Honored in Tuscany, Lee has gripes amid grapes

Bashes H'wood and Washington

Spike Lee, in Tuscany to scout locations for his next movie and to receive the 41st Fiesole Master of Cinema Award, took swings Monday at Hollywood for its portrayal of black characters, at Washington for its foreign policy and at the film industry in general for leaving him on the outside looking in.

Lee was introduced to a standing-room-only news conference at the Hotel Villa San Michelle in Fiesole, just outside Florence, by town Mayor Fabio Incatasciato and a handful of other local figures who praised the director's work.

Once Lee began speaking, there was no shortage of opinions.

Said the two-time Oscar nominee, here for preproduction work on his latest project, "Miracle at St. Anna," a $45 million World War II drama set in Italy: "My last feature film, 'Inside Man,' was my most successful so far, and I was naive enough to think that meant I could go from there and make any film I wanted to make. But I was very, very wrong about that. Anybody who thinks that I've become part of the mainstream doesn't understand the way it works."

Lee sparked laughter by saying he would only win an Oscar when he was so old he would have to be pushed onstage in a wheelchair.

Lee said "Miracle" — which will be his first film shot mostly outside of the U.S. — would be the first WWII film to feature a largely black cast.

"I'm a big fan of World War II movies, but up until now I've only seen two that featured any black soldiers," Lee said. "There was Jim Brown in 'Dirty Dozen' and (James Edwards), who was Gen. Patton's valet in 'Patton.' I know we can do better than that."

On Washington, Lee said there has been no war since WWII in which the U.S. had been involved that he would consider a "just" war.

Lee said he has been to Italy at least 20 times during the past two decades and has wanted to make a movie in the country for years. The opportunity arose three years ago when he read the James McBride novel "Miracle at St. Anna."

Lee said McBride already has produced three "strong" drafts of the screenplay for the film, which will be filmed using U.S., Italian and German actors and a mostly Italian crew.

Today, Fiesole mayor Incatasciato will be among the dignitaries on hand to present Lee with the Master of Cinema Award. Lee will be just the third American awarded the prize in 41 years, joining Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick.