July 9, 2008 / 10:41 PM / 9 years ago

Spike Lee to film Broadway's "Passing Strange"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Director Spike Lee unveiled plans on Wednesday to film Tony Award-winning rock musical “Passing Strange” because he wants to document the Broadway production “for generations and generations to see.”

<p>Spike Lee arrives on the red carpet before the screening of "Maradona by Kusturica" by Serbian director Emir Kusturica at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>

The show is about a young black man leaving middle-class Los Angeles to travel abroad seeking artistic freedom and identity. Writer and star, Stew, who real name in Mark Stewart, describes the show as “autobiographical fiction.”

It was first staged at California’s Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2006, then off-Broadway in New York in 2007 before opening on Broadway in February.

Lee will film the matinee and evening shows on July 19, along with two more performances without audiences so cameras can have access to the stage, and said, without elaborating, that he plans “to do some things that have not been tried.”

“The story, the musicianship, the acting -- it was revelationary,” Lee told a news conference.

“For me musicians are the greatest artists on this earth because the talents they have come directly from God,” he said.

Stew, who does not describe himself as a playwright, but instead as a rock musician who made a play, said it was an honor to work with Lee.

“I wanted to be a filmmaker for a couple of years of my life but I didn’t do it because being in a band was easier,” Stew said, laughing. “I like all the awards we got but getting the Spike award is huge.”

The show picked up four Tony Award nominations this year and Stew won the show’s single Tony for best book of a musical. It also won best musical at the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards and Obie Awards.

There are not yet any distribution plans for the film.

Lee was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “Do the Right Thing” in 1990 and for best documentary for “4 Little Girls” in 1998.

He recently sparred in the media with veteran actor and director Clint Eastwood, criticizing his war films “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” for failing to recognize the role of African-American soldiers.

But Eastwood said blacks were segregated in World War Two and told Lee to “study your history and stop mouthing off.”

When Stew joked on Wednesday about Eastwood being given a role in “Passing Strange,” Lee responded: “Dirty Harry is kind of long in the tooth.”

Reuters/Nielsen

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