Lee Daniels Thanks God for Spike Lee

Black Academy Awards Series: Precious filmmaker gets real on Django, Oscar nods and his fellow director.

Lee Daniels at the Academy Awards nominee luncheon in 2010 (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LD: I don’t think he’s a hater. I love me some Spike. Spike Lee is the reason why I’m here now. I love me some Spike Lee! I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t inspired by him. He inspires me every day; he inspires my work with what he did to African-American cinema. He’s incredible. It’s almost a joke that people don’t recognize that. It makes my blood boil that people don’t recognize what he has brought to our cinema.

TR: Louis Gossett Jr. said to The Root that he’d like to see filmmakers like you or Spike Lee do a movie on real-life Djangos or cowboys like a Nat Love or Bass Reeves. Is that an option for you?

LD: Yeah, yeah! I got one in my repertoire coming; I got one coming. Yep, I’m developing something. It’s not during slavery but right after slavery.

TR: For years there’s been talk about blacks being excluded from the Oscars. You seem to have evaded that.

LD: It’s not about the academy. It’s about cinema being made so that it can be embraced by the academy, because when black people do their thing, we do our thing. And we’ll be given accolades for it because when we’re on, we’re really on. We have to figure out how to get it on so that we can be recognized by the academy.

The hard part is getting cinema made … Nothing is more powerful than an African-American actor at his best. Just like nothing’s more powerful than watching an African-American singer or dancer or athlete. We are the stars of what we do when we’re on. 

TR: From your perspective, why is it such a struggle to get quality black movies made?

LD: My struggle is my own struggle in life, so I can’t speak for everybody’s struggle but, rather, mine. And my struggle has not been that difficult because I just don’t take no [for an answer]. But I think that people give up — we give up easily. We don’t recognize the power that we have.

Let me be very honest: Nos have been coming in very less [often], if at all, now because I’ve got them so much in the past that I know how to dodge them, and I know exactly how to navigate and know what expectations to put on myself. And you know, mounting Precious was a difficult task. A lot of nos did come in for that film, and so now I just know what to do to avoid the nos.

Previously in the Black Academy Awards Series: Oscar Champ Sounds Off on Image Awards.

Aisha I. Jefferson is a frequent contributor to The Root. You can follow her on Twitter or visit her at aishaiman.com.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.