"Quentin is infatuated with that word," the Do the Right Thing filmmaker tells Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd, in an interview published today. "What does he want to be made--an honorary black man?"
The "n" word is "nigger"--the racial epithet used, by one count, 38 times in Tarantino's highly anticipated upcoming ode to 1970s crime dramas and (intriguingly) blaxploitation flicks, Jackie Brown, starring African-American actors Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson. (Noted a Daily Variety film critic in his generally favorable review of the flick Tuesday: The character played by Jackson is one "whose nearly every phrase contains the n-word...")
Film buffs know this is no phase Tarantino is going through, or a pose he is temporarily striking. The writer-director was quite comfortable tossing around the word--a lot--in his previous efforts: Reservoir Dogs and the Oscar-winning Pulp Fiction.
"I'm not against the word and I use it, but not excessively. And some people speak that way," Lee says. "...[But] I want Quentin to know that all African-Americans do not think that word is trendy or slick."
Tarantino's Los Angeles spokeswoman could not be reached for comment early Wednesday.
Lee himself has been taken to task in the past for his portrayals of Jewish characters, notably in 1990's Mo' Better Blues. Newsweek called Lee's "ethnic stereotyping" in that film inexcusable, slamming a pair of his characters as "villainous Shylocks."
Archerd calls Lee on this point in the article--but Lee isn't looking for an out. He stands firm on his criticism of Tarantino.
Says the filmmaker: "If I had used the word 'kike' 38 times in Mo Better Blues, it would have been my last picture."
Jackie Brown opens Christmas Day.