In "She Hate Me," Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), a VP at a pharmaceutical company, is fired after he blows the whistle on his corrupt bosses. Jobless, he accepts an offer from ex-fiancee turned lesbian Fatima (Kerry Washington) to impregnate her and her girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez). Soon Jack's servicing lesbians for $10,000 a pop. Meanwhile he's subpoenaed by the FCC for his role in the corporate scandal.
DAVID ANSEN: Your new movie is very ambitious. It takes on an enormous range of subjects. And though it's almost two and a half hours long, I was never bored--partly because I had no idea where it was going to go next. First I'm watching a story of corporate greed and whistle-blowing--with obvious parallels to Enron, etc.--then there's a scene where our hero runs into his ex-girlfriend...
SPIKE LEE: Ex-fiancee.
... ex-fiancee, sorry, who has become a lesbian. And all of a sudden it's a kind of sex comedy about a guy getting paid to impregnate lesbians.
I wrote down in my notes, "What happened to the corporate satire?"
I know that in your mind the two connect on a metaphorical level, but it didn't compute for me.
I can explain it. What we're trying to do is [talk about] someone's moral compass. I mean, he had to have morals--scruples, ethics--to blow the whistle. But when you blow the whistle, they're going to come after you, there's going to be ramifications. And then you're forced to switch to survival mode, and your moral compass goes askew. I liked that complexity. Once he got in a jam, he had to accept impregnating these lesbians. That was, in my mind, the connection between the two things.
You've also got the story of Jack's parents, flashbacks to Watergate and John Turturro as a Mafia don and Monica Bellucci as his lesbian daughter. I don't think you needed the Mafia. And it was hard for me to believe Turturro as her father. How old is Turturro?
He's, like, my age--47. How old is Monica?
She's in her late 30s.
He had her young! [Laughter] We wanted to make the correlation between the Mafia and white-collar crime. But, also, I've had a lot of interactions between African-Americans and Italian-Americans in my films--"Do the Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Summer of Sam." Now, is that scene essential to the movie? No. It's like flavor, is how I see it.
I wasn't clear what your attitude was about Jack's fathering all these kids. I mean, what if he had donated his sperm to the lesbians instead of actually having intercourse with them?
But that's not cinematic. I don't want to shoot women with, you know, their legs up in the air.
OK, but there are a couple of problems here. You have a montage where all the women are having great orgasms. It's funny, and I laughed. But another part of me said, "Wait a minute, does Spike Lee know any lesbians? Why are they all having these great orgasms with a man?"
It's not all of them--remember, there was a woman who went to Smith, and she was not happy. You had the Indian woman--she was like a bump on a log. And the other women--the one who was banging his head against the headboard--she wasn't having an orgasm, she was just power-tripping. Sure, the film exaggerates, but not every single woman is having an orgasm.
What kind of reaction have you had from lesbians?
I'll tell you. Tristan Taormino, a noted woman in the lesbian community, was a consultant. She said, "Spike, there's no way in the world you can make a film that every lesbian likes." I'm glad she said that. It made me realize that lesbians are like any other group. They're not a monolithic group. We had several screenings for lesbian audiences. Half liked it, half didn't. Interestingly, the half who liked it were lesbians of color. I was talking to Rebecca Walker, Alice Walker's daughter, and she said that lesbians of color are probably more apt to entertain the [idea of sex with a man]. The majority of white lesbians... some are hard-liners, and if penis is in any vicinity you've got to turn your card in.
The movie is filled with some really glam lesbians.
Fatima is very smart. If she wants this to work, the first women she brings to Jack can't be [unattractive]. She has to bring the lipstick lesbians, so Jack is thinking, "Dang, they're all going to be like that!" [Laughs] There's another thing I'd like to address. People are saying, "Oh, this is Spike's fantasy!" Yes, it begins as the male fantasy, but it turns into a nightmare. Jack's spent morally, physically and mentally.
A lot of movies out right now deal with a new concept of family.
New configuration. It's interesting that at the same time Bush got defeated trying to add that amendment banning same-sex marriage.
I like your portrait of Fatima. It's refreshing, and breaks down stereotypes. It's interesting to see a woman whose sexuality is very fluid.
I like that word. Fluid. I'm going to use it. [Laughter]
But you don't bring any psychology to your characters here. The movie didn't really have an emotional payoff because I didn't feel I was dealing with real people. The tonal shifts were too jarring.
Here's the thing I acknowledge. There's a lot of different tones in this movie. When you do that, it all comes down to execution. We did it in "Do the Right Thing."
You pulled it off brilliantly there. For me, the low point of "She Hate Me" was the Senate hearing, where Jack testifies about corruption.
Why is that?
It seems inorganic. When he starts making that impassioned, Capra-like plea about AIDS in Africa--I know he was working on an AIDS vaccine for his company--it was like you were talking, not Jack. And I was struck by the irony of his saying something important about the scourge of AIDS in Africa after having unprotected sex with 19 lesbians.
There's something you missed. Fatima gives all the women his health records and he gets theirs. I respect your opinion, but I don't think it's grafted on. I think that someone intelligent--working on the AIDS vaccine--knows if we don't get this thing out soon, 50 million people are gonna die.
But once again it becomes a different movie.
I don't agree. If somebody puts a mike in your face, you've got a platform. People can respond however they want. Linda Ronstadt said, "I want to dedicate this song to Michael Moore." That was her opportunity to seize the mike--and she got a response. [Laughter]
Fair enough. Do you read reviews, by the way?
Some. You know there's some critics I read, other people I don't. I'll read your review!
Our review. It's your review, too.