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Spike Lee signs "Miracle St. Anna" book, sternly

September 24, 2008 | 10:10 am

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Director Spike Lee walked right in through the front door of Book Soup at 9:25 p.m Tuesday night. He made his way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd and hovered, at last, at the lectern. Two minutes later, he was introduced and immediately began taking questions. He was there to sign copies of the photobook and screenplay (co-written with James McBride, from his novel) of his new film, "Miracle at St. Anna."

Lee took questions for approximately 15 minutes, answering in a stern but not unfriendly manner, like this was the third or fourth such session of the day. The trademark Spike Lee frown seemed not so much a part of his face as the whole face itself. That being said, his smile was quick to rise, but just as quick to vanish.

When asked if he liked working in the Hollywood studio system, Lee replied, “I work for them when they give me the money.” Much of the financing for "Miracle at St. Anna" came from Europe, while Disney supplied the final backing. Lee spoke about the contributions of black soldiers to the American military, pointing out that the first American to die in a conflict was Crispus Attucks, a black man who was one of five people killed during the Boston Massacre. “There’s lots of omissions in cinema, lots of things to degrade people of color,” Lee said.

In June of this year, Lee became engaged in a war of words with Clint Eastwood when he noted that Eastwood’s duo of World War II films,"Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," had failed to include any black soldiers. Eastwood, in what was perhaps not the most wisely considered sound bite, responded that "guy like him [Lee] should shut his face."  Lee countered by telling ABC News that Eastwood was "not my father, and we’re not on a plantation either."

Based on the novel by James McBride, "Miracle At St. Anna" tells the story of a black regiment in 1944 Tuscany that gets trapped behind enemy lines after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.

--George Ducker

Photo credit: George Ducker

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