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What It's Like Working With Spike Lee - Exclusive

Spike Lee is one of the most impactful directors ever to grace the screen. His films are full of heart, political discourse, human warmth and love, and a boldness that makes his movies stand out and demand to be noticedDa 5 Bloods, his latest feature film now streaming on Netflix, is a movie that encompasses all the classic elements of a Spike Lee endeavor, and adds new heights to his art as a filmmaker.

Looper spoke with with two of Da 5 Bloods' lead actors — Delroy Lindo, who plays Paul, and Jonathan Majors, who plays David — about what it was like to work with the iconic auteur. From what they told us, Lee inspires great trust in the people he works with.

"I think the beautiful thing about Spike is that he is an auteur. He has a very clear point of view and a very clear style," said Majors. "I think the beauty of being an actor is when you're on set, you have to ignore everything except for what it is you're going after in the scene. I had so much trust to do that [...] because I can trust that Spike Lee is Spike motherf****** Lee. He is going to make sure that this looks great. You could feel when he was ignited. You could feel where he had something up his sleeve. He has this laugh, look some dancing that he does when he's in his zone. He's always in his zone."

He added, "It just gave you [a feeling] like, 'Okay, you can't miss. You can't miss.' He's cast you for a reason. That's a part of his style, the people he casts. He's doing this project for a reason. What he picks is a part of his style." Majors went on with some advice for actors, saying, "If any actors are listening, it's none of your business where the camera's at. You've just got to do the thing. Hopefully you've enlisted in the army of a director that's going to take care of you."

The beautiful and sometimes brutal visuals in Da 5 Bloods serve as a testament to Lee, as Delroy Lindo put it, "being extremely committed, profoundly committed to the stories, to the narratives that he wants to tell."

Da 5 Bloods: An action movie crafted by a master

The scope of Lee's Da 5 Bloods is sweeping; it's part action movie and part social commentary. Chatting with Looper, Lindo spoke about some of the topics Lee examines through Da 5 Bloods: "The Black experience at Vietnam, what Black vets went through and what they go through coming home. Mental health. The condition of Black male love."

"As we worked, it became clear to me that this is a love story between these men. Even in amongst all their foibles and their faults and their arguing and the pettiness, fundamental to all of it is the fact that these men loved and cared about each other — otherwise they would not have even undertaken this journey in the first place," Lindo continues. 

Taking such intriguing themes and weaving them into a masterful film meant assembling the right group of actors. Lee recruiting Lindo seemed like a natural choice, as the two had worked together many times before. "Here was yet another phenomenal opportunity that Spike presented me with following on from Malcolm X and Crooklyn and Clockers and now Da 5 Bloods," Lindo said. "An amazing thing for any actor to be gifted in the span of a career."

Lee also reached out to actors who hadn't appeared in his films before — like Majors, who had an incredible time working with the esteemed filmmaker. "You could feel when he was ignited. You could feel where he had something up his sleeve," the actor said. "He has this laugh ... some dancing that he does when he's in his zone. He's always in his zone."

Spike Lee's growth as a director and a person

As one of Lee's most powerful movies, Da 5 Bloods also shows his growth as an artist on and off screen. In recounting a conversation between Lee and himself before filming, Lindo shared with us, "Spike said some things to me that let me know that he has changed just as a human being on the planet. It was really touching, moving. It spoke to, perhaps, a growth, a maturing. And I think that that maturity — not only for him, but for me, also, as a creative worker — infused itself into this work. Because while I'm proud of all of the work that I've done with Spike, I really feel that this one is right up there as an achievement — as a cinematic achievement, as a creative achievement."

Lindo's deep, powerful voice took a pause during our chat with him before he said, "And I don't have the words, frankly, to articulate the depth of the pride that I have. I'm hugely proud of this film and this work."

Da 5 Bloods is available to stream on Netflix now.