Spike Lee – “BlacKkKlansman” and Fighting the Rise of Racism in the Trump Era | The Daily Show

-Welcome back to the show.
-Glad to be here. -Great…
-Is Brooklyn in the house? (applause and cheering) Great to see you again,
and let me start by saying this. I-I have been
in many a movie theatre. I, uh, have watched many movies,
Spike Lee, and I will tell you this. I have never experienced what I
experienced watching this movie. I watched this movie
in Connecticut this weekend, and the cinema
was completely filled with old white people,
the area I was in. It was Mystic Lake
or something like that, right? And the movie plays end to end I think two hours
and eight minutes, and we sit there,
and nobody gets up. Like, credits start rolling.
Nobody moves. And then I stood up,
and we’re, like, in the middle, and then, all the white people around me we just like,
“Yeah, yeah. Just…” (laughter) And then, like,
even when we were walking out, people were just like, “Yeah.
No, you first. You first.” Like, everyone… It’s-it’s a…
it’s a powerful film. Are you feeling that in the
responses you get from people? I’m feeling it.
I’m on Instagram, man. I got several… people telling me
that they were… you know, not… One or two black people
in the theatre. And then, after the film, when the lights finally go up… the white people
who love the film– they were… they were hugging ’em. They’re hugging the black folks
in theatres saying, “I’m sorry. I apologize.
I apologize.” I never heard anything like that
before in my life. It’s a beautiful film,
and just to those who don’t know anything
about the story…BlacKkKlansmanis inspired
by the true story of Ron Stallworth, right? He’s an African-American
detective in the 19… -The first.
-In the 1970s. The first? -First police officer
in Colorado Springs. -Right. And this is a black man who gets
into a police department. And, I mean, from the get-go… Let’s start with that part
of the story. You lay out
how difficult it is to play that-that role -of being a black man
and a police officer. -Mm-hmm. -And this is in the 1970s…
-Yeah. …but in some ways it feels
like it hasn’t changed. Well, what we tried to do was– even though it takes place
in the ’70s, I still wanted it
to be contemporary– so there are many things that my
cowriter Kevin Willmott and I, we put in so people,
it would click like, you know, -Right. -this stuff
is still happening today. And then it– I know, I’m
not trying to spoil anything, ’cause it’s out already–
but the ending, that really hammers home where
we are in this world today. It’s a story that connects
with you on so many levels. So, you know, you have
Adam Driver’s character, -Right.
-who’s a policeman who has for so long
passed as “white,” just plain WASP white,
in his neighborhood. And in the story,
Ron Stallworth is a black man who goes undercover
as a Klan member, which is, I mean,
the premise sounds ridiculous. If you don’t tell me
that it’s based on a true story, I’d be like, this is the wildest
thing from the imagination… That’s what I thought
when Jordan Peele called me. So he says to you,
“This is the story,” and… Six words: “Black man
infiltrates Ku Klux Klan.” -(laughter)
-High concepts! You can’t get more…
higher than that. Right. But the real Ron
Stallworth, like, he did this. And David Duke
got bamboozled by him. -Yep.
-And… (laughter) -(applause, cheering)
-And what I… what I… You know what, here’s the thing,
what I found fantastic about it is, in your film, it illuminates
the ludicrous nature of racism, -because David Duke becomes
friends… -It’s insane. Right. with a black man,
because he doesn’t know -that he’s a black man.
-Over the phone. -Right. Like, and you show…
-Mm-hmm. you show that these, like,
it’s a human being. Like, that… maybe that’s
the biggest thing for me is, how were you able
to make a film where you seem to approach it
with a certain level of empathy where you don’t paint
these people as caricatures. You see different people
in the Klan, you see human beings
who are doing what they believe is right,
or what they believe is their divine, God-given, like… Like, how do you begin
that journey when creating that character? It starts with the script. But… without, I mean, without Ron’s book,
I mean, it’s all… that’s what makes it insane,
that it’s… true. -Right.
-So when Jordan Peele said… I said it sound… automatically, I thought
of a David Chappelle skit. -Right, right, right.
-But he said it’s true, and then I read the book,
and it was a great opportunity for me, even though it
took place… even though the story
took place in the ’70s, I still thought it was
a great opportunity to comment
on the world we live today with Agent Orange
in the White House. Let me ask you this. I don’t say his name. -Shout out to Busta Rhymes,
-Let me, let me ask… that’s where I got it from. Busta. (chuckles) Let me ask you this,
why do you think a story about the 1970s
and the Klan and a black man
on the police force comments on what’s happening
today in America? Because… I don’t like to say– I think one of the mistakes
people are making, I feel, is that they’re saying this is
just an American phenomenon. The rise of the right, this is,
this is happening globally. And with this guy in
the White House, he’s made it okay
for these supremists, white supremists to come out
in the open. Th-they’re coming out
from under the rocks, -and he’s legitimized them.
-Right. And I wouldn’t even call it
a dog whistle, he’s, like, on a bullhorn. Have you seen anything
like this? I mean, you’ve been making
movies that speak to what’s happening in America
for a long time– have you seen anything
like this? Not in my 61 years
on this Earth. I mean, this-this is,
this is… as they say, this is bananas. This is insane,
it’s topsy-turvy. And, what I– the one thing I’d
like to say to the audience and to the people watching
tonight… If we don’t– if what has
happened the last 18 months, if that doesn’t mobilize us
to register to vote, I don’t know what will. We have to get ready
for these midterms, and after that, he’s-he’s got
to be a one term president. You know, we we have to… (cheering and applause) Because we’re going for
the flimflam, the snake oil salesman,
and the okeydoke. And-and another thing, we can’t
get distracted by these tweets. That’s like a misdirection play
in football, -American football.
-Right. And, uh, we just…
we know what’s coming, then we just should,
should just, like… and keep focused
what we got to do. I feel. That’s my opinion,
that’s what I feel. (cheering and applause) When you’re making a story about a black man who becomes
the first black police officer to work in a police force, you deal with so many issues that are relatable
to what’s happening today. There’s a powerful line in the
movie where he stumbles upon an officer who has done
something that’s bad, -he’s a repeatedly bad offender,
-Mm-hmm. he’s killed a black kid
in the story, shot him and claimed that he
had a gun. And one of the other officers,
who’s a good guy, says to him, “Well,
the reason we haven’t outed him “is because we’re a family. We in the police are a family.” -And…
-The blue wall of silence. Right.
And you portray these people as being well-intentioned and flawed at the same time. -Was it important for you…
-Those are human beings, though. Right. Was it important for you
to show it in that way where… ‘Cause I didn’t walk away
from the film going like,
“Oh, I hate these police.” But I walked away going like, “I see the dilemma
that these people are facing. I don’t agree with the decision
many of them are making, but…” Was that important to you? Yes, because as an artist… Just, well, for myself,
I try to be… tell the truth
the best way I can, the best way I know it. -And that’s something I been
doing for 32 years. -Right. And, well, how do you think
you told the truth when it came
to these police officers? That no one’s black or white. There’s-there’s shades of gray, and people do things
for different reasons. And so I really… What I like to do with my films is show repercussions -of decisions people make.
-Right. That’s the interesting thing
for me. You go here, you go here, and there’s gonna be
a repercussion here, repercussion this way. You have a scene in the movie where Harry Belafonte
is on-screen. -Give it up.
-(applause) And… -honestly…
-91 years old. honestly one of the most
powerful moments in cinema. He’s on the screen, and you can feel everyone
in that cinema. You can feel the goose bumps
as he tells a tale. Recounting the lynching
of Jesse. -Recounting a lynching.
-A real lynching. Took Jesse Washington,
Waco, Texas. -I think 1915 or ’16.
-Right. And this character
was his friend who hid and saw this lynching. When you’re making a movie and you’re telling that story… how hard is it for you to not, like, skew the way
you tell the story to make the bad guy
seem even badder than-than they were in the film? -Like, how do you…
-Just-just tell the truth. And I just like to say– because I remember it–
that scene, we shot Mr. B, Harry Belafonte, was the last day of the shoot. And so no one knew
who was gonna play this role. I kept it on the low-low. But I told everybody
on the crew, “When you come to work that day,
the last day of the shoot, wear… suit and tie.” Ladies, we were clean, -’cause he deserved that.
-Right. We walked on to set,
we were sharp. We had to give him respect. Freedom fighter.
With Dr. King all throughout. Always– Freedom fighter. No, we had to–
we had to give him love. (applause) Everybody was dressed
to the nines! Before I let you go,
um, the film ends– and I won’t– I won’t spoil
the ending of the film for you– -but the film ends– -Yeah,
go ahead. Peo– It’s been– Well, I won’t–
Not the– not the ending. ‘Cause I-I still want people
to enjoy. Th-There’s a magical ending. It’s a beautiful film. Um, but what happens
post-the movie part is we get thrust
into modern day. We go from the 1970s to 2017. -We go to a Charlottesville–
-We go to a year ago, -what happened.
A year ago yesterday. -Right. And, again,
I could feel an audience that was taken from a world
of make-believe which was real to, like, very much what you
don’t want to believe is real. Right. When you were putting
that onscreen, when did you make that decision? Because this movie,
you-you had been creating. When did you make
the decision to put current-day Charlottesville into
a 1970s film about the Klan? Well, we didn’t start shooting
till the fall. So, I was in my summer home
in Martha’s Vineyard, and… it hit me just like that. This has to be the ending. But… I got Susan Bro’s number, the mother of, uh,
Heather Heyer, who was murdered, and I got her blessing. So, she gave me
the permission to, uh, -use, uh, her daughter’s photo
at the end. -Right. So, that was a year ago
yesterday. She was murdered.
And it was nothing but– Trevor, it was nothing
but American, homegrown act of terrorism, when that car drove down
that crowded street and-and… and murdered her. It’s-it’s– That’s a fact. And the president
of the United States had a opportunity
to tell the world that we are not for hate. And he did not denounce
the Klan, the alt-right, the KKK. He didn’t do it. And a lot of times, for me,
I-I’ve found, like, you know, he’ll say something
and then they pull him in the back and say,
“You got to change it.” Then he says– You know, he– But whatIfeel, whatever comes
out his mouth the first time, that’s the truth, and that’s-what’s what’s
in his heart. (cheering and applause) I just want to say thank you
for making another amazing film. -Thank you, thank you.
-Thank you so much for being on the show.BlacKkKlansman
is in theaters now. You want to watch this movie.
Spike Lee, everybody.


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