Hollywood campaigned hard for President Donald Trump’s ouster, but most have been holding back the spirit of celebration until he’s finally shown the door on January 20. Spike Lee is popping the cork early.
It’s been a good year for director, who took the number one slot for Netflix streamers with his acclaimed summer hit Da 5 Bloods and promptly followed it with one of the fall’s most ubiquitous festival bookings: his live performance film of David Byrne’s Broadway show American Utopia. The events of early November 7 were just the icing on the cake—the day the 2020 election was called in Joe Biden’s favor, much to the dismay of President Donald Trump. “Oh, I’m on Instagram popping a bottle of prosecco,” Lee tells Deadline in an upcoming edition of our print publication AwardsLine. “OK, it wasn’t champagne, it was handed to me. But it was a glorious day. It’s very sad that this guy is still saying that he won and trying to dismantle democracy and his gangsters, co-conspirators, won’t acknowledge it, a lot of them. I would say [his presidency] was a goddam shame and history is not going to be very kind to Agent Orange.”
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Lee’s disdain for Trump should be well documented by now: Trump makes a grim cameo at the incendiary climax of Lee’s 2018 Oscar-winner BlacKkKlansman and is witheringly referred to as “President Bone Spurs” in Da 5 Bloods. Joking aside, however, Lee warns that it’s still too soon to be complacent about the president’s defeat.
“Look, here’s the thing,” he says. “No matter how bad we talk about Agent Orange, it’s even a more condemning comment on Americans as a country that 70 million people voted for that guy. That’s a comment on an America that is OK with the president saying all Mexicans are rapists, murderers and drug dealers. That’s 70 million people who believe it’s OK if you separate mothers from their newly born sons and daughters, many still breastfeeding, and not putting anything in place that could reconnect parent with child. There are presently over 500 children where this current administration cannot find their parents. The UN should look into that shit. That’s one of the highest immoral acts: separating mother from infant child. Who does that? Nazis? Slave owners? That’s fuckin’ shameful. That’s a fuckin’ disgrace, and a terrible mark on American democracy.”
Lee says that he sees this alarming trend as inevitable, the long-term outcome of Trump’s divisive and inflammatory policies, which predate his 2016 election win by some years. “It’s my belief, and a lot of other people’s belief, that what you’ve seen with the rise of Agent Orange was a reaction, a direct reaction to eight years of Obama—Agent Orange, who started that lie from the get-go that my dear brother, number 44, Barack Hussein Obama was not an American citizen. People forget about that, man. That was a big thing, that birther thing. People are forgetting about that. The election, this recent election, is a direct reaction to the last years of holy hell with Agent Orange.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lee doesn’t see the transition being handled peacefully. “This guy is still in office and he still has the nuclear codes,” he says, “and it’s highly conceivable that he’s going to start another war. This guy is not going to go out with a whimper, he’s going to go out with a bang. I’m a realist. I just hope that the generals gave him a fake code.” He laughs uproariously. “Gave him the bogus, fugazi numbers. Gave him numbers he can remember, like, one, two, three, four.”
Being a realist, however, doesn’t make him a pessimist—asked for his hopes for the new year, he replies, “That the world becomes humane. That everybody, those who want to, takes the vaccine, and we learn from the mistakes that were made during this pandemic.” He also enthuses about his next project: a musical about Viagra, how it was invented and how it came to market. “It’s a great story. I’ve been wanting to do a musical for a long time, I just didn’t have the idea, with the exception of making my second film School Daze  into a Broadway musical. So when the script was brought to my attention, it was the right script at the right time. I mean, I know I’ve had musical elements—there’s a great musicality—in my films. I’m talking about a straight-up all-singing all-dancing musical. God willing, that’s what this next film is going to be.”
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