Stargazing

Spike Lee breaks silence about ‘Chiraq’ movie co-written by Lawrence filmmaker Kevin Willmott

Writer and director Spike Lee holds a press conference outside St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side on Thursday, May 14, 2015 regarding his planned controversial movie "Chiraq." Lee, along with the Rev. Michael Pfleger, second from right, and actor John Cusack, right, and parents of victims of gun violence spoke to a large crowd in the church's courtyard.
Writer and director Spike Lee holds a press conference outside St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side on Thursday, May 14, 2015 regarding his planned controversial movie "Chiraq." Lee, along with the Rev. Michael Pfleger, second from right, and actor John Cusack, right, and parents of victims of gun violence spoke to a large crowd in the church's courtyard. Chicago Tribune/TNS

At a news conference in Chicago on Thursday, Spike Lee broke his silence about “Chiraq,” his upcoming movie about violence in the Windy City’s Englewood neighborhood.

By Lee’s side when he addressed the media: Lawrence filmmaker and University of Kansas professor Kevin Willmott, actor John Cusack and parents of children killed by gun violence in the city. Willmott is the movie’s co-writer.

The purported name of the movie – pronounced “shy-Rak” – combines the words “Iraq” and “Chicago.” That word has come under intense fire from elected officials in the Windy City, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The movie is expected to start shooting in Chicago in June. Until Thursday Lee had disclosed very little information about the movie, which came to the public’s attention just last month, according to The Chicago Tribune. The newspaper reported that Lee denied several interview requests in recent weeks.

“Look at us,” Lee said at Thursday’s press conference. “This is not a joke. This is not a game. This is real life and death and that's the way we're going to approach this.

“That's the way I've approached all my films — I mean, people acting like you've never seen none of my films! Like, I just got pulled off the street. I've been doing this since 1986.”

“In fact,” Lee said, “everything I've done has led up to this film.”

According to a report Sunday by ScreenDaily, the script is a modern-day re-imagining of the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata” by Aristophanes about how women withheld sex to try to stop the Peloponnesian War.

In Lee's musical comedy, the plot reportedly revolves around women of Chicago’s South Side try the same battle of the sexes to end the violence in their neighborhoods.

Rumors about Kanye West starring in the movie have been debunked by West’s spokesperson, though the musician might still be involved somehow with the soundtrack.

Other names mentioned in connection with the project include Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson and Cusack, according to ScreenDaily.

On Thursday Lee batted away the negative attention the movie has drawn thus far.

“Way way back when I made 'Do the Right Thing,' there were people who said this film would cause riots all across America, that black people were going to run amok,” said Lee.

“They wrote a whole bunch of things. But those people ended up being on the wrong side of history. And the same is going to happen in Chicago. They are going to look stupid and end up on the wrong side of history. We're here for peace. We have to stop this.”

Cusack spoke of his love for his hometown and took his own shot at critics of the movie.

“I am 100 percent sure that the great city of Chicago can survive a film of conscience — just like it did ‘Transformers,’” said Cusack.

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