Say what you will about Spike Lee’s recent narrative forays —the studio-sized “Oldboy” and the crowd-sourced “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus,” both of which received negative reviews from this website and from most critics—but his documentary work has been on point for several years now. Lee's two Hurricane Katrina docs are some of the finest works of his career (see our Spike Lee Retrospective), and his portraits of Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson and the Broadway play “Passing Strange,” demonstrate his ongoing versatility in the field. One of those successful documentaries was “Bad 25,” a look at Michael Jackson’s seminal 1987 album Bad on its 25th anniversary: it featured great insights from Questlove, Mariah Carey and Martin Scorsese sitting for his first interview in several decades about directing the now-iconic “Bad” music video.
Lee had suggested he’d love to do more Michael Jackson album docs if the singer's estate and Sony/Epic Records, which released the majority of his recordings before and after his death, were willing, and it looks like both were pleased with “Bad 25” and have thus signed off. In an interview with Thompson On Hollywood about “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus,” Lee revealed that he is currently working on a documentary about Jackson’s pioneering 1979 disco-pop solo album Off The Wall, which launched the singer into mega-stardom and led to the pop cultural juggernaut Thriller.
“I recently did ‘Bad 25,’ a making of Michael Jackson’s album and now we’re making ‘Off The Wall,’” he said.
There’s no word yet if a Thriller doc is a go yet, but we’ll assume it’s only a matter of time and Sony is working on one documentary per album at a time. Asked if he has any scripts in the drawer that he’d like to revive or revisit, Lee said mums the word, not wanting to “jinx” anything.
But during a recent Meet The Filmmaker Apple Store chat for “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus,” when asked if he would return to “the Republic Of Brooklyn” for more narrative features set within the borough, Lee reminded the audience that one is already written. “Definitely,” he said, “I have a script that's a mutherf*cker. I just gotta get the money for it. It's called ‘Brooklyn Loves MJ.’ So if we get the money for that, you'll like that too.”
“Brooklyn Loves MJ,” which we've written about previously, is a Cain and Abel-esque story set against a backdrop of gentrification in Lee’s Fort Greene neighborhood during the summer of '09, when fans were mourning Jackson's death. Given that the singer's death and music is written into the script, including his likeness, image and myriad references beyond just an inclusion in the title, we’d assumed the stoppage on the project —it was all ready to go with a cast in 2009— was due to music rights. But since Lee, the MJ estate and Sony are on board for further Jackson documentaries, it sounds like funding is the main obstacle. Calling Megan Ellison, the current patron saint of American auteurs: do the right thing.
On top of his “Off The Wall” project, Lee also has a documentary on Brazil in the works called “Go Brazil, Go,” which coincidentally is the country in which he shot his first Michael Jackson music video, “They Don't Care About Us.” “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus” is available for rental and download on Vimeo now and is open in limited release in several markets. Watch the full 20 minute TOH interview with Lee below.