Director Spike Lee is first to admit, New York City is an advertisement of its own. As a native New Yorker, Lee has long revelled in The City’s unique appeal. Lee has the best of both worlds: He grew up in the borough of Brooklyn, where he continues to work, and lives in Manhattan. He attended New York Graduate Film School and shortly thereafter shot his first feature, She’s Gotta Have It, the story of a woman and her lovers around the streets of Brooklyn. Throughout his 35-film career, he’s never considered leaving New York for Los Angeles. He is in good company: “[Martin] Scorsese’s here, Woody Allen’s here – they didn’t move,” he adds.
His native Brooklyn helped develop the person he is – and it’s often been the subject of his films including Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn and Clockers. Although Spike Lee’s boyhood Brooklyn has changed, he still praises and credits the people, diversity and culture. Lee is quick to roll call a list of legendary Brooklyn talents like classical composer Aaron Copland, iconic rapper Biggie Smalls, singer-songwriter Barbara Streisand and filmmaker Woody Allen. In Manhattan, Lee is a loyal New York Knicks and New York Yankees fan, often taking the train to the Bronx (where the Yankees play) and going largely unnoticed because it’s packed with fans.
New York City has long been recognizable in TV shows, films and music, especially with the rise of Hip Hop. Spike Lee knows people want to see where it’s all being made. Of course, Lee loves all of New York. Still, his number one New York visitor requirement? “If you come to New York City, you’ve got to get a bike or walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.” He loves the classic view of Manhattan and the magic energy of the city and insists, “If you can, before you leave this planet, you must come here to visit.”