It’s no surprise that BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s acclaimed upcoming feature, is already drawing the attention of some of the real-life figures involved in the wild true story that serves as its backbone. The film chronicles the exploits of Ron Stallworth, a former detective who managed to infiltrate a Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and rise to the rank of chapter leader, despite being an African-American man, using a fellow white officer as a physical proxy.
Needless to say, given that the actual story unfolded in the 1970s, many of the primary players are still around to discuss it in the interim. One of them is David Duke, known white supremacist, former Louisiana representative, and ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK, particularly during the era in which BlacKkKlansman takes place. As portrayed by Topher Grace in the film, Duke is something of a cartoon, a caricature of a ruddy-faced white racist. Apparently, this portrayal was distressing to the real-life Duke.
In an interview with NBC Nightly News, Stallworth and Lee sat down with Lester Holt to discuss the film and what its period-set story has to say about modern America, when a curious anecdote emerged from Stallworth about a phone conversation he had with Duke. According to Stallworth, “He [Duke] wanted to talk about the fact that he’s concerned about how he’s going to be portrayed in this film…he’s only seen the trailer and in the trailer, it makes him off to be a buffoonish, cartoonish idiot.”
Asked about the fairness of that assessment, Stallworth remarked that “In some areas, yeah. Spike made him look kind of stupid, but he was stupid in how this whole thing transpired 40 years ago.” Perhaps most curiously of all, apparently Duke is a bit of a cinephile: “He said, ‘I’ve always respected Spike Lee.’ Which surprised the heck out of me.”
You can watch the full interview below.
BlacKkKlansman hits theaters this Friday, August 10th. Duke, meanwhile, continues to ring as one of the sitting President’s most famous public endorsements.