The director talks about movies, race, and Will Smith.
Lee: Oh, I think they would. I don't think it's the audience's fault. I'm putting that on the studio.
Slate: But people don't seem to like discord.
Lee: There is that part of the moviegoing segment, but I'm still convinced that a larger segment wants to be stimulated. People are getting tired of seeing TV shows remade, or movies from the 1950s, and comic books, and sequels. People say, well, it can't be the films; it's the video games, it's the 900 channels, it's this and that. All those things are a factor, but I think the biggest factor is that films aren't connecting with the audience. I mean, look. March of the Penguins. How much did that movie make?
Slate: A fortune.
Lee: I'm telling you, it's my belief that people went to see that film because there was nothing else to see. If there were good movies in the theater, they're not going to see a documentary about penguins.
Slate: I think you've remarked on the fact that black filmmakers like the Hughes brothers, and John Singleton, and Matty Rich all end up being pushed into the crime-action genre.
Lee: I wouldn't put Matty Rich in that category.
Slate: Well, the other guys.
Lee: Yeah, but it doesn't make me angry, because all these guys get the money to do films that aren't necessarily African-American based, which is good. They're seeing them as just filmmakers. And there's nothing wrong with doing genre films. The film I'm doing now is a genre film, you know, heist films is a genre. So you know you just try when you get those opportunities, and just hopefully you make the best films you can.
Slate: Would you like to make another film like Bamboozled, something that really just takes an issue and explodes it?
Lee: Yeah, I'm going to make films like that again, but that's not the only thing. There are many different things I want to say, I want to do, so it's not just going to be one type of film. It'd be hard to get a film like Bamboozled made, though. That film barely got made.
Lee Siegel is Slate's art critic.
Photograph of Spike Lee by Charley Gallay/LEP/Splash.