In a recent conversation for the Hollywood Reporter, director/producer duo Spike Lee and Jordan Peele took some time to chat about a few things outside of their Oscar-nominated collaboration BlackkKlansman. One point of discussion was their very first encounter during Peele’s film school days; they didn’t quite have the kismet fairy-tale experience that one might hope for when meeting one of their biggest creative inspirations. In fact, their origin story resonates more as a shining example of why some of us just never, ever wish for the daunting prospect of meeting our heroes.
“You really handed us our asses,” Peele recalled of Lee’s visit to his film history class at Sarah Lawrence College. “I remember one woman—and look, this is with all respect to the great Forest Whitaker, one of our greatest actors —asked you, ‘Why would you use Denzel in your movies when there are actors like Forest out there?’ You looked at her and you were like, ‘You are questioning my use of Denzel Washington? Denzel Wa—X! Mo’ Better! Glory!’ I was just shrinking.”
According to Peele, he then attempted to bring the Q & A “back on track.” Unfortunately for him, his effort was met with him getting his own ass hand delivered to him, courtesy of the perpetually straightforward Lee. Peele couldn’t divulge any details; he apparently repressed the memory so effectively that he had blocked the exchange out. While such a harrowing experience might have thoroughly shaken some, Lee noted proudly that it didn’t stop the Oscar-winning Get Out filmmaker from pursuing his passion. Peele agreed. “It probably got my ass in gear,” he said.
The remainder of the chat is rather illuminating as well, as Lee and Peele (which has quite a ring to it—watch out, Key!) talked of Hollywood’s gatekeeping, eradicating myths surrounding the international appeal of black-led cinema, and Lee’s reaction to his (seriously inexplicable) first Oscar nomination.