working on their craft. For me, that was the model.”

Spike Lee thegrio.com
(Credit: American Cinematheque)

Lee also acknowledged that some of his movies didn’t immediately connect with audiences. Bamboozled and 25th Hour were two examples he cited.

“But that is the great thing about DVD, Blu-rays. Sooner or later people will catch up to it. Sometimes for whatever reason, it just didn’t click upon release, but I always believe the good stuff will find an audience sooner or later.”

Lee also remembered the late Chadwick Boseman during the event.

“The character in my film Da 5 Bloods Stormin’ Norman, the way his brothers view him as like almost mythical. As Clarke Peters’ character says, ‘He’s the world’s greatest soldier.’ They revered him,” Lee said. “And so you just can’t cast anybody for that, because the way these guys are describing him, he’s mythic. So mythic you’re talking about an actor who played Jackie Robinson; the Godfather, Soul Brother No. 1, James Brown; Thurgood Marshall; then the Black Panther.”

47th AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Denzel Washington - Red Carpet
Chadwick Boseman and Spike Lee attend the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Denzel Washington at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for WarnerMedia) 610288

Lee ended the ceremony with a salute of his own to those who have worked with him.

“I want to thank anyone who has worked in front of and behind the camera with me in my four decades. You know I love you and thank you for your support over the years, and let’s keep it going.”

Ahead of the esteemed director being celebrated, he spoke exclusively with theGrio. He shared his thoughts about President Donald Trump and how he had “blood on his hands.” He also delved into why the Black community is hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As Black folks, we have historically in this country had issues with vaccines and we have to go no further than the Tuskegee experiment. But this ‘rona; this 19 is killing Black and brown people at a greater rate, more than anybody else. We make up the majority of the first responders,” he said.

“And I want to tell my Black and brown sisters and brothers, I understand that you have issues, but I’m taking the vaccine when my turn comes up. I’m not jumping the line, I’m not cutting the lines. I’m taking it because I want to be safe for my beautiful wife, Tonya, my children, and all the people I’m around.”

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...