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The Handwritten First Draft of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2020

Do The Right Thing first draft

Do The Right Thing first draft

Do The Right Thing first draft

Do The Right Thing first draft

In March 1988, Spike Lee wrote a first draft screenplay for his movie Do The Right Thing in just over 2 weeks. Four pages of this handwritten draft are pictured above. I wasn’t able to track down the entire screenplay, but the typed second draft can be found here. From a book companion to the film, here’s an excerpt from Lee’s journal from the day before he began writing:

Yesterday I began work on the script. Well, actually, I began the last work before the actual writing of the script. I put down all the ideas or scenes and dialogue on three-by-five index cards. TOMORROW, I’ll begin to write this motherfucker.

This morning I got up early to go to my corner store, T and T, to buy the paper. The young guys who work there had a Run-D.M.C. tape on. The owner, an old Italian guy, says, “What da fuck is dat? Turn that jungle music off. We’re not in Africa. It’s giving me a stomach ache.” Sooner or later it comes out. Okay, so you don’t like rap music. But why does it have to be about jungle music and Africa? I should have Sal say the same words to Radio Raheem in the movie.

And sure enough, on page 77 of the second draft:

SAL: Turn that JUNGLE MUSIC off. We ain’t in Africa.

BUGGIN’ OUT: Why it gotta be about jungle music and Africa?

SAL: It’s about turning that shit off and getting the fuck outta my pizzeria.

And on the day after finishing, he wrote:

Tuesday morning I finished the first draft of Do The Right Thing. It came in at roughly eighty-seven typed pages. It’s the fastest script I have ever written. In all, the actual writing of the first draft took fifteen days, but I have been taking notes since December.

(via criterion collection)