Spike Lee Set to Film in Chicago; Kanye, Common, Samuel L in the Mix?

Spike Lee Set to Film in Chicago; Kanye, Common, Samuel L in the Mix?

Spike Lee is heading to Chicago to film the feature CHIRAQ for Amazon Studios, which will be the studio's first major motion picture. And reportedly, the Brooklyn native and Oscar nominated director is eyeing some big names to head up this cast.

Various reports have been swirling and will continue to swirl about potential cast members, but the names that are most consistenly being mentioned are Kanye West, Common, Jeremy Piven, John Cusack and Oscar Nominee Samuel L. Jackson. With the first four being Chicago natives and the fifth (Jackson) spending all that time on the air with Spike for those Capital One commercials, it seems likely that some or all of these notable artists will find a way into the film.

Now about the title for this film...

The title CHIRAQ has drawn quite a bit of ire from Chicagoans, from some ornery fan tweets like "Hate that it's called CHIRAQ. Some people actually embrace that insultingly shitty ass name like it's cool or a compliment" to full editorials such as "Spike Lee’s Use of CHIRAQ for His Next Film is Enraging" from Geoff Henao. As blogger Ryan Joseph commented today, "trying to make a buck off a completely pejorative term to describe South and West Side Chicago’s notorious gun violence just seems, well, uncouth." For the record, I'm hearing that CHIRAQ is just a working title at this point and is not expected to be the final title so it might be a little too early to get all wound up over it... or maybe now is the perfect time, in order to ensure that title doesn't make the final cut.

I'm also hearing that production offices for CHIRAQ will open at Cinespace next week and the Wachowski's go-to production manager Demetra Diamantopoulos is onboard as Assistant UPM. Meanwhile, Mr. Lee will definitely be in Chicago next weekend for a very special evening with my friends at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival aka CIMMFest. He is set to be here Saturday April 18 at City Winery to talk about his career. The 8 p.m. show is sold out but tickets may be available for the 10:30 p.m. Visit cimmfest.org for more information.

Much more to come on this feature... as always, I'll keep you posted!

Mike McNamara is the Co-Founder of The Midwest Independent Film Festival, www.midwestfilm.org. Mike pays his rent as an actor in Chicago in theatre, commercials, television and film. More from Mac at www.findmac.com.