“Malcolm X” Actress Tells Why She Was Furious With Spike Lee During Filming

Posted On : June 20, 2018
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Denzel Washington and Kate Vernon in “Malcolm X” (screen-grab)

Kate Vernon- the actress who portrayed “Sophia,” Malcolm X’s girlfriend during his younger, hustling days-opened up a whole other can of worms soon after the film, “Malcolm X,” released in 1992.

As if many weren’t already shocked to learn that Malcolm X had dated a Caucasian woman in real life, Kate Vernon shocked the world a tad bit more, when she publicly claimed, in a 1992 LA Times interview, that Spike Lee treated her like a second class citizen on the movie set. According to her, things got so tense that they had a VERY heated argument while filming! See what Kate said all of this hoopla was about…


At first Kate Vernon had a positive outlook about Spike and his films, but once it was time for her to work with him, her views about Spike Lee shifted after she was interviewed by him and rehearsals began:

‘”He was very kind of supportive and inquisitive, [said Vernon]. …  But according to Vernon, working with Lee from then on was difficult. She said his attitude changed as soon as rehearsals began. “It was as if he was very aloof, very disinterested,” she said. “Spike’s way of working with me, I mean in polite terms, I could say he was very quiet. He didn’t pay much attention to me.”

Vernon said she and Washington ended up working out their scenes during the rehearsals. “Spike was in the corner sort of going through the script watching,” she said. “I found that to be very uncomfortable because I felt like I couldn’t go to Spike. I am speaking about my experience with him, not everyone’s experience. I never felt part of the process. In that way it was terribly uncomfortable. I can’t figure out the psychology of Spike and I tried to.”

Kate then became pissed when she claimed that Spike Lee didn’t honor her contract when it came to nudity:

“In my contract, we agreed no nudity,” Vernon said. “The family of Malcolm X didn’t want any nudity.”

Vernon claims that once it was time to shoot the love scene with Denzel in the back of a Cadillac, Spike went against her contract. She says that only her shoulders were supposed to have been show, but claims Spike told her the scene would only work if she showed her breasts, presumably to give it a more realistic feel:

“This argument broke out between Spike and I,” she said. “I am trapped in this car and I am fighting with Spike to honor my contract. What resulted is that he cut the scene in half.”

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Via LA Times- Vernon said…she was in Rome filming a comedy, “Jackpot.” One morning, she heard a loud knock at her trailer door. It was Lee. “He said, ‘How you doing?,’ which was really great. He was lecturing at a filmmaking school and thought he would stop by and say, ‘Hi.’ I thought it was really sweet.” Still, she says, she doesn’t hope to work with the director again. “I feel like I have worked with him, I know what it is like.”

We’re not sure what Spike thoughts are about Kate’s claims, but we have learned one thing about him. To get the best performances out of actors, one of his tactics has been to intentionally create tension off-camera, as a way to get that authenticity of a tense situation on camera. Example: Spike created a real-life tense scenario for the actors who played the gigaboos and the wannabees in his film, “School Daze,” because he wanted that same off-camera tension between the actors to seem real in the film.

Some would say that’s the work of a genius, while others -especially those on the receiving end of said tension (like Kate Vernon was)- will probably say that’s the work of a jerk. But there’s no denying that when Spike puts his creative skills behind something, magic happens, just like it did in the “School Daze” and “Malcolm X.”