Spike Lee Explains Why He Helmed a Killers Music Video: "It's a Protest Song"

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Spike Lee

Ahead of the Producers Guild Awards, Lee also discussed the timeliness of 'BlacKkKlansman' and the government shutdown.

The same night Academy voters were casting their last-minute Oscar ballots before their deadline, hopeful nominees came together at a reception in New York for one of the many awards season precursors, the Producers Guild Awards. Up for the top prize at Saturday’s ceremony is Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, but the nomination — along with the film's many other honors, starting with the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes — is just “the cherry on top,” according to Lee.

“The goal is not to be nominated. The goal is to make films of impact, and this film definitely has,” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the PGA reception. “I’m not trying to be some grandiose motherfucker like, ‘Oh, I don’t need awards.’ I’m not saying that. But what I’m saying is that, there are things more important.”

BlacKkKlansman centers on the real-life black detective Ron Stallworth, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. But the pic also traces the racism that has existed for decades in the U.S., whether subtly with chants of “America first!” during the film, or not so much, with actual footage from Charlottesville’s deadly 2017 white nationalist rally playing at the end of the story.

That the movie is timely is, according to Lee, the reason for its success. “I think it really deals with the world we live in today. I keep saying this, but it’s true — ‘The stars were in alignment.’ Everything is timing, really,” he said. “You could do anything — a great song, movie, play, novel — and one little thing in there, it’s not gonna hit. It’s not gonna have impact. It’s timing.”

To further his point, Lee cited his most recent directing gig: a music video — though he won’t call it that, instead dubbing it a “short film” after advice from Michael Jackson back in the day — for The Killers' new single, “Land of the Free.”

“[Killers lead singer] Brandon Flowers called me up," related Lee. "He saw BlacKkKlansman, said he loved it. It’s a great protest song. He said, ‘What can you do with this?’"

The track, released Monday, takes a stand against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, along with racism and gun violence. Though debates on topics like these have been ongoing since Trump took office, Lee pointed out that the song came at a particularly opportune moment — amid the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.

“Again, it’s about what’s happening. Over 800,000 Americans are on their fourth week of not receiving a check,” Lee said. “People are hurting.”

As for Trump’s role in the shutdown, Lee made his feelings clear with a straightforward metaphor. “It’s like, I remember growing up. The little kid on the block in Brooklyn, ‘Alright, if you don’t let me play, I’m taking my ball home.’ Like, take your ass home. Take your little sorry ass home. We don’t give a fuck! We’ll chip in and buy our own ball.”