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Original Script – Spike Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’

Posted by Yolande (Lou) Smith | Jul 14, 2020

In March 1988, Spike Lee wrote a first draft screenplay for his movie ‘Do The Right Thing’ in just over 2 weeks. Handwritten, the 173-page first draft laid the foundations for a remarkable body of work.

Do the Right Thing is a 1989 American comedy-drama film produced, written, and directed by Spike Lee. It stars Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, and Samuel L. Jackson, and was the feature film debut of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez. The story explores a Brooklyn neighbourhood’s simmering racial tension, which culminates in violence and a death in the heat of a New York summer.

Do The Right Thing Official Trailer

‘Do The Right Thing’ looks at life in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year, through the eyes of pizza delivery guy Mookie and his fellow neighbours. As he does every day, Mookie’s boss Sal Fragione opens the pizza parlor he has owned for 25 years. The neighbourhood has changed considerably in the time he’s been there and is now composed primarily of African Americans and Hispanics. His son Pino hates it there and would like nothing better than to relocate the eatery to their own neighbourhood. For Sal however, the restaurant represents something that is part of his life and sees himself and his business as a part of the community. But what begins as a simple complaint by one of his customers, Buggin’ Out – who wonders why he has only pictures of famous Italian-Americans on the wall when most of his customers are black – eventually disintegrates into violence as the frustration brings out the worst in everyone. When the police murder gentle giant Radio Raheem at the scene, things go from bad to destructive.

The film was a critical and commercial success and received numerous accolades, including Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Danny Aiello’s portrayal of Sal the pizzeria owner. In 1999, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress, in its first year of eligibility, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Four pages of the hand written draft by Spike Lee – ‘Do The Right Thing’.

[Resource: Damone Williams via Kottke]

Take two – the entire screenplay, the typed second draft.


Spike Lee’s journal

A companion volume to the Universal Pictures film is also available capturing Lee’s journey through a journal – [Click Here to Access An Excerpt] Book available via numerous sellers online.

31 years later Do The Right Thing is still relevant, with police killings of Black Americans very much at the forefront of the global Black Lives Matter movement.

We listen, read, watch and learn:

Radio Raheem: “Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cain iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much a**. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate K-Oed by Love.”

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