Movie lovers are sure to recognize the name Spike Lee as he is known to portray major characters in some of the films he directs. The American born entertainer is a film producer, writer, director, and actor. Under his production company, “40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks”, Lee has produced over 35 movies, most of which center on controversial topics like socio-political issues, race, culture, poverty, and violence. It is not in doubt that the prolific movie producer is one of the legends of Hollywood with a plethora of prestigious awards and nominations under his belt. Spike Lee’s vast endeavors in Hollywood bring his wealth to an estimated $50 million.
Spike Lee’s Early Life and Upbringing
Shelton Jackson Lee was born on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia to Mr. Bill Lee, an accomplished Jazz musician, and Mrs. Jacquelyn Carroll Lee, a private school teacher of arts and black literature. He was raised in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York alongside his sister “Joie Lee and four brothers “David, Clique, Arnold, and Chris Lee.” As a child, his mother gave him the nickname Spike which has since stuck. In Brooklyn, Spike attended John Dewey High School in the Gravesend neighborhood where he developed a strong passion for sports and aspired to become a baseball player.
However, during his college days at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Spike developed an affinity for theatre and made his first student film in 1977 entitled “Last Hustle in Brooklyn”. He graduated from the prestigious black college with a B.A in Mass Communications. Spike also enrolled at Clark Atlanta University where he studied film courses.
With a passion for more knowledge about the film-making world, Spike proceeded to Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where he graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Television. For his thesis, Spike produced the film “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads” in 1982 which received the coveted Student Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and also became the first-ever student film to be showcased in Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films Festival.
How Spike Lee Came To Finance His First Movie
Inspired by the amazing success of his film, Spike looked to land contracts with major studios but none was forthcoming. As a result, he proceeded to independently finance his first feature film and founded his production company “40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks”. With a budget of $185,000, Spike shot the movie entitled “She’s Gotta Have It” in a fortnight, releasing it in 1986.
“She’s Gotta Have It” became one of the most lucrative movies of the year with a box office gross of over $7 million. It also snapped the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Breakthrough and Continued Box Office Success
Spike then released his first major studio movie “School Daze” in 1988 which grossed over $14.5 million from a budget of $6.5 million. However, his next endeavor “Do The Right Thing” (1989) would become his breakthrough film, attracting much critical acclaim and achieving huge commercial success. The comedy-drama which Lee also starred grossed over $37 million from a $6 million budget. It also received an Academy nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
His impressive track record soon opened the doors to lucrative contracts. Spike received $3 million to direct, the 1992 biopic of African-American activist Malcom X. He received much acclaim for the 1997 documentary “4 Little Girls” which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature Documentary.
His other popular movies include; “The Best Man” (1999), Love & Basketball (2000), 25th Hour (2002), and Inside Man (2006) starring one of his regular casts Denzel Washington.
Spike won The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2013 which is one of America’s richest prizes worth $300,000. He was given an Academy Honorary Award in 2015.
Lee’s Net Worth and Other Business Ventures
In addition to filmmaking, Spike Lee bolsters his exchequer with other ventures. His production company operates small clothing stores that sell merchandise with the 40-acre logo and have also collaborated with the likes of Brooklyn Denim, Nike, and Ecko.
The company also has a New York-based advertising division called Spike DDB which produces commercials for high-end brands like Nike, Levi’s, Jaguar, Converse, Ben & Jerry’s, Taco Bell, and Lays. His most famous TV commercial was for the Nike Air Jordan brand alongside Michael Jordan.
Lee has also directed music videos for top acts like Eminem, Michael Jackson, and Prince. With various business ventures churning in cash for him, Lee’s net worth was formerly estimated at $40 million, but recent review brought it to a whopping $50 million.
Spike Lee’s cash flow from his movies and different business ventures have been expansively discussed in this article, but we must confess that it was thanks to his debut feature film that grossed $7 million from a budget of $175,000 that he became an icon in the entertainment world today.
Who Are Spike Lee’s Family Members?
Spike got married to his heartthrob Tonya Lewis on the 2nd of October 1993 and they have been married to date. Tonya was born on March 15, 1966, in the USA. She happens to be a writer, actress, and producer popularly known for her works in Gallagher Girls, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Mistress of Modernism. Spike and Tonya share two lovely kids together, daughter Satchel(born in 1994) and son Jackson (born in 1997).
Also, Spike has a sister Joie Lee, who was born on the 22nd of June, 1962, in Brooklyn, New York. She is also an actress and a writer who has featured in most of her brother’s movies such as Summer of Sam (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Do the Right Thing (1989) among others.
Born on the 16th of February 1961, David Lee is Spike Lee’s younger brother who works as a still photographer. He is responsible for the still photography for some of his brother’s work like The Best Man, The Preacher’s Wife, Made, Pollock, American Gangster, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the TV show The Wire.
Spike Lee has a second younger brother Cinqué Lee. Born in July 1966, Cinqué is also a filmmaker with quite a few movies to his credit, besides, he has worked in his big brother’s movies in different capacities as a video archivist, a cameraman, and a co-screenwriter for the movie Crooklyn. He is equally an actor with recorded appearances in Oldboy, School Daze, Coffee and Cigarettes, and Mystery Train.
As mentioned earlier, Spike Lee’s dad William James Edwards Lee III is a musician and has composed several original songs for son’s movies including School Daze, She’s Gotta Have It, Mo’ Better Blues, and Do the Right Thing.
Spike Lee also has a cousin involved in the entertainment industry. His name is Malcolm D. Lee and he is known as a movie producer, director, and screenwriter. He has directed several movies like Undercover Brother, The Best Man, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Roll Bounce, Scary Movie 5, Soul Men, Girls Trip, The Best Man Holiday, and Night School.
How Tall Is The Filmmaker?
Spike stands at a height of 5ft 5in (165.1 cm) which is a height generally deemed a little shorter for a man. The ideal height for men is a 5ft 11in to about 6ft 2in of which any taller would be deemed too tall. Luckily, Spike’s son “Jackson,” is much taller than him. Our guess is… he got his height from his mother Tonya.
Details of the Filmmaker’s Real Estate
Spike and his wife, attorney Tonya Lewis reside in a 9,000 square foot home in the exclusive Upper East zip code in Manhattan. Previously owned by one the Vanderbilts, Spike paid a reported $4.8 million for the three-story building back in 1998. In recent times, the building is estimated to have a value of not less than $50 million.
The filmmaker also owns a 4-bedroom vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard Island, Massachusetts. He built the mansion from scratch on a property he bought for $400,000 in 1989.
His production company is headquartered in a 3-story building in his native Fort Greene, a neighborhood in Brooklyn which he paid over $800,000 for in 1991.