For whatever else, New York City has always had a way of bringing together disparate creatives for often distinctly unexpected collaborations. In the case of Spike Lee and David Byrne, it is either long overdue…or shockingly unexpected.
Both children of NYC’s most intense, most explosive artistic period—some date in the mid-1970s to some date in the early 1990s—they have each again hit recent creative highs: Lee with 2018’s Oscar winning BlacKKKlansman, and Byrne with his exuberant new Broadway show American Utopia, which has been a rapturously reviewed, and is arguably the surprise hit of the last year.
Lee has just been announced as the director of a film version of American Utopia. And perhaps what is most curious/fascinating about the pairing is just where they each were during particular earlier points in their creative careers. To wit, as Byrne’s Talking Heads were collabing with director Jonathan Demme on the landmark 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, Lee was directing videos for proto Bronx rappers Grandmaster Flash. In 1989, when Lee’s Oscar nominated (and surely snubbed) Do The Right Thing was so brilliantly documenting Gotham’s seething racial tensions, Byrne had already decamped to Brazil for his kind of awesome neo-bossa-nova period. But they were honestly nowhere within spitting distance of one another, artistically and ideologically.
Now these two titans of contemporary New York will be fusing their inimitable creative energies, along with exec producers Participant…and it’s nothing less than thrilling just to anticipate exactly how it will all turn out.
“Pinch me,” enthuses Byrne. “This couldn’t have worked out better for this project. Spike Lee directing and Participant producing—two socially engaged teams, well, three if you count us in the band, coming together in what I feel will be something moving, important, and unlike anything anyone has seen before.”
Of both Mssrs. Lee and Byrne, we would obviously expect nothing less.