Spike Lee’s Next Project: A Viagra Musical

Spike Lee has directed films about a Black detective’s quest to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, a bombing of an Alabama church and the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

But for his latest project, a movie musical that chronicles the invention of Viagra, the first drug approved by the F.D.A. to treat erectile dysfunction, he has opted for a song-and-dance approach.

“I will be directing a dancin’, all singin’ musical,” he wrote in a statement announcing the project on Tuesday.

The film will be based on a 2018 Esquire article that traced the discovery and marketing of the drug, Deadline first reported. Lee will write the script with the British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah. The songwriters Stew Stewart and Heidi Rodewald, who created the Tony-winning musical “Passing Strange,” will compose the music. (Lee filmed that musical as a concert movie during its Broadway run in 2008.)

“Overjoyed to be dancing with Brother Spike,” Kwei-Armah wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. Kwei-Armah is also the artistic director of the Young Vic Theater in London.

Lee, an Oscar-winning filmmaker, is known for tackling serious subjects with an incisive gaze. His most recent projects include “Da 5 Bloods,” a war drama about a group of Black veterans who return to Vietnam, and “BlackKkKlansman,” a dark comedy about the first African-American detective in a police department, which won Lee an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. Lee also adapted his 1986 breakthrough debut, “She’s Gotta Have It,” into a series in 2017, which ran for two seasons on Netflix.

But he is no stranger to musicals, either: This fall, he released his filmed production of David Byrne’s Broadway concert “American Utopia”; in 1988, he directed “School Daze,” a film full of musical numbers about political and social clashes among students at a historically Black college.

In his statement announcing the project, Lee thanked his late mother for dragging him “kickin’ and screamin’ to the movies” when he was growing up in Brooklyn. “I did not want to see corny people singin’ and dancin’,” he wrote — it was basketball, tackle football, “crack top,” “down da sewer” and a number of other New York street games that had his heart.

He wrote that, as the eldest of five children and with a father who “hated HollyWeird movies,” he became his mother’s movie date.

“Thank you lawdy she didn’t listen to my ongoing complaints about musicals,” he wrote.

No release date or casting for the project has been announced. A representative for Lee did not immediately respond to a question about whether the project would be a sung-through musical or merely include songs interspersed with dialogue.

Viagra, known generically as sildenafil citrate, was patented by the drugmaker Pfizer in the 1990s and was initially used as a treatment for chest pain related to the heart. But the drug’s vessel-expanding effects meant it was also helpful in allowing blood to pump to other areas of the body. It made its commercial debut in the United States in 1998 after the F.D.A. approved it for use in treating erectile dysfunction.

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