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THE BIG PICTURE PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Lee's 'L.A. Riots' gathers steam

July 17, 2008|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Brian GRAZER says that "L.A. Riots," Spike Lee's long-awaited look at the incendiary events that paralyzed Los Angeles for four terrifying days in 1992, is back on track. The movie, from an original script by Writers Guild dissident John Ridley, could possibly begin shooting later this year. The peripatetic producer has been busy with his latest lineup of A-list filmmaker projects, led by Clint Eastwood's "Changeling," due this fall, and Ron Howard's "Frost/Nixon," which arrives in December. But he says he is moving full speed ahead with the Lee film.

"Both Spike and I are totally excited about getting it going," Grazer told me. "John Ridley wrote a great script, but it needed a little more focus, so we put Terry George on it to do a rewrite. The script is due in two weeks, and, having worked with Terry before, we're expecting that it should be something that's ready to shoot."

George, best known for writing "In the Name of the Father" and writing and directing "Hotel Rwanda," did extensive rewrites on "Inside Man," the hit thriller Lee made with Grazer in 2006. Grazer says they haven't cast the new picture yet, though Lee is interested in using some of the young African American actors he worked with on "Miracle at St. Anna," his World War II film coming in September from Disney. (Lee and Eastwood have exchanged angry words about the dearth of black soldiers in Eastwood's own WWII films, but Grazer, ever the smooth operator, is staying far, far away from that dust-up.)

Though Lee is famous for his incendiary takes on controversial subjects, Grazer insists that "L.A. Riots" is more of a vivid drama than a bomb-throwing broadside. "It's a war movie set in a modern city like Los Angeles," he says. "There were 56 deaths, more than 2,000 buildings that caught fire and all sorts of horrific destruction. So we see the anger and the emotion, but the story enables us to see the strife from all perspectives. You get a close look at the sociopolitical dynamics from the perspective of the cops, the African Americans, the Koreans, from all these different people. And then you get to arrive at your own conclusions."

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This item and others can be found on the Big Picture blog (latimes.com/thebigpicture).

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