Lee Is Universal’s Inside Man On ‘Riots’

Michael Fleming, Variety, Dec. 6, 2006

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment, are teaming with helmer Spike Lee on “L.A. Riots,” a drama framed around the racially charged April 1992 riots.

John Ridley will write the script. Brian Grazer will produce.

Lee, who’s also developing an “Inside Man” sequel for the studio and Grazer, said the goal is to have a script in front of prexy Donna Langley before business closes for the holidays. Project could well be his next feature and shoot next year.

The riots, which followed the acquittal by a white jury of four police officers who were videotaped beating black motorist Rodney King, caused the death of 55 people, thousands of injuries and close to $1 billion in damage.

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“This isn’t about some cavalcade of stars, but rather a truthful and realistic examination of what happened, what the ramifications were and where we are now, in hopes that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Lee said.

Grazer said the subject matter was “the best way to use Spike’s power as a filmmaker, to tell an even-handed story that gets beyond the iconic pictures that we all remember. I was most interested in looking at the idea of universal group dynamics that manifest themselves under the highest amount of stress and to get all these points of view as they converge into each other and ignite in flames.”

Lee’s memories of April 29, 1992, are vivid.

“The day the riot happened was the very first time that Terry Semel and Bob Daly saw ‘Malcolm X,’ when they were running Warner Bros.,” Lee said. “All the things Malcolm X was talking about were happening. Assistants were running into the room, passing them notes. ‘Do you want us to order a helicopter to come into the studio to get you home?’ You could see it in their faces, watching this movie, wondering if L.A. was burning down, and if the world was coming to an end.

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“I went straight to LAX, and my ass was on the red eye,” he said.

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