The director talks about movies, race, and Will Smith.
Slate: But if you were, you wouldn't give a green light to projects like that.
Lee: Well, all I'm saying is that there would be more variety and diversity as far as subject matter. And I would hopefully see a greater picture of African-Americans' experience vs. one that's limited to comedies and hip-hop, drug, gangsta, shoot 'em up films.
Slate: You say in this book that you were really surprised that Damon Wayans could go from Bamboozled to Marci X.
Lee: That was a surprise to me. Look, I'm not in Damon's shoes. Everybody does what they want to do for their own specific reasons, but nonetheless it was still a surprise. Because Bamboozled [Lee's film about how blacks are represented—and how they represent themselves—in American entertainment] is really an indictment of that type of film.
Slate: Do you think there's a difference between a black acting style and a white acting style?
Lee: No, I'm not gonna—no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not. Nope.
Slate: Because I look at a great actor like Jeffrey Wright—do you like his stuff?
Lee: Yeah, I love Jeffrey.
Slate: And I see that he's not an actor in the mold of, say, Brando, or Sean Penn. Wright disappears into his characters like a British actor, and I see a lot of African-American actors doing that—Cuba Gooding, I think, does that also.
Lee: You're putting Cuba Gooding in the same league with Jeffrey Wright?
Lee Siegel is Slate's art critic.
Photograph of Spike Lee by Charley Gallay/LEP/Splash.