In writer-director Spike Lee’s new film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Stephen Tyrone Williams plays a man who becomes cursed with an addiction to drinking blood. Zaraah Abrahams is the woman with whom he falls in love during this, let us say, interesting chapter in his life.
Something else interesting about Lee’s film: He used Kickstarter to finance this remake of the 1973 cult horror movie Ganja & Hess, which is available to watch via Lee’s 40 Acres website and will arrive in cinemas, Feb. 13.
Below, find an exclusive clip from the film—and Lee talking about Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, crowdsourcing, and, inevitably, the Knicks.
EW: How did this project begin for you?
Spike Lee: Well, it begins at NYU. I’ve been a professor of film at NYU for the past 15 years. My introduction to crowdsourcing was through my students. They were using Indiegogo and Kickstarter to finance their films. That’s where I got the idea from. And once I got the idea it came down to, What will I do? Because I knew that I’m not raising 5, 10, whatever, million on Kickstarter, especially the first time out. It’s going to be a very modest budget. I’ve always enjoyed Ganja & Hess and I had a meeting with Chiz Schultz, who was the producer of the original. I said it would be interesting to do a homage to that film but make it contemporary. That’s how it happened. We’re very happy with the way it came out. I think that the world is introduced to some very fine actors: Steve and particularly Zaraah. I think she’s wonderful in this film.
She is a British actor. How did you come across her?
Again, it comes back to NYU. One of my students was screening for me her thesis film and Sara was in the film. I said, “I want to talk to her!” The student gave me her number, and we talked, and then I was in London, and I auditioned her, and she got the part.
One of my favorite moments in the film is when she uses the word “brouhaha.”
Yeah, that’s one of my favorite words. “There’s gonna be a brouhaha! A donnybrook!” [Laughs] “With fisticuffs!”
Will you be putting “donnybrook” in a subsequent Spike Lee joint?
Oh, that’s not a hard thing to do. I’m going to do it especially for you!
If you did that, I would piss my pants with joy.
Nah, I don’t want you to do that. But I’m telling you, you’ll hear the word donnybrook again!
I was looking at the film’s Kickstarter page. A lot of people paid $10,000 for the reward of sitting next to them at a Knicks game. How has that been going?
The good thing was, it was last year—because the Knicks are horrible this year. In fact, they’re playing in London tomorrow and I was going to go, but I said, “Uh-uh, not now.” I’d like to give a shout out to Steven Soderbergh, because he was the first one to buy a seat next to me. Mr Soderbergh, thank you very much.
Is he a big basketball fan?
Not really. But we’re fellow filmmakers, and Do the Right Thing and Sex, Lies and Videotape are always going to be linked together, because we were both in Cannes together. We both come from independent backgrounds and he was helping me out. This came out of nowhere. In fact, that’s the first time that we actually spent any time together since Cannes, and that was 1989.
There is a Rolls-Royce prominently featured in the film. Did you take it for a spin?
No, no, no, no. I was too busy. But all the cars you see in the film, those were donated by people who live in Martha’s Vineyard. [They] just let us borrow their car. We had great cooperation, not just the many who gave money, but also across the board. A whole lot of people had to call in a whole lot of favors to get this done. So I’m eternally in their debt.
What’s next for you?
Well, currently I’m in production on a documentary on Michael Jackson’s album, Off the Wall. I’m in post-production with a feature-length documentary about Brazil called Go Brazil, Go! I’m executive producer on, and presenting, one of [my] student’s films, which is called Cronies. The world premiere is going to be at Sundance, the director’s name is Michael Larnell. And I’m writing and teaching. Working!
You can check out an exclusive clip from Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, below.