Two weeks ago, breaking a long-standing rule of his, Spike Lee, likely pressured by publicly-voiced concerns as well as criticism of his upcoming "Chiraq" project, went to Chicago and held a press conference addressing those worries, reassuring Chicago residents that he essentially doesn’t plan to paint a questionable portrait of their city with the film, but rather seemingly quite the opposite – "to help save lives."
He also challenged his critics, saying, during the news conference at St. Sabina Catholic Church: "A lot of things have been said about the film by people who know nothing about the film… We felt it was appropriate that we say what the narrative is, the filmmakers, the people who are doing this. Not the people that’s judging from afar."
The film, which we learned will be a comedy musical,
is a retelling of the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata" – in short, the women
of Greece refused to have sex with their husbands, all in an effort to
bring an end to the Peloponnesian War, via the signing of a peace
treaty. In Spike’s film, the story will center on a woman’s quest to end
gang warfare in Chicago, likely via similar methods as used by
Lysistrata; i.e., no sex for the brothas in the middle of the gang war,
until the violence ends… and it all unfolds as a musical comedy.
"Everything I’ve done has led up to this film," Lee said, adding a
simple overall message: "I love Chicago, you know… Wait until the movie
comes out. You don’t like it, you don’t like, but wait, see it first.”"
He even brought John Cusack, who’s attached to co-star in the film, along with him for the conference, with Cusack chiming in with his support for Spike and the project: "Art must be courageous," he said.
Also speaking on Spike’s behalf was Pam Bosley, a coordinator for Purpose over Pain – an organization formed in 2007 by several Chicago area parents who lost their children to gun violence.
Will all that was said during the press conference help quell concerns over the project? Ultimately, it probably won’t matter. Clearly, Spike fully intends to see this project through, and will not be deterred, with principal photography already underway in Chicago, officially kicking off a week ago, with the backing of leading producer/financier and international sales agency IM Global.
As production continues in Chicago, more of the film’s cast has been revealed, including Dave Chappelle, who Lee shared a photo with on his Instagram page, with a caption saying that the comedian is "All Aboard Da CHA-RAQ Peace Train. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF. Our Peace Train Is Smokin’ Cuz We Ain’t Jokin’.”
No word on what role exactly Chappelle has been cast to play.
In addition, the Chicago Tribune reports that Wesley Snipes, who was last directed by Spike Lee in "Jungle Fever" in 1991, as well as Nick Cannon, have also joined "Da CHA-RAQ Peace Train," with the latter potentially playing a rapper.
Furthermore, the Tribune also says that John Cusack may be portraying a character based on Rev. Michael Pfleger, the controversial social activist and pastor of Chicago’s St. Sabina church.
And while Kanye West appears to be out (at least, he won’t be appearing in front of the camera), the Tribune says that Jennifer Hudson, D.B. Sweeney and Samuel L. Jackson may act in the film as well.