Spike Lee Biography

Spike Lee is an Emmy Award winning film director and actor known for his films that deal with controversial subjects like racism and politics. This biography of Spike Lee provides detailed information about his life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: March 20, 1957

Nationality: American

Famous: African American Men African American Actors

Sun Sign: Pisces

Age: 61 Years, 61 Year Old Males

Also Known As: Shelton Jackson Lee

Born in: Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.

Height: 1.68 m

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Tonya Lewis Lee (m. 1993)

father: William James Edward Lee III

mother: Jacqueline Carroll

siblings: Cinqué Lee, David Lee, Joie Susannah Lee

children: Satchel Lee

City, States, Provinces & Districts: Georgia

Net worth: $40 million as of May 10, 2017

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Born as Shelton Jackson Lee, Spike Lee is a renowned film director and actor famous for dealing with controversial issues like racism, politics and urban violence in his films. Known for his candid portrayal of taboo topics, he is a fearless and independent minded man who lets his films do the talking. He has made many movies such as ‘School Daze’, ‘Do the Right Thing’, and ‘Malcolm X’ which not only delivered powerful messages to the audiences, but also established him as one of the most respected directors in Hollywood. The son of a teacher and a jazz musician, he was brought up in a culturally and artistically rich atmosphere. His mother played an important role in kindling his imagination—she often took him to museums, galleries and plays and instilled in the boy a love for African American literature. As a young man he realized that he wanted to make films that celebrated the African culture. He made his debut as a director and actor with ‘She's Gotta Have It’ which was a huge success. Since then he has made numerous other movies that explore the greatness of African American culture. He is also the founder of the production house ‘40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks’ which has produced more than 35 films till date.

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Spike Lee
Childhood & Early Life
  • Lee was born to Jacqueline Carroll and William James Edward Lee III. His mother was a teacher of arts and black literature while his father was a jazz musician and composer. He has three younger siblings.
  • He was a very energetic and naughty child. His mother nicknamed him ‘Spike’ in a reference to his toughness. He often accompanied his mother to plays and museums and developed a keen interest in African American literature.
  • He attended John Dewey High School before enrolling in Morehouse College. By this time he was convinced that he wanted to make a career in film making. He graduated with a BA in Mass Communication.
  • He took film courses at Clark Atlanta University and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Film & Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
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Career
  • He had submitted the film ‘Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads’ as his master’s degree thesis at the Tisch School of the Arts in 1983. The film became the first student film to be showcased in Lincoln Center’s New Directors New Films Festival; it also won a Student Academy Award.
  • He turned a director cum actor with the 1986 comedy drama film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’, also starring Tracy Camilla Johns. The independent film projected African Americans as successful and independent individuals and marked the beginning of an era in African American cinema.
  • In 1988, he wrote, directed and produced a musical drama ‘School Daze’ which was in part based on the director’s own experiences at Atlanta’s Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University. The movie deals with issues like racism and skin tone bias.
  • He made a film on the African American activist Malcolm X in 1992. The biographical picture, titled ‘Malcolm X’ had Denzel Washington in the leading role. The screenplay was largely based on Alex Haley’s book ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’.
  • The year 1995 was a very productive one for Spike. He produced and directed several movies including ‘Clockers’, ‘New Jersey Drive’ and ‘Tales from the Hood’.
  • He directed the historical documentary film ‘4 Little Girls’ in 1997. The film was about the murder of four African-American girls in September 1963 in the Baptist Church bombing. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
  • In 2000, he wrote and directed a satire about a televised minstrel show featuring black actors wearing blackface makeup in ‘Bamboozled’. The other films he produced during the year were ‘The Original Kings of Comedy’ and ‘Love & Basketball’.
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  • He directed a documentary film ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts’ in 2006 about the devastation of New Orleans when the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina.
  • Some of his more recent movies include ‘Pariah’ (2011), ‘Bad 25’ (2012), and ‘The Best Man Holiday’ (2013). In addition to films, he has also directed various commercials and a number of music videos by artists like Michael Jackson and Prince.
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Major Works
  • His most important work so far is the documentary film ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts’ about the Hurricane Katrina and the destruction it caused. The film was aired on HBO and was called "one of the most important films HBO has ever made." The film won several prestigious awards.
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Awards & Achievements
  • He won the Time Warner Innovator Award in American Black Film Festival in 2004.
  • His production house, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks was presented with the highly prestigious Peabody Award in 2006 for the documentary film ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts’.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • He married an attorney, Tonya Lewis in 1993. The couple has two children, a son and a daughter.
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Trivia
  • He does not know how to drive an automobile.
  • It was the movie ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978) which inspired him to become a director.
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1. Bad 25 (2012)

  (Music, Documentary)

2. Do the Right Thing (1989)

  (Drama, Comedy)

3. 4 Little Girls (1997)

  (Documentary, History)

4. 25th Hour (2002)

  (Drama)

5. Malcolm X (1992)

  (Romance, Biography, Drama, History)

6. Inside Man (2006)

  (Thriller, Drama, Crime, Mystery)

7. All the Invisible Children (2005)

  (Drama)

8. Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall (2016)

  (Music, Documentary)

Awards

Primetime Emmy Awards
2007 Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)
2007 Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006)

See the events in life of Spike Lee in Chronological Order

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How To Cite

Article Title
- Spike Lee Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/shelton-jackson-lee-2878.php
Last Updated
- July 31, 2017

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