×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘BlacKkKlansman’ Production Crew Helps Spike Lee Re-Create the 1970s

Spike Lee, who co-wrote and directed Focus Features’ “BlacKkKlansman,” says it was not an easy movie to make, but that everybody worked together. “We were all making the same film,” he explains, “which doesn’t always happen.”

The fact-based story centers on Ron Stallworth, a black cop who went undercover in Colorado Springs in the 1970s to expose local Ku Klux Klan activities. Lee pays tribute to some of his below-the-line colleagues as well as to such respected performers as Harry Belafonte, who co-stars in the film.

Barry Alexander Brown, Editor

“He’s cut almost everything for me; we go way, way back. For the sequence involving Mr. Belafonte, who brings such weight and gravitas — he was in the trenches with Dr. King — Kevin [Willmott, a co-writer] and I wanted him to talk about a real-life incident of lynching, which is the legacy of the Ku Klux Klan. There was an incident in Waco, Texas, in 1916, with the lynching of Jesse Washington, and there is a first-person account witnessed by his best friend. And that’s who we wanted Mr. B. to play. In the sequence, we included photos of lynchings. And we intercut this with the KKK initiation of Flip [Adam Driver] as well as scenes from ‘Birth of a Nation.’ In film school, you’re taught that director D.W. Griffith is the father of cinema, and he invented cross-cutting. I forgot that! So Barry and I were using something that Griffith invented by showing moments from ‘Birth,’ his movie about the Klan!”

Chayse Irvin, Cinematographer

“Amazing photographer. This was the first time we’d worked together. He’s a young guy. When we talked, we both came to the conclusion that we had to shoot ‘BlackKklansman’ on film. I wanted it to look like the great films of the 1970s, like ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’ ‘Serpico,’ ‘The French Connection.’ Initially, we didn’t have the budget for film, but everybody made sacrifices and we got great help from Kodak. I know we wouldn’t have had the same effect with digital.

“The sequence of the speech by Kwame Ture [Corey Hawkins] was tricky. Not a lot of people today know who Kwame Ture (or Stokely Carmichael) was. He’s gotten lost in the sauce. I read all of Ture’s speeches. Kevin and I very carefully took pieces from various speeches; we didn’t want this scene to be truncated. It’s a long scene, so it needed to be cinematic. We photographed the audience reacting; plus we had an additional camera in the dressing room, and we grabbed individuals from the crowd to do ‘portraits.’ We wanted to show the effect and the power of his beautiful words. There would be a reawakening of who they are.”

Marci Rodgers, Costume designer

“Marci started on the series ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’ A lot of 1970s films make fun of the clothes. I said to Marci, ‘You’re a lot younger than me, but we’re not going to make fun of plaids, marshmallows, bell-bottoms, none of it.’ It’s easy to look back and laugh, but I’m a child of the ’70s. I wore bell-bottoms. I wore marshmallows. I thought they were hip and I still do. And all that stuff comes back. If you live long enough, everything comes back!”

LaWanda M. Pierre, Hair department head 

“I told her I can’t stand fake Afros. We had an open call for people with Afros, their natural hair, and 2,000 people showed up. In some cases, it was ‘No, that’s a wig. Get out of the line.’ La Wanda and I had a long talk. I said [characters] Patrice and Ron [played by Laura Harrier and John David Washington] have to be true to the period. Their Afros cannot look like a wig. I’m not making fun of the period. I’m gonna honor it. In the end, they were wigs, but they looked real, thanks to LaWanda.”

Curt Beech, Production designer

“He had been production designer on ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ for Netflix. We had a B-unit shoot in Colorado Springs, but there was no way we could shoot there; it just didn’t work. Location manager Timothy Stacker and Curt looked all around. We wanted a town for exteriors and found Ossining, New York, which happens to be the home of Sing Sing prison. A lot of stuff was actual locations; the redneck bar is a real bar, for example. A lot of the interiors were shot at Broadway Stage in Brooklyn, New York, like the precinct, which was built.”

More Artisans

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

  • 'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Fashioned 1980s'

    'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Put a Decadent Twist on Opulent ’80s Style

    Set against the backdrop of London’s early-1980s cultural renaissance, British auteur Joanna Hogg’s exquisitely sculpted and critically acclaimed “The Souvenir,” which A24 has been widening in platform release for the past month, follows film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her gradually destructive romance with the magnetic Anthony (Tom Burke). “We didn’t want a film [...]

  • Legion

    How Production Designer Marco Niro Created a Visual Climax for FX's ‘Legion’

    FX’s “Legion” has always drawn inspiration not only from the Marvel “X-Men” comics on which it is based, but also from the weirder corners of pop culture. When creator Noah Hawley cast “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens as the lead — David Haller, a mutant whose telepathic powers have been misdiagnosed as mental illness — [...]

  • Luciano Pavarotti

    Ron Howard Turned to Editor Paul Crowder to Make His 'Pavarotti' Documentary Sing

    Ron Howard is fast becoming a noted music documentarian: His 2016 film, “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — the Touring Years,” released by Abramorama in theaters and Hulu on television, was a Grammy winner. His follow-up is “Pavarotti,” a doc about the man who became one of the most successful and beloved opera singers in [...]

  • Lesley Barber Film Composer

    How 'Late Night' Composer Lesley Barber Channeled Paul Shaffer for Talk-Show Theme

    When director Nisha Ganatra started planning “Late Night,” the new Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling film about a failing late-night network talk show, she knew she’d need a house band and a theme for the program. Her first call was to composer Lesley Barber (“Manchester by the Sea”), with whom she had worked a few years ago on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content