Filmmaker Spike Lee is back in theaters with “Miracle at St. Anna,” his first full-length feature since the 2006 New York City-set crime caper “Inside Man.” That picture’s commercial success — it grossed more than $180 million in worldwide box office receipts — enabled the Oscar-nominated director to interest Disney in distributing “Miracle at St. Anna,” a big-budget World War II saga shot mostly in Europe.
The movie’s script, adapted by James McBride from his own historical novel, is a fact-based adventure revolving around the heroic exploits of four black GIs (played by Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, Michael Ealy and Omar Benson Miller) who became separated from their unit while fighting behind enemy lines in Italy in 1944.
The acclaimed force behind “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X” recently took a few moments to speak with the Banner about his new film, his beloved New York Knicks’ prospects during the upcoming NBA season, his feud with Clint Eastwood and more.
What interested you in making “Miracle at St. Anna”?
Reading the original source, James McBride’s novel. The man’s a great writer. That’s what drew me to the project.
How was it filming on location in Europe for the first time?
It was a great experience. Practically this whole film was shot in Italy. I’d love to shoot over there again soon — maybe not in Italy, but somewhere else.
What was the most challenging aspect of shooting?
Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and you have to hike that equipment up the mountains and hills to get those shots. But that’s just part of the job. I would love to make another movie there. The light there is wonderful. You cannot get that on the back lot in a studio. The small village the soldiers stumble into is 800 years old … we [were] able to shoot at a lot of locations where actual incidents took place, like the massacre. I think it adds something for both the cast and crew when they know they’re standing on the same exact spots as the scenes they’re recreating.
How was it collaborating with James McBride, who also wrote the script?
It was a great working experience, and I think that he would say the same thing. We had disagreements, but we respected each other’s opinion, since we both wanted what was best for the film.