Malcolm D. Lee

Malcolm D. Lee

Active - 1999 - 2021  |   Born - Jan 1, 1970   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance

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Biography by AllMovie

Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee may have been inspired to become a filmmaker by his cousin Spike Lee, but the younger Lee aimed directly at mainstream success with his genial ensemble comedy The Best Man (1999). Raised in Brooklyn, Lee never imagined he had a shot at a movie career until he saw his older cousin Spike's ultra-low-budget debut She's Gotta Have It (1986) become a breakthrough hit. Beginning with a production assistant job on School Daze (1988) when he was a high school senior, Lee got an on-set tutorial in filmmaking with his cousin that also included work on Malcolm X (1992) and Clockers (1995). After he graduated from Georgetown University as an English major, Lee won a one-year screenwriting fellowship from Disney before he headed back to New York and N.Y.U. to get a graduate degree in film. Drawing on his own experience in a predominantly white private high school, Lee gained a toehold in Hollywood with his short film Morningside Prep, about African-American teens caught between "black" and "white" culture. Lee didn't make the transition to full-length features, however, until he wrote his sixth screenplay, The Best Man. Though it was produced by Spike's company 40 Acres and a Mule, The Best Man stayed true to Lee's desire to make a comedy more akin to the less politicized pleasures of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and The Big Chill (1983) than his cousin's overtly provocative fare. Centering on a group of what Lee called "middle-class characters who happen to be black" gathered for a friend's marriage to a woman who'd once had an affair with Taye Diggs' title character, The Best Man was as funny, romantic, and lighthearted as its forebears. Lee truly arrived in Hollywood when The Best Man debuted at number one and went on to be a modest crossover hit. Serving as a director only on his next film, Lee went for broader, racially edged comedy with the adaptation of John Ridley's web comic/blaxploitation spoof Undercover Brother (2002). Amid the featherweight slapstick antics, Lee and his colleagues managed to get in a few zingers about race relations and stereotypes, particularly with Dave Chappelle's paranoid Conspiracy Brother and Eddie Griffin's hilarious transformation from the eponymous Afro-ed agent to the mayonnaise-loving white-black Anton Jackson. Released amidst the summer blockbuster bombast, Undercover Brother held its own at the box office to become a small hit.

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