Lee to Coens, Eastwood: Do the right thing

Calls out colleagues on life, death, casting blacks

Spike Lee is in Cannes to promote his Italy-set war film "Miracle at St. Anna," but he couldn't resist taking a few swipes at some fellow directors, including Joel and Ethan Coen and Clint Eastwood.

Speaking about his World War II period drama, Lee said that unlike the Coens, he was respectful in the way he portrayed death.

"I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don't," Lee said Tuesday at a news conference. "Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It's like, 'Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!' I see things different than that."

Speaking about the casting for his tale of four black American soldiers in Tuscany during WWII, Lee said that black actors appear in war films too infrequently.

"Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen," he said. "If you reporters had any balls you'd ask him why. There's no way I know why he did that — that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It's not like he didn't know."

Lee said that "St. Anna" is in the final stages of postproduction and will be complete by the end of July, with an Oct. 10 release date likely — exactly one year after shooting started. The film's score and about 10 weeks of mixing remain before completion. He said the film is likely to premiere at a festival, either Venice or Toronto.

The filmmaker also said Tuesday that he is starting work on a documentary about basketball great Michael Jordan, set for release in early 2009. Lee and Jordan starred in a series of ads for Nike in the late 1980s and early '90s. (partialdiff)