June 6, 2008 — -- Some people might back down when Dirty Harry tells them to shut up. Not Spike Lee.
After Eastwood told him to "shut his face" and stop criticizing him about not including African-Americans in his 2006 Iwo Jima movies, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima," Lee's lashing out.
"First of all, the man is not my father and we're not on a plantation either," he told ABCNEWS.com. "He's a great director. He makes his films, I make my films. The thing about it though, I didn't personally attack him. And a comment like 'a guy like that should shut his face' -- come on Clint, come on. He sounds like an angry old man right there."
Lee has a proposal for Eastwood:
"If he wishes, I could assemble African-American men who fought at Iwo Jima and I'd like him to tell these guys that what they did was insignificant and they did not exist," he said. "I'm not making this up. I know history. I'm a student of history. And I know the history of Hollywood and its omission of the one million African-American men and women who contributed to World War II."
"Not everything was John Wayne, baby," Lee added.
For weeks, Lee and Eastwood have been battling over the inclusion of African-Americans in their WWII films. At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Lee, whose next film, "Miracle at St. Anna," is about an all-black U.S. division fighting in Italy, slammed Eastwood, saying the filmmaker overlooked the role of black soldiers during World War II.
"He did two films about Iwo Jima back to back and there was not one black soldier in both of those films," Lee told reporters at Cannes. "Many veterans, African-Americans, who survived that war are upset at Clint Eastwood. In his vision of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist. Simple as that. I have a different version."
Then, Eastwood threw some punches of his own. In an interview to promote his latest film, "Changeling," Eastwood said Lee should "shut his face."
"Has he ever studied the history?" Eastwood growled to British paper The Guardian, which published the interview today. Regarding "Flags of Our Fathers," Eastwood admitted there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima, "but they didn't raise the flag. The story is 'Flags of Our Fathers,' the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn't do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people'd go, 'This guy's lost his mind.' I mean, it's not accurate."
Lee's response to Eastwood's claim?
"I never said he should show one of the other guys holding up the flag as black. I said that African-Americans played a significant part in Iwo Jima," he said. "For him to insinuate that I'm rewriting history and have one of the four guys with the flag be black … no one said that. It's just that there's not one black in either film. And because I know my history, that's why I made that observation."
Lee also pointed to a 2006 Guardian article about African-American veterans' dismay that their experience wasn't covered in "Flags of Our Fathers."
In his interview, Eastwood added that Lee's got another thing coming if he complains about the lack of black actors in "Changeling." The film is set in Los Angeles during the Depression, before the city had a significant black population.
"What are you going to do, you gonna tell a f*****' story about that?" Eastwood ranted. "Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I'm not in that game. I'm playing it the way I read it historically, and that's the way it is. When I do a picture and it's 90 percent black, like 'Bird,' [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker] I use 90 percent black people."
He finished his roast with a simple, harsh directive:
"A guy like him should shut his face," Eastwood said.
Lee's last words took a different tone.
"Even though he's trying to have a Dirty Harry flashback, I'm going to take the Obama high road and end it right here," he told ABCNEWS.com. "Peace and love."