Movie Article

Spike Lee's Gold Rush

Spike Lee at Cannes -- He may not have won the Palme d'Or, but he walked away from the festival with many deals

Yes, Spike Lee lost at Cannes. But did he really? Lee's Jungle Fever, which opens in the U.S. on June 7, lost the film festival's Palme d'Or to another American entry (the Coen brothers' stylized black comedy Barton Fink), which makes the second time he has been bested by a U.S. film (Do the Right Thing lost to sex, lies, and videotape in 1989). But he has still come out a few points ahead. Jungle Fever was the best-received movie at Cannes, and, Madonna aside, nobody received as much attention as Lee. ''If you get a good reception there, you can't beat it,'' he says. ''The foreign market is very important because when I fight the studio for a budget, the first thing they tell me is that my movies don't do any money overseas, where I need desperately to do better economically.''

Spike's real coup at Cannes was winning a promise of money. Lee has been having heated discussions with Warner Bros. over the budget of Malcolm X, scheduled to start shooting in the fall with Denzel Washington in the lead. The studio has been balking at Lee's request for $30 million. But, ''we're all working hard to make this thing come together,'' says Mark Canton, Warner production chief. When French producer Claude Berri (Jean de Florette) heard about the problem at Cannes, he offered to coproduce Lee's movie. ''If Malcolm X needs $20 or $28 million,'' Berri says, ''I'll give it to him.'' ''Have him call me,'' says Canton. ''I can count in francs.''

Originally posted May 31, 1991 Published in issue #68 May 31, 1991 Order article reprints