In a way, Spike Lee stands outside the Hollywood studio system: He denounces the major studios regularly (including the studios that release his movies); he's snubbed when it comes Academy Awards time; and he makes personal, individualistic movies that conventional Hollywood wisdom says don't have much chance to succeed. But like it or not, Lee is also a true player in Hollywood, making his movies for the big studios, shrewdly using the regular publicity channels to his advantage and occasionally bowing to commercial considerations. For instance, he's admitted that with his new film, "Mo' Better Blues," he's played down his inflammatory side to make a movie that a wider audience should like.
Also, in true Hollywood fashion, Lee is a master merchandiser. His last few movies have been accompanied by picture books, books that reprint the screenplay, and "The Making of ..." books written by Lee himself. And now Lee has gone the route of Walt Disney and Universal Studios: Later this month he'll open Spike's Joint, a Brooklyn store devoted almost entirely to merchandise related to his movies, from T-shirts and buttons to books. The store, located close to the headquarters of Lee's production company, will also sell Brooklyn Dodgers baseball caps, a personal favorite of the director.
Lots of Life in 'Die Hard'
"Die Hard 2" has a strong chance to become the summer's biggest moneymaker, to judge from the $21.7 million it made last weekend, or the $31.9 million it made in the first five days after its opening July 4, or the $35.6 million it made if you include its special "preview" showings the night of July 3. However you count the money, "Die Hard" dominated the box office in a way few other films have in this summer of modest successes. "Days of Thunder" and "Dick Tracy," meanwhile, both fell by about a third; neither movie is dropping fast enough to be considered a failure (unlike, say, "RoboCop 2," which is plummeting), but both are right at the border of what can be considered an acceptable drop.
Horror Film Knockout
Here's a movie the ratings board ought to have fun with: "Blood Salvage," a horror film so gruesome that its co-executive producer says even Mike Tyson wouldn't be able to sit through it with his eyes open. Of course, the producer in question is boxer Evander Holyfield, who's trying to hype his career outside the movie business. Holyfield, who's going to fight Buster Douglas in September, says he'll donate $10,000 to charity if either Tyson or Douglas can watch the entire movie without taking his eyes off the screen. Holyfield claims that watching the movie will give his rival boxers "Don King hairdos."
And speaking of the ratings board, "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" is now rated R. No, Miramax Films didn't win its battle with the board, which branded the movie with an X months ago, before Miramax released it without a rating. But an edited version of the movie was resubmitted to the board and rated last week; the version now playing in theaters is still the uncut, unrated version. In the same ratings bulletin, by the way, yet another Miramax film, "Hardware," was given an X.
"Black Orpheus," the influential Brazil-set film that won the best foreign film Oscar for 1959, will be remade in an updated version with American actors. "Bye Bye Brazil" director Carlos Diegues will direct the movie, which will reportedly stick more closely to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice than did the original; filming is to begin next February, during the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The new version will be written by Leopoldo Serran, who wrote "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands"; Antonio Carlos Jobim, who scored the first "Black Orpheus," will handle those chores on the remake ... That film, by the way, is being co-produced by the American company Cine-Source, which was involved with "Texasville," Peter Bogdanovich's sequel to "The Last Picture Show." "Texasville" is being released by Columbia next month, but the word-of-mouth from early screenings is not good ... And Allied West Entertainments, a new film production and music publishing company, plans to make a movie biography of pioneering reggae musician Bob Marley. The company already has the rights to much of Marley's music: AWE recently purchased Cayman Music Inc., Marley's former publisher.