Spike Lee is a filmmaker who likes to speak his mind very clearly and forcefully. You probably knew that if you saw one of his movies, which on the big screen can be downright exhilarating. But these days, Lee has no plans of going to a movie theater or any other major public gathering until there is a vaccine to deal with the current coronavirus pandemic.
“They ain’t doing a thing,” Lee told Vanity Fair while discussing COVID-19’s effect on the movie industry and movie theaters. “I know I’m not going to a movie theater. I know I’m not going to a Broadway show. I know I’m not going to Yankee Stadium…. Corona is a bitch. Corona is not playing. You fuck around, you’re going to get killed, you’re going to die. I’m not ready to go.”
As a filmmaker Lee seems ever ready to adapt with the times. After finally winning an overdue competitive Oscar for his BlacKkKlansman screenplay, Lee is putting his next film Da 5 Bloods on Netflix. That movie, which is a Vietnam War story told from the vantage of men of color returning to the jungle they spent their youth fighting in as soldiers, is set to premiere on the streaming service on June 12. And for the film after that, Lee is set to adapt a graphic novel, Prince of Cats, at Legendary Pictures. That movie was originally planned to shoot this summer, but as the director told Vanity Fair, the picture is also on pause until there’s a vaccine.
“It’s Romeo and Juliet during the age of hip-hop,” Lee said. “It takes place in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, New York. I was supposed to be shooting that this summer in New York. Not this summer.”
Lee’s adamant refusal to enter movie theaters is unexpectedly candid for a filmmaker in an industry that is largely desperate to get theaters up and running. Christopher Nolan is now famously eager to see his time-bending sci-fi epic, Tenet, keep its July 17 release date as a beacon to encourage folks to return to movie theaters. It’s a noble sentiment, especially as the theatrical exhibition model appears to be in the midst of crisis, leading to major theatrical chains like AMC Theatres issuing public threats aimed at major studios, such as Universal Pictures, who are releasing major content on VOD.
Of course with no one really knowing how long this crisis will continue, perhaps Lee’s prudent wait and see approach has merit.