“Good Sunday Afternoon From Da Corona Epicenter Of The USA-NYC.” So begins a recent Instagram post from master filmmaker and NYC icon Spike Lee. But this isn’t a typical post from Lee, nor an admission that he’s positive for covid-19 (thank God). Instead, Lee is gifting us with a full, unproduced screenplay of one of his pet projects: A Jackie Robinson biopic.
Lee has been a proponent of Robinson’s story and stature his entire life — in his breakout hit Do the Right Thing, his character even wears Robinson’s 42 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey. So Lee adapting Robinson’s autobiography I Never Had it Made was of paramount importance and passion for the filmmaker. And in front of a poster for The Jackie Robinson Story, a 1950 biopic starring Robinson himself, Lee spoke directly to camera to tell us a little about why it happened, and why it was never produced:
We’ve all had a lot of time to think about stuff, our life, what happened, what didn’t happen. And I began to think about one of my dream projects. I wrote a script for Jackie Robinson. I wanted Denzel to play Jackie, but Denzel said he was too old. And I pulled this script out of the vault. And so, I’m gonna share this script with you. And also — don’t worry about if you don’t like baseball, sports. This is a great American story. Never got made, but I wanna share this script with you… It’s the fifth draft, 1996… Hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, that’s alright, too.
Which “Denzel” is Lee referring to? Uh, duh doy, Denzel Washington, one of America’s greatest movie stars and a muse of Lee! Washington/Lee made films like He Got Game, Inside Man, and another biopic Malcolm X together. Lee likes the Washington dynasty so much, he cast Denzel’s son John David Washington as the lead in BlackKklansman. In 1996, Denzel would’ve been 42 — coincidentally, Robinson’s jersey number. Robinson was 28 when he first signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Does that mean Denzel was too old to play the role? Technically, perhaps. But I’ve seen the other recent Robinson biopic, 42. And, uh, let’s just say I’d rather see the Lee/Washington one. Until then, I’ll read the script happily.
Check out Lee’s full IG post below. And click here to download and read the screenplay yourself.