Putting Spike on the Spot; Filmmaker Spike Lee Jousts with NEWSWEEK's David Ansen about Lee's Latest Joint, 'She Hate Me'

Newsweek, August 16, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Putting Spike on the Spot; Filmmaker Spike Lee Jousts with NEWSWEEK's David Ansen about Lee's Latest Joint, 'She Hate Me'


Byline: David Ansen

In "She Hate Me," Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), a VP at a pharmaceutical company, is fired after he blows the whistle on his corrupt bosses. Jobless, he accepts an offer from ex-fiancee turned lesbian Fatima (Kerry Washington) to impregnate her and her girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez). Soon Jack's servicing lesbians for $10,000 a pop. Meanwhile he's subpoenaed by the FCC for his role in the corporate scandal.

DAVID ANSEN: Your new movie is very ambitious. It takes on an enormous range of subjects. And though it's almost two and a half hours long, I was never bored--partly because I had no idea where it was going to go next. First I'm watching a story of corporate greed and whistle-blowing--with obvious parallels to Enron, etc.--then there's a scene where our hero runs into his ex-girlfriend...

SPIKE LEE: Ex-fiancee.

... ex-fiancee, sorry, who has become a lesbian. And all of a sudden it's a kind of sex comedy about a guy getting paid to impregnate lesbians.

Uh-huh.

I wrote down in my notes, "What happened to the corporate satire?"

Uh-huh.

I know that in your mind the two connect on a metaphorical level, but it didn't compute for me.

I can explain it. What we're trying to do is [talk about] someone's moral compass. I mean, he had to have morals--scruples, ethics--to blow the whistle. But when you blow the whistle, they're going to come after you, there's going to be ramifications. And then you're forced to switch to survival mode, and your moral compass goes askew. I liked that complexity. Once he got in a jam, he had to accept impregnating these lesbians. That was, in my mind, the connection between the two things.

You've also got the story of Jack's parents, flashbacks to Watergate and John Turturro as a Mafia don and Monica Bellucci as his lesbian daughter. I don't think you needed the Mafia. And it was hard for me to believe Turturro as her father. How old is Turturro?

He's, like, my age--47. How old is Monica?

She's in her late 30s.

He had her young! [Laughter ] We wanted to make the correlation between the Mafia and white-collar crime. But, also, I've had a lot of interactions between African-Americans and Italian-Americans in my films--"Do the Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Summer of Sam." Now, is that scene essential to the movie? No. It's like flavor, is how I see it.

I wasn't clear what your attitude was about Jack's fathering all these kids. I mean, what if he had donated his sperm to the lesbians instead of actually having intercourse with them?

But that's not cinematic. I don't want to shoot women with, you know, their legs up in the air.

OK, but there are a couple of problems here. You have a montage where all the women are having great orgasms. It's funny, and I laughed. But another part of me said, "Wait a minute, does Spike Lee know any lesbians? Why are they all having these great orgasms with a man?"

It's not all of them--remember, there was a woman who went to Smith, and she was not happy. You had the Indian woman--she was like a bump on a log. And the other women--the one who was banging his head against the headboard--she wasn't having an orgasm, she was just power-tripping. Sure, the film exaggerates, but not every single woman is having an orgasm.

What kind of reaction have you had from lesbians?

I'll tell you.

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