Spike Lee Looks at the World Differently After 'Black Panther'

During a Tribeca Talks panel with Alec Baldwin, the filmmaker spoke about the hit Marvel movie and his upcoming 'BlacKkKlansman.'
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Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee

Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee didn't want to spend an hour on the Tribeca Film Festival stage discussing their own movies. Instead, they each picked one favorite film to kick off a wide-ranging conversation that touched on their New York upbringing, crafts as an actor and director, respectively, and the game-changing Black Panther.

Baldwin, who led the conversation in downtown New York City on Tuesday night, picked 1954's On the Waterfront, starring one of his young acting idols Marlon Brando, as his movie of choice, while Lee chose 1951's A Place in the Sun — starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters. 

The conversation, which ran longer than an hour, was capped by questions from the audience. After hearing Lee and Baldwin discuss the ever-present theme of racial injustice in Lee's work and his lifelong journey as a black filmmaker, one audience member wanted to know what Lee thought about Black Panther — Marvel's nearly all-black superhero movie that continues to make box-office history.

"My brother," Lee responded with a pause, "I've seen it four times. And I will say, I look at the world now differently — before Black Panther and after Black Panther. That changed everything, especially for people of color."

The Tribeca audience broke out into applause. Baldwin then piped in to say to more cheers and laughs, "I think in these modern times where we're trying to all be more sensitive and more inclusive, don't you want to know what I think?"

To which the audience member jokingly replied: "I was actually going to ask you about Infinity War."

Disney's and Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War, opening this weekend, is expected to score the top domestic debut of all time for a superhero pic. The tentpole is a superhero mashup that includes the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and his army, along with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), as they join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew to stop the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin).

The Avengers holds the record for the biggest superhero launch with $207.4 million, followed by Black Panther's $202 million. They are the only two superhero films to have crossed $200 million in a debut weekend.

During Baldwin's and Lee's chat, the pair did inevitably touch on some of their own projects, with Lee revealing that Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro was actually his first choice to play the starring role of Sal (played by Danny Aiello) in his 1989 classic Do the Right Thing. Lee also reflected on what it was like to direct Denzel Washington in his 1992 biopic Malcolm X — the actor prepared for one full year for his role — and Baldwin brought out a string of on-the-nose impressions when sharing stories about some of his acting idols.

Another audience question prompted Lee to tease his upcoming film, BlacKkKlansman, which will premiere at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and hit theaters Aug. 10. The movie is based on the real-life story of Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colo., who went undercover in 1978 to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. The film stars John David Washington, son of Denzel, as Stallworth and Adam Driver as his partner.

Baldwin also appears in the film, Lee announced to applause.

"Ron Stallworth is reading the paper, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Klan put an add in the paper that they needed new members," Lee explained. "Ron Stallworth thinks that it's a goof so he calls up and, thinking it's a joke, leaves his real name and phone number on a voicemail — and the Klan calls back. They say, 'We want you to come down.'"

He continued, "Since he's an African American, he can't really show up for the interview. He has to get a white police officer to play him, and that's Adam Driver."

Watch the conversation in full below.

 
TRIBECA TALKS: STORYTELLERS - ALEC BALDWIN WITH SPIKE LEE

Watch Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee LIVE for a special #Tribeca2018 conversation as part of Tribeca Talks: Storytellers. This is gonna be good...

Posted by Tribeca on Tuesday, April 24, 2018