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By Any Means Necessary: Trials And Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X

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The director of Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever describes the troubles he encountered while making Malcolm X, a film based on the life of the slain African-American leader. Original.


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The director of Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever describes the troubles he encountered while making Malcolm X, a film based on the life of the slain African-American leader. Original.

30 review for By Any Means Necessary: Trials And Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Spike gives a rough-and-ready commentary on the whole process of making his crucial movie Malcolm X, between September 1990 and just before it opened on 18 November 1992. The book itself was issued a couple of weeks after the movie opened and it’s a shame they didn’t wait just a few weeks so Spike could have commented on its reception. But he sure enough comments on a whole lot anyhow. I have never read a book like this before, where well known real people are berated, badmouthed, cursed at, cal Spike gives a rough-and-ready commentary on the whole process of making his crucial movie Malcolm X, between September 1990 and just before it opened on 18 November 1992. The book itself was issued a couple of weeks after the movie opened and it’s a shame they didn’t wait just a few weeks so Spike could have commented on its reception. But he sure enough comments on a whole lot anyhow. I have never read a book like this before, where well known real people are berated, badmouthed, cursed at, called out, trounced, sneered at, verbally battered and thrown under the bus so vibrantly, thrillingly and often. For instance, a run-in, even before the shoot started, with the writer and activist Amiri Baraka out of nowhere, even before we began principal photography, here comes Baraka on a blitzkrieg, saying that the masses of Black people didn’t want Spike Lee directing this film, that I was a petit bourgeois Negro who had no claim to the legacy of Malcolm – some serious blathering. What really hurt me about the whole thing with Baraka was that you never heard a peep out of him as long as Norman Jewison was directing the film. Not one peep out of him. He didn’t say shit then, but now he’s going to take me on? (Note – the idea for a movie based on Malcolm’s autobiography had been kicking around for years, and Norman Jewison at one point had been in the frame to direct it. This is the way it goes with Hollywood and its “properties”.) But as King Claudius in Hamlet says “When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!” So in quick succession Spike was dumped by his girlfriend Veronica Webb and Spike’s father, Bill Lee, jazz session musician, was busted for heroin possession and that became a story in the news. Then, a woman who had been hired to be an extra in a crowd scene in the movie was murdered on 135th Street in NYC. Then, in an incident which remained unexplained one day while we were setting up to shoot exteriors for a Harlem scene, a car came screaming down the block, crashing to the curb. Somebody had tied a brick to the accelerator and gunned it in our direction. Sometimes it was hard to concentrate on directing during this time. But I had to do it because nobody is going to sit out in the audience and say “Well, cousin, it’s a fucked-up movie true enough, but the brother was going through some hard times, his woman left him, his father is in rehab, and we should cut him some slack. We understand.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for those sentiments. … “Look” they’ll say, “we don’t care if your whole family died during the full moon and left you with a limp dick, when we come to the theatre X better be slammin’. Period.” Other issues included Betty Shabazz, Malcolm’s widow, disliking the whole project and then the big fight with the studio over the length of the picture (3 hours 22 minutes) and of course the budget – estimated at $33 million, and $5 million over budget. It came down, in the end, to Spike getting on the phone and calling people like Bill Cosby and Oprah to make up the difference – on the understanding that this would be a gift not an investment. There’s a fantastically interesting interview here between Spike and Farrakhan and some explosive comments about the Rodney King beating which happened in this period, and man, a whole lot of everything to do with being African American in the early 1990s. Plus interviews with producers, editors, Denzel Washington, all of which gives you a feel of the absolutely remarkable collective chaos that is movie production. Plus the script of the movie itself. Most hair-raisingly entertaining.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dwayne Ackley

    A Great book by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley about the making of "Malcolm X". An unbelievable film that came way too close to not getting finished. One of my favorite films. A Great book by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley about the making of "Malcolm X". An unbelievable film that came way too close to not getting finished. One of my favorite films.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dankwa Brooks

    I don’t even know why I bought this book about the film ‘Malcolm X’ (1992) but if you ever want to know how hard it is to get a film made in Hollywood ESPECIALLY a period piece epic, this is the book you should read. Even if you’re not that interested in how a movie is made, it is STILL an interesting read as a tale of “Trials and Tribulations”. By Any Means Necessary is not just a means to piggyback on brother Malcolm’s famous phrase, but it crystallizes exactly the mentality Mr. Lee had in min I don’t even know why I bought this book about the film ‘Malcolm X’ (1992) but if you ever want to know how hard it is to get a film made in Hollywood ESPECIALLY a period piece epic, this is the book you should read. Even if you’re not that interested in how a movie is made, it is STILL an interesting read as a tale of “Trials and Tribulations”. By Any Means Necessary is not just a means to piggyback on brother Malcolm’s famous phrase, but it crystallizes exactly the mentality Mr. Lee had in mind when making this film. To me the narratives in this book were just as engrossing as the film itself. PS: For the record the famous quote is- "We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary. ” — Malcolm X, 1965

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    I am giving this five stars, but somewhat like my review of Brokeback Mountain, I feel that I would give separate ratings based on the screenplay and what accompanied it. The screenplay here is a solid five stars. The way James Baldwin, Lee, and the rest of the screenwriters involved bring Malcolm to life through this script is stunning and transitions throughout his life with an incredible fluidity. I would rate the rest of the material here four stars, for the following two reasons: while the I am giving this five stars, but somewhat like my review of Brokeback Mountain, I feel that I would give separate ratings based on the screenplay and what accompanied it. The screenplay here is a solid five stars. The way James Baldwin, Lee, and the rest of the screenwriters involved bring Malcolm to life through this script is stunning and transitions throughout his life with an incredible fluidity. I would rate the rest of the material here four stars, for the following two reasons: while the sequence of the parts of the chapters that Lee writes transition into one another in an arrangement that makes sense, the rest of the chapters that Lee does not write often feel tacked on; I feel that these sections of each chapter would be better suited as a kind of appendix, and the majority of the people who write these sections do not get credit on the cover at all, misrepresenting the fact that this book is far more collaborative than the cover lets on. As awkward as the arrangement may sometimes be, Lee and his colleagues do provide a useful glimpse into not only Malcolm X’s life and the making of a film based around that life, the authors show a glimpse into what it means to be a black cinematographer in the late 20th century.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Drew

    Amazing because of its honest way of discussing filmmaking, studios, and the subject of the movie itself. Essays from the core team that worked on the film lends to the book’s authenticity and if I may say, charm. Essential reading for cinephiles and non-cinephiles alike. I read the entire book, including the screenplay, in one day.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine Langdon

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Years ago I saw Spike Lee's film "Malcom X" and have always been a supporter of both Malcom X and Spike Lee. It just happened to be by chance that I came upon a copy of this book about the making of the film including the screenplay when a friend was downsizing before moving interstate. I am by no means a fan of oppressive white Hollywood but even I was surprised at all the drama trying to get an important film made about an incredible leader killed far too soon. I always agreed with a fair amou Years ago I saw Spike Lee's film "Malcom X" and have always been a supporter of both Malcom X and Spike Lee. It just happened to be by chance that I came upon a copy of this book about the making of the film including the screenplay when a friend was downsizing before moving interstate. I am by no means a fan of oppressive white Hollywood but even I was surprised at all the drama trying to get an important film made about an incredible leader killed far too soon. I always agreed with a fair amount of what Martin Luther King Jr. said however more of Malcom X's teachings resonated with me (same with The Black Panthers) and I'm a smart, weird non racist white woman from NZ! They fought hard like Malcom to get this film made. I enjoyed reading the screenplay. If you, like me are anti Hollywood and smart and passionate about civil rights, even agree that more needs to change in America (Australia too btw!) then read this book. It was written in the 90's and though there have been some changes mainly Obama, Obama, Obama (greatest US President to date in my opinion) and it breaks my heart that 2016 USA still has far to come but that's another issue all together! I get passionate about civil rights (and animal rights ). Hope this review helps.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Hathaway

    Spike left the diary approach behind for a more constructed personal narrative regarding his experience with making Malcolm X. With that construction comes a larger degree of self-consciousness so some of the more illuminating thoughts regarding his writing on earlier work, like She's Gotta Have It, are harder to come by. Those looking for the full experience of what it was like for Spike to make Malcolm X, there's a much better account in That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It. The inclusion of Spike left the diary approach behind for a more constructed personal narrative regarding his experience with making Malcolm X. With that construction comes a larger degree of self-consciousness so some of the more illuminating thoughts regarding his writing on earlier work, like She's Gotta Have It, are harder to come by. Those looking for the full experience of what it was like for Spike to make Malcolm X, there's a much better account in That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It. The inclusion of the full screenplay is another nice bonus from Spike's early career books, and even though I was disappointed at the lack of additional insight there are interesting tidbits of information here and there not directly related to the production of Malcolm X that are worth picking up the book for.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Anderson

    The making of section doesn't end as much as stop (a complaint which is quickly becoming a cliche of mine), and I would've liked a bit more fleshing out of the process of getting donations from people to help finish the film, but overall yeah, this is about as warts and all and as open as I've seen a book about the making of film get. Spike's one of my favorites, and I really should find the books about his other films now. The making of section doesn't end as much as stop (a complaint which is quickly becoming a cliche of mine), and I would've liked a bit more fleshing out of the process of getting donations from people to help finish the film, but overall yeah, this is about as warts and all and as open as I've seen a book about the making of film get. Spike's one of my favorites, and I really should find the books about his other films now.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Sloyan

    This was my prize for donating to his kickstarter. I love books about making movies, especially when they're written by people who were there. It does have some interesting aspects, but I wish he included more tales from the actual filming instead of about Malcolm X's real life and talking to those that new him. It was interesting to read the perspectives from other people involved with the film such as the producer, composer etc. An interesting read I just wish it had more details This was my prize for donating to his kickstarter. I love books about making movies, especially when they're written by people who were there. It does have some interesting aspects, but I wish he included more tales from the actual filming instead of about Malcolm X's real life and talking to those that new him. It was interesting to read the perspectives from other people involved with the film such as the producer, composer etc. An interesting read I just wish it had more details

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro Camacho

    This book talked about the movie that they made for Malcolm x he is a leader that has been killed for changing the world like it is now so read this book if you want this book is good. It talks why and how they killed him and how his life was in the past. I was thrilled by this book it was a good book it showed photos of the movie with Malcolm x in it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    "Greg Adkins"

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mikei

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pete

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

  18. 4 out of 5

    April Lundy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jabril Showers

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  22. 5 out of 5

    David Sayre

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  25. 4 out of 5

    Estelle

  26. 5 out of 5

    Samir

  27. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  28. 5 out of 5

    Feanor

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Angela

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