Josh Brolin stars in Spike Lee's remake of "Oldboy." Credit: Film District
Spike Lee is no stranger to controversy, but it’s usually the kind he personally engineers. Last March, for instance, he thought he was tweeting the address of George Zimmerman, but in fact he was siccing an angry mob on an innocent older couple. What was already a shameful act became much worse. (He has been very vocal in apologizing.)
Lee’s latest brouhaha appears to only involve him tangentially. A graphic designer, Juan Luis Garcia, is alleging posters he had crafted for “Oldboy” — Lee’s latest, and a remake of the 2003 South Korean vengeance classic — were stolen from him outright. According to Garcia, the agency handling the film paid him a tiny amount for his work, but promised more if his designs were chosen. His work, as it happens, was picked (if the modified), but the agency refused to pay Garcia.
After much unpleasant dealings with the agency, which kept threatening him with lawsuits, Garcia took to the internet, crafting a letter for Lee personally. He wisely did not accuse him of theft, but placed the blame solely on the agency.
The letter spread life wildfire, eventually capturing Lee’s interest. But the filmmaker didn’t prove to be the knight in shining armor many would have liked. Over Twitter he cagily dismissed the affair:
It’s disappointing that Lee is not more sympathetic towards Garcia, and didn’t seize this opportunity to use his power to correct a wrong. On the other hand, one can make the argument that it really isn’t his problem — and maybe he’s even loath to believe Garcia’s story. It’s clear he doesn’t appreciate the responsibility being shifted to him, as though he was responsible for all the shady doings of the thousands working on his film. Certainly his characteristically strident response hasn’t won him many friends, and many headlines reporting this story now suggest Lee is involved in the alleged theft.
Still, this story is still developing. We’ll see how the agency responds, as well as how Lee responds to the response to his response.