NEW YORK — Spike Lee will receive the 20th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which carries a reward of $300,000.
The Gish Prize Trust announced the selection recently. Selection committee chairman Darren Walker said Lee was chosen “for his brilliance and unwavering courage in using film to challenge conventional thinking.”
Lee said in an interview that he was well acquainted with Lillian Gish as the actress of “The Birth of a Nation” and “The Night of the Hunter,” but he was unfamiliar with the prize established in Gish’s will. She requested that the prize, be given to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”
“It was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever had,” Lee said.
The prize will be presented at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday.
Past honorees include Bob Dylan, Arthur Miller and Frank Gehry.
Lee’s films range from the racially charged 1989 Brooklyn drama “Do the Right Thing” to the 1992 biopic “Malcolm X” to the post-Katrina New Orleans documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” In November, Lee will release “Oldboy,” a remake of the Park Chan-wook South Korean thriller.
“I wanted to build a body of work, to hone my craft and get better as a storyteller,” he said
In July, Lee launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his next movie, which he vaguely promised would be about “the addiction of blood.” The crowd-sourcing campaign succeeded in raising $1.4 million.
What will Lee use it for?
“What I do with it is nobody’s business,” Lee said. “This is something I did not ask for, even know about, and thank God I got it. “I will promise you this: I will make good use of it.”