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Do the Right Thing

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In Do the Right Thing, just as the trashing of the pizzeria is starting there is a quick flash of a photo of two boxers (supposedly, I think, one of the pictures on the wall). It was too brief for me to easily pause the VCR to get a good look. Does anyone know who the boxers are? My guess is that it's from one of the LaMotta/Robinson fights, but it could be Grazziano or Marciano. (Even if I got a good look I may not be able to tell any of the said boxers.)

It's one of the things I hadn't noticed the first few time I've watched. An interesting shot, that I think speak far more than the few seconds it's on screen.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film

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Took this question as a challenge of my interent research abilities and while I've been unsuccessful as of yet, here's some interesting trivia I did pick up. Do The Right Thing Trivia


This triva was compiled from the compilation book for the movie written by Spike Lee and Lisa Jones.

Did You Know That Spike Lee wanted the film to look and both feel hot. He wanted the audience to feel like they were suffocating, and create the kind of tension found in In the Heat of the Night.

Did You Know That in using a Pizza Parlor, Spike Lee was making a allusion to the Howard Beach incident.

Did You Know That the characters names in Do The Right Thing were influenced by various jazz musicians and atheletes.

Did You Know That the scene where the white homesteader steps on Buggin' Out's Air Jordans was about how men, black and white, test each other's manhood.

Did You Know That Fillini's Roma was an influence of Do The Right Thing. Roma tells the story of a day in the life of Rome, while Do The Right Thing tells the story of the hottest day of summer in Brooklyn, New York.

Did You Know That Richard Edison was originally set to play Pino, the racist eldest son of Sal, before Spike Lee decided that he should play the younger brother, and John Turturro should be Pino.

Did You Know That Spike Lee wanted Charlie, the character who gets his car drenched by the pump, to be Italian, so he went to director, Martin Scorsese for suggestions. Scorsese recommended Frank Vincent, who had been in a number of his films. Vincent who didn't know who Spike Lee was, asked Scorsese "Who is this guy Spike Lee? Is he Oriental?"

Did You Know That Giancarlo Esposito bought a pair of glasses that magnified his eyes five times, and then fitted himself with contacts to reverse the prescription in order to make his eyes look very big. It was his way of living up to the name Buggin' Out.

Did You Know That the scene where the little kid is saved by the Major from getting hit by a car is based on a real life incident that happened to Spike Lee. When he was a kid, he ran after a ice cream truck and was almost hit by a speeding car. A neighbour swooped out and grabbed him in front of the car.

Did You Know That both Touchstone Pictures and Paramount passed on the script before Universal picked it up. Paramount was worried that the ending would incite a riot.

Did You Know That Spike Lee's sister, Joie Lee plays Mookie's (Spike Lee) sister in the movie too.

Did You Know That Spike Lee wanted Robert De Niro to play the part of Sal (Danny Aiello), but De Niro decided to not take the role because he felt he had done roles like Sal before and he didn't want to repeat himself.. When De Niro turned the part down, Spike Lee also briefly contemplated Joe Pesci and Joe Montagna in the role before settling on Danny Aiello.

Did You Know That Spike Lee wanted Larry Fishburne to play the part of Radio Raheem, but Fishburne wanted to concentrate on getting leading men material, instead of playing supporting roles.

Did You Know That originally, Spike Lee was planning on having one of Sal's sons having a crush on Mookie's sister, but changed it to Sal because it was already done in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and felt too similar to Romeo and Juliet.

Did You Know That Matt Dillon was considered for a role as one of Sal's sons.

Did You Know That the humor in Do The Right Thing was based on the same style of homor found in Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cooko's Nest, Network and the Last Detail. Dramas with very very funny scenes.

Did You Know That the funny and touching anti-relationship played between Mother Sister and Da Mayor is acted out by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, who are both married to each other in real life.

Did You Know That the character Buggin' Out was originally written for Messenger, a Spike Lee script that never got made.

Did You Know That Spike Lee wanted to address how drugs were destroying the black community, but decided to hold off from mentioning in Do the Right Thing, because it was already loaded with so many ideas and subplots.

Did You Know That one of Spike Lee's goals for improving himself as a film maker was to beef up the women roles in Do the Right Thing.

Did You Know That Christa Rivers, who plays Ella, the only girl in the street posse, was discoverd by Spike Lee at Howard University while he was giving a speech. She heckled him to give her a part in one of his movies, so when the role came up for a plucky, "street" girl, Spike Lee looked her up.

Did You Know That Spike Lee discovered Rosie Perez while at a nightclub, and decided she would be perfect as Mookie's girlfriend.

Did You Know That Paul Benjamin, one of the Corner Men in the movie, was worried that the script was full of lazy, shiftless Black people. Spike Lee told Paul that film was about the Black underclass.

Did You Know That Spike Lee once considered "Cool Jerk" by the Capitols as the intro song for Rosie Perez to dance to before finally going with Fight the Power.

Did You Know That the sets for Sal's Famous Pizza and the Korean shop were so authentic looking, that people would come in off the street to buy food, not realizing that they were fake.

Did You Know That the budget for Do the Right Thing was $6.5 million.

Did You Know That Roger Smith, the actor who plays Smiley, came up with the idea that his character should stutter, listen to Malcolm X speeches on his walkman and give out photographs of the famous picture with Malcolm X and MLK together.

Did You Know That this was Spike Lee's first movie shot with a union. To keep costs down, Universal suggested they shoot in Philly or Baltimore, but Spike Lee insisted they shoot in Brooklyn.

Did You Know That Fight the Power, the song you hear on Radio Raheem's boom box, wasn't ready in time for production. So Bill Nunn had to concentrate on not making his walk too rhythmic, for fear of being off the beat.

Did You Know That Radio Raheem's love and hate rings are Spike Lee's homage to Night of the Hunter.

Did You Know That Sam Jackson was in the first shot filmed for School Daze and the last shot filmed for Do the Right Thing.

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Some other trivia I found on DtRT:

Smiley's part wasn't in the original. The actor wanted to be in the film and Lee wrote the part for him.

Rosie Perez's head isn't seen when she is stripped, because she was crying, feeling exploited.

The first line in DtRT is "Wake up!" The last line in School Daze is "Wake up!" (Compare that with your trivia about Sam Jackson)

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film

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  • 8 years later...

Link to the duplicate thread.

Jonathan Rosenbaum has just re-posted one of his essays on this film:

. . . It’s been reported that a major reason why Do the Right Thing failed to win any prizes at the last Cannes film festival was the objection of Wim Wenders, the president of the jury, that Mookie didn’t behave more like a hero. Wenders’s implied critique is that Lee should have made Mookie into a role model, superior to every other character in the film — a character who would exalt the either/or principle, which would imply, in turn, that the world is as simple a place as most movies pretend that it is, where simple and unambiguous choices are possible. The world of Rambo, in short — a world that is, curiously enough, not normally accused of fostering and encouraging violence to the degree that Lee’s film has been.

Ironically, it is the moment at which Mookie throws the garbage can that he comes closest to functioning as a Rambolike hero — and closest to demonstrating how false and reductive the notion of such simpleminded heroism can be in a world as cluttered, splintered, and confused as ours. If role models are needed, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X seem much better choices — not to mention Mister Senor Love Daddy (Sam Jackson), the local disc jockey whose patter periodically serves as narration; his most important message on a very hot day is for all of the characters to cool off.

FWIW, I got a chuckle out of one word near the end of this bit:

Stepping outside the immediate context of the film for a minute, consider the appropriateness of terms like “black” and “white” — terms that we’ve somehow managed to arrive at by default rather than through any sharpening precision in our use of language. The evidence that our senses give us is that so-called “white” people aren’t white at all, but varying gradations of brown and pink, while most so-called “black” people in the U.S. are varying gradations of brown and tan. Thus the skin tones in question aren’t nearly as oppositional as the words that we use make them out to be. (It could be argued that capitalizing “black” only increases the confusion by further validating the concept behind the term as opposed to the visual reality.) A major reason why “Negro” ceased to be an acceptable word during the 60s was the belief that it was a “white” word and concept; unfortunately, “black” is a term that makes sense in a racial context only in relation to “white,” and if “white” is itself a questionable term, “black” or “Black” only compounds the muddle. (Consider also the consequences of this metaphysical mischief when one adds to the discussion Hispanics and Orientals, who are commonly regarded as neither white nor black, and Native Americans, who are arbitrarily designated in our mythology as red.)

The word that made me chuckle -- especially within this context -- was "Orientals". After spending so many words on the declining acceptability of "Negro" and the wrangling over what, exactly, should take that word's place, Rosenbaum goes on to use "Orientals" as though there were no similar controversy there. Whereas the last time *I* used that word, several years ago, my friends of Asian descent mocked me mercilessly, and I haven't used it since. Maybe the word wasn't so passé 22 years ago, when Spike Lee's movie came out, but it sure seems passé today.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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