Home Artificial Intelligence Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito Reunite for National Fiat Campaign

Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito Reunite for National Fiat Campaign

It’s a Saturday afternoon in February and Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito are sitting side-by-side in a golf cart on a studio lot in Los Angeles. The two, friends for 40 years, have worked together many times over the years on such Lee joints as 1988’s School Daze, 1989’s Do the Right Thing, 1990’s Mo’ Better Blues and 1992’s Malcolm X. They are back together and collaborating once again, this time for Fiat on behalf of the Italian automaker’s brand new, all-electric Fiat 500e.

Lee directs and stars in the “Italy in America” spot opposite his Emmy-nominated friend in what marks their first national advertising campaign together. As the story goes, Esposito helps Lee find his inner Italian as they discover how their urban commute becomes more “dolce” in the 2024 Fiat 500e. “The all-electric Fiat 500e captures the essence of the Italian lifestyle. This new campaign brings together an iconic duo of diverse heritage, legendary Brooklyn director Spike Lee and actor Giancarlo Esposito, who shares the virtues of his Italian ancestry with Spike to show him that La Dolce Vita can be found even far beyond Italy’s borders,” explained Olivier Francois, global chief marketing officer at Stellantis.

The campaign, launched last week and shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Matthew Libatique, will include more than a dozen creative elements featuring the duo across Fiat’s social channels, running through spring and summer and extending into fall. It’s no surprise to find out that the campaign is largely unscripted, allowing Lee and Esposito to effortlessly play off one another like longtime friends can. That’s exactly what they do over the course of a 20-minute Zoom interview with The Hollywood Reporter from the front seat of that golf cart. Lee and Esposito finish each other’s sentences, crack each other up and lob compliments back and forth while sharing the story behind the campaign, dishing on their new projects — High and Low with Denzel Washington for Lee and Francis Ford Coppola‘s Megalopolis for Esposito — and getting serious about the threat of artificial intelligence facing the world.

Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito star in FIATs new campaign

Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito star in Fiat’s new campaign.

Courtesy of FIAT

Seeing the two of you together on a Saturday afternoon is very cool …

Lee: We got history. We got history. Good history.

How does it feel to be reunited?

Lee: I feel great, what about you?

Esposito: I feel great, like a million bucks.

Lee: We’ve seen each other over the years, now and then, but time goes fast. On June 30, it will be the 35th anniversary of Do the Right Thing. Bugging out!

Esposito: Bugging out!

Who came up with the idea for this collaboration?

Esposito: Well, Spike is the man. Spike is the coach. I always invite good energy, and when we run into each other, it feels like not a day has gone by since we’ve seen each other last. That’s the truth.

Lee: That’s the truth, Ruth.

Esposito: It really, really is. When this was mentioned to me because of my Italian heritage, my connection to Italy and my love for automobiles, they mentioned that Spike Lee was going to direct.

Lee: This is a natural fit. When you’re close, especially in this industry, there might be Spike the love, but there are schedules and delays that prevent working together again. But we have a bond. It’s been announced that I’m going to do my new film with [Denzel Washington], the fifth one after Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, He Got Game, Inside Man. Inside Man was 16 years ago, but for Denzel and I, it was like yesterday. That’s the same thing here with my brother. That creative bond, that human bond, even when you’re not working together or you haven’t seen each other in years, when you do, it’s a big hug like you saw them last night.

What’s the story of the commercial?

Esposito: It’s a story about Fiat, the 500e electric car that is redesigned to be really slick and beautiful.

Lee: I saw it for the first time in pictures, but to see it in real life, it is a…[gives a thumbs up].

Esposito: It’s a trick, trick vehicle. It’s really beautiful. It’s a small, perfect city car, and it represents a cultural heritage of Italy, and the colorful nature of the Italian people. Very, very passionate people who love food, wine, sunshine, music and dance. It is a cultural representation of all that is Italy.

Lee: If they don’t know, tell them your connection to Italy…

Esposito: I’m half Italian. My people are from Naples, Italy. I was raised in Rome. My mom’s an opera singer. My father worked at Teatro alla Scala, the opera house in Milan.

Lee: Who is Italian and who is African?

Esposito: My father’s Italian and my mother is African-American Black.

Lee: Where’d they meet?

Esposito: They met at Teatro di San Carlo in Napoli, it’s a famous and really small opera house. I recently went back there, in July, to see where they meet and I had tears in my eyes. I also went to Naples where I really got a sense of my heritage.

Lee: Were you conceived in Naples the very first moment that they met?

Esposito: No, soon after. Too much information. Mommy and Papa, I love you. So, I have a very strong connection to Italy and I love it. This [commercial] was a no brainer for me to represent my Italian people who are just absolutely incredible human beings and truly great with everything from automobiles to leather handbags to music. To me, again, they represent the best parts of me.

Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito star in FIATs new campaign

Spike Lee and Giancarlo Esposito star in Fiat’s new campaign.

Courtesy of FIAT

They know how to live over there. Spike, I know you grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of Italians as well. Have you spent a lot of time in Italy?

Lee: Oh yes. I spent a lot of time in Italy, but the Lees, we were the first Black family to move into a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York called Cobble Hill. It was mostly Italian Americans, right by the dock. The dock workers bought homes in Cobble Hill, so we were the first. A lot of the stuff you see in the film Do the Right Thing, and later in Summer of Sam, came from my experiences growing up being the only Black family in an Italian American neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Back to the FIAT: Would you ever own an electric vehicle or battery electric vehicle or do you own one now?

Esposito: I don’t own one now, but I would own an electric vehicle. It’s good for the planet, it’s good for our environment. I finally got into electric bicycles and I realize how much smoother, quieter and more efficient they are. I would own an electric vehicle in a heartbeat.

Lee: Me too.

Esposito: Being in New York, again, this Fiat is a city car that can fit into small spaces. It’s practical, it’s efficient, and it saves our environment. I’m all for it, and this Fiat 500 is a thing of beauty.

Spike, we’ve seen you star on camera in some iconic commercials over the years. Aside from spending time with Giancarlo, how does somebody get you to say yes to appearing on camera in a commercial these days?

Lee: If I like the product, if I believe in the product, the story. Also, if I’m available, too. That’s a big thing, availability. A lot of these companies have something coming down the pike and they need to get these things shot. But this is an experience where everything lined up. Then to be united with my brother right here, G-money, big brother almighty. I’m bugging out. I mean, it’s great. When you can work with people you love, it’s a win.

Esposito: I’m going to add something to that because although you didn’t ask me, I’m going to tell you why I’m here…

I was going to ask you the same because, first of all, seeing you in one place feels like a gift with all you have going on these days. You’re very in demand…

Lee: In demand! In demand!

Esposito: Truly, I feel blessed to be in demand and I feel blessed to be able to do what I do every day of my life, being on camera and creating with great people. I’m here not only to be able to catch up, but I want to work with great people. My hit list of directors are Spike Lee…

Lee: I saw you in Atlanta.

Esposito: Oh yeah, working on Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis. Coming out soon.

Lee: I saw 90 minutes.

Esposito: You did! I did ADR the other day. He says hello. It’s about integrity. It’s great when you get a chance to work with people who have integrity, people who aren’t just doing it for the money or just because they’re asked to support a project that they can’t get behind. They’re doing it to create and bring other creators with them. For me, I want to work with the best but I also want to have fun while I’m doing it and be able to learn something in the process.

Lee: I’m going to jump on and piggyback what my brother said. I’m a tenured professor of film at NYU graduate film school. I’ve been there 30 years. Ang Lee and Ernest Dickerson were my classmates. NYU graduate film school is three years and I tell my students on the first day of class that if you can make a living doing what you love, you’re blessed. The majority of the inhabitants on God’s earth go to their grave working a job they hate. We’re blessed. We don’t take this shit for granted. Excuse my profanity, but I don’t take it for granted because it didn’t have to be me. I mean, one step left, one step, right. You are off the cliff.

Spike, you mentioned reuniting with Denzel on your next film, High and Low. How did that come together?

Lee: When the first script was written, I was not a part of the project. But I’ve done a rewrite though. Denzel was a part of the project before me. Denzel was a part of Malcolm X before me too. We have a great history. I know what works for him and what he doesn’t like. [Laughs] If Mr. Denzel Washington doesn’t like something, he’ll let you know. Under no uncertain terms, he will say, ‘That ain’t working.’  

Giancarlo, how was Megalopolis?

Esposito: Really an incredible experience. One of the highlights of my career. I worked with Francis back on The Cotton Club. Working with him on Megalopolis all these years later just showed his vision for the world. It’s a very, very special film. I find him to be a genius. I did some ADR the other day.

Lee: I’ve seen more than him. We were shooting on the same stage in Atlanta where I was doing Capital One spots with [Samuel L. Jackson and Charles Barkley], and they told me that they were shooting nearby so I ran over to see them. Francis took over an entire hotel. I had a bunch of posters that I asked him to sign, and he did. Then he said, ‘Spike, I’ll show you 10 minutes.’ It was great, then after 10 minutes, he said, ‘Let’s see 10 more.’ He ended up showing me 90 minutes — amazing.

Esposito: A special human being at a special time in his life.

Last question: You mentioned turning left or turning right and teetering off a cliff, that description could apply to where the industry is right now. There are a lot of challenges facing the industry, including AI What’s your take on the threat that AI poses to the film industry?

Lee: If I could rephrase that question: The danger that AI could do to cinemas is nothing compared to what it could do to the world. It’s bigger than cinema. It’s bigger than music. I got to give it to my brother, Steven Spielberg, who peeped this many years ago when his film A.I. Artificial Intelligence came out. I didn’t even know what that was until that movie came out. We’re living in very dangerous times. It’s bigger than cinema.

Esposito: You can’t replace what’s real. You can’t replace the soulfulness of a human being, the soul. You can’t replace humanity. Machines can try but I’m sorry…

Lee: It is not the same.

Esposito: We’re going to have to go through some learning to understand how to use it properly in the right way. It’s a testament to those, like Steven Spielberg, who foresaw this happening.

Lee: He had a crystal ball on that. What’s up, Steven? You know you did your thing.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

YouTube Poster



Denial of responsibility! TechCodex is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
DMCA compliant image

Leave a Comment