Believe it or not, it has been 25 years since we met Mookie, Sal, Da Mayor, Radio Raheem, Buggin’ Out and the crew on a blisteringly hot day in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Lee’s third feature film explored racial tension and police brutality in late-1980s New York City and earned him an Oscar nod for best original screenplay. More than two decades later, let’s catch up with the cast and count how many actors have appeared in multiple Spike Lee joints.
Danny Aiello, Then
Sal’s Famous Pizzeria was the local pizza joint on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Aiello played Sal, a hardworking Italian who ran the pizzeria with his two sons, Pino and Vito. Aiello’s role in Do the Right Thing earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
Danny Aiello, Now
Aiello has had a steady acting career since his role in Do the Right Thing. He currently has a few films in production, including Reach Me and For Thine Is the Kingdom.
Ossie Davis, Then
“No more High Life? What kind of joint is this?” Davis played Da Mayor, the neighborhood drunk who raised a bit of hell in a bodega when the store owners were out of his favorite beer. He also had an eye for Mother Sister, the neighborhood’s matriarch. This was Davis’ second appearance in a Spike Lee joint after his role in 1988’s School Daze.
Ossie Davis, Now
Davis died in 2005 in Miami of natural causes, having suffered from recurring heart problems. He was 87.
Ruby Dee, Then
Mother Sister was “always watchin’” from her window, and throughout the blisteringly hot day, she dodged unwelcome sidewalk advances from Da Mayor. Two years after DTRT, Dee appeared in another Spike Lee film, Jungle Fever.
Ruby Dee, Now
Dee died on June 11, 2014, in New Rochelle, N.Y., at age 91. Most recently Dee was the narrator on Lifetime’s TV movie Betty and Coretta, about civil rights heroines Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King.
Richard Edson, Then
Vito was Sal’s youngest son. He was constantly belittled and bossed around by his older brother, Pino, who didn’t like that he was friends with Mookie. His role in the film was rather small but memorable, which was kind of Edson’s thing in the late ’80s. Remember him as the garage attendant in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
Richard Edson, Now
Edson has been flying under the radar for the last several years, but he has a few projects coming up, including Averageman, Dutch Book and Bota.
Giancarlo Esposito, Then
“Sal, how come you ain’t got no brothers on the wall?” Buggin’ Out was not having it with Sal on this blazin’ summer day. After Sal refuses to put some “brothers on the wall,” he stages a boycott and ultimately is the main culprit behind the riot at the end of the film. In 1988 Esposito co-starred in Lee’s School Daze.
Giancarlo Esposito, Now
For several years Esposito co-starred on the just-canceled TV series Revolution. But he’s perhaps best known for playing Gus Fring on FX’s Breaking Bad.
Spike Lee, Then
Mookie rocked a Jackie Robinson Dodgers jersey and a high-top fade while delivering pizzas for Sal. At the height of his frustration, he throws a trash can through the window at Sal’s Pizzeria, and it is one of the most memorable scenes in the film. DTRT was Lee’s third feature film.
Spike Lee, Now
Lee has built an impressive oeuvre since Do the Right Thing. He’s currently promoting Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and working on the TV movie Katt Williams: Priceless, according to IMDb. In May reports surfaced that Showtime would be developing Lee’s first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It, into a TV series.
Bill Nunn, Then
Radio Raheem was some sort of local celebrity. He was a man of little words, but people moved out his way when he walked down the block with his “20 D Energizers” boom box blastin’ “Fight the Power.” After Buggin’ Out and others stormed Sal’s Pizzeria, Radio Raheem was killed by a New York City police officer. In 1988 Nunn appeared in Lee’s School Daze.
Bill Nunn, Now
This year Nunn has a recurring role on the TV series Sirens.
John Turturro, Then
Pino was the bossy, eldest son of Sal. He says that he “detests” the pizzeria “like a sickness,” and it’s probably because he has so much hatred for its black patrons. One year after DTRT, Turturro appeared in Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues.
John Turturro, Now
Turturro has been very busy over the last few years. In 2013 he directed and starred in Fading Gigolo, and he has several more films on the way. Fun fact: Turturro has appeared in nine of Spike Lee’s films, more than any other actor.
Paul Benjamin, Then
“I will be one happy fool when we open our own business here in our neighborhood. I swear to God, I will be the first in line to spend what little money I got.” ML was one of three drinkin’ buddies who sat out in the sun all day while sippin’ High Life.
Paul Benjamin, Now
Benjamin has appeared on-screen very little in recent years. (He’s seen here with Clint Eastwood in a scene from 1979’s Escape From Alcatraz.) In 2015, according to IMDb, he will appear in Occupy, Texas, a film about a young man who finds out that his parents died while he was demonstrating at Zuccotti Park in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Frankie Faison, Then
Coconut Sid was friends with ML and also enjoyed sippin’ a beer under the sun. Just one year earlier, Faison had appeared in Coming to America as Eddie Murphy’s landlord.
Frankie Faison, Now
Most recently, Faison appeared in the Showtime TV series Banshee as Sugar Bates. You may also remember him as William Bailey, Miranda Bailey’s father on Grey’s Anatomy.
Robin Harris, Then
“You motherf—kers always talkin’ that ol’ Keith Sweat s—t. I’m gon’ do this, I’m gon’ do that.” Sweet Dick Willie was tired of hearing ML talk about starting his own business, so he storms off and continues to spend his money at the Korean grocery store. Known first for his stand-up comedy, Harris had appeared in only one other feature film before this one: I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, in 1988.
Robin Harris, Now
Joie Lee, Then
Jade is Mookie’s sister, and Sal has a huge crush on her. Lee, who is also Spike’s sister in real life, worked with him on several films, including 1988’s School Daze, 1990’s Mo’ Better Blues and 1994’s Crooklyn, which she wrote and produced.
Joie Lee, Now
Lee will be in Lee’s upcoming feature film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, according to IMDb. She also appeared in Lee’s She Hate Me in 2004.
Rick Aiello, Then
Officer Gary Long killed Radio Raheem in the final moments of the film. A year later Aiello appeared in Jungle Fever, where he again played a police officer. He is also the son of Danny Aiello.
Rick Aiello, Now
Aiello has two projects in the works this year: Nobody’s Perfect and Reach Me. The latter film also stars his father, Danny.
John Savage, Then
Clifton made a big mistake when he stepped on Buggin’ Out’s brand-new white Air Jordans while wearing a Larry Bird Boston Celtics outfit. Buggin’ Out and the crew go in on the young white guy who was “born in Brooklyn.”
John Savage, Now
Savage has been a busy man in Hollywood since his DTRT days. He has already appeared in six projects this year, according to IMDb, and has several on the way, including The Knights of Mary Phagan, Everglades and American Romance.
Samuel L. Jackson, Then
Mister Señor Love Daddy was the local radio-show host and delivered one of Spike Lee’s signature lines in his early films: “Waaaaaakkeee uppppp!” This was Jackson’s second time working with Lee, after appearing in School Daze in 1988.
Samuel L. Jackson, Now
Jackson is the highest-grossing actor of all time, and his résumé explains why. He’s always working and has several projects in the pipeline, including Tarzan and Avengers: Age of Ultron. He also narrated the mock children’s book Go the F—k to Sleep.
Rosie Perez, Then
Tina’s dance to “Fight the Power” is definitely one of our contenders for the best opening credits in the history of film. She was also Mookie’s girlfriend. This was Perez’s first on-screen role, and soon after, she went on to direct the Fly Girls on In Living Color.
Rosie Perez, Now
Earlier this year Perez released a memoir called Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (With Great Hair). Most recently she was the voice of Aunt Chonie on The Cleveland Show. This year she has a couple of projects in the works, including a pilot for An American Education and The Hero of Color City.
Roger Guenveur Smith, Then
Smiley, a mentally impaired man in the neighborhood, was peddling pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. all day. At the end of the film, while the pizzeria is ablaze, he posts one of these images on Sal’s “wall of fame.” This was Smith’s second film, after his debut in School Daze in 1988.
Roger Guenveur Smith, Now
Smith has appeared in several Spike Lee joints since Do the Right Thing, including Malcolm X, Get on the Bus and He Got Game. You probably last saw him in 2010’s Mooz-Lum or Better Mus Come. He also has several upcoming projects, according to IMDb, including Dirty and No Black Girls Please.
Martin Lawrence, Then
Cee, one of the teens from the neighborhood, talks with a lisp. This was Lawrence’s first on-screen appearance. (On Martin, the Do the Right Thing poster pays homage to his start in Hollywood.)
Martin Lawrence, Now
Fans of the comedian can look forward to the premiere of the FX series Partners (also starring Kelsey Grammer) on Aug. 4. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer says that Lawrence and Will Smith are also in talks to complete a third installment of Bad Boys.