Few events in recent history seem a more perfect fit for director Spike Lee than the racially-charged Los Angeles riots in 1992. Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment thought so too, agreeing in 2006 to move ahead with a drama about the situation. Then Lee’s ambitious aspirations met budgetary realities.
“We didn’t get the money that we needed to make the movie I wanted to make,” Lee told MTV News in an exclusive interview. “How can you scale back the LA riots?! That’s not the movie I want to make. The studio said, ‘Scale it back.’ What’s the point?”
The riots took place after an all-white jury acquitted four police officers of using excessive force in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an African-American man pulled over for speeding on an LA highway. Over the course of several violent, chaotic days, 53 people were killed, thousands more were injured and the city sustained at least $1 billion in damage.
At the time the riots began, Lee was screening his Malcolm X biopic for Warner Bros. execs. And a few years earlier, the director tackled racial tension and the potential violence of crowds: the climax of perhaps his most acclaimed film, 1989’s “Do the Right Thing,” occurs during a racially tinged riot on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Back in 2006 and fresh off the critical success of HBO’s “When the Levees Broke,” a documentary about the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, Lee discussed the planned drama, to be called “LA Riots,” with Variety. “This isn’t about some cavalcade of stars," Lee stated, "but rather a truthful and realistic examination of what happened, what the ramifications were and where we are now, in hopes that something like this doesn’t happen again.”
What does the failure to secure the proper budget mean for the future of “LA Riots”? “It’s not dead,” Lee says. “But it’s…it’s on the shelf. Let’s use that term. It still should be made—I want to make it.”
What say you, MTV readers—should Spike get his ideal budget? But hey, these are tough economic times—got any ideas about how to “scale back” riots that took place across the second biggest city in America?