This Spike Lee interview about Chadwick Boseman and Da 5 Bloods includes a significant spoiler about the film.
“I never said this ever, ’til just now,” Spike Lee says in a new interview about his film Da 5 Bloods. He’s talking about a spontaneous line he asked Chadwick Boseman to deliver — one that turned out to be the emotional peak of the film.
We’d recommend watching the full interview, above, because Lee tells the story better than we can in text. But the line comes just over two hours into the Da 5 Bloods, after Delroy Lindo, as Paul, a Vietnam vet with PTSD, delivers a monologue directly into the camera. He comes to a clearing where he meets Stormin’ Norman, his former squad leader and mentor, played by Boseman.
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you,” Norman says.
“About what?” Paul replies.
“You know,” says Norman.
Norman does know. He’s been haunted by it for decades.
“Here’s the thing in that scene,” Lee says. “Our late brother, Chadwick Boseman — he’s playing the ghost in that scene. He’s come back to forgive Paul, for accidentally killing him in an act of friendly fire. The fact that Paul’s character did that — that has been a burden on him from that very moment, even though it’s 40 years later. And Chadwick’s character, Stormin’ Norman, was coming back to say, ‘I forgive you. You got me good! But I forgive you.'”
Boseman also delivered another line — one Spike Lee told him to say just moments before filming.
“Here’s a key thing. I haven’t told this to anybody. While we were getting ready to set up, I whispered in Chadwick’s ear, I want you to say, ‘God is love. And love is God.’ That was not scripted. You’re getting a treat right there. … I never said this ever, ’til just now.”
The moment is even more affecting now than it was at the time of the film’s release last June, because of Boseman’s unfathomable death on Aug. 28, at the age of 43.
Lee shared the memory in the interview to explain to filmmaker Micah Khan that while moviemakers need to do their homework about their craft, they must also be open to receiving gifts from beyond their control. The light that lands on Boseman at the beginning of the scene, Lee says, “was God’s light” — not anything he or anyone could have planned in advance. It was a gift the film had to accept.
How did Lee land on the phrase “God is love”?
Though he doesn’t mention it in our interview, “God Is Love” is the name of one of the tracks on Marvin Gaye’s exquisite 1971 album What’s Going On. It leads into the better-known “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology).”
Da 5 Bloods uses Marvin Gaye songs throughout the film, and Lee cut a scene in which Boseman sings “God Is Love,” which includes the lines, “Oh/Don’t go and talk about my father/God is my friend (Jesus is my friend)/He made this world for us to live in/and gave us everything/And all he asks of us/is we give each other love.” Here is the deleted scene.
When Boseman died, Lee shared the “God Is Love” scene on Instagram, with the lines, “I Forgive You. I Forgive You. God Is Love. Love Is God.” Here is what he wrote:
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Da 5 Bloods, directed by Spike Lee, is now streaming on Netflix. Main image: “God’s light” shines on Chadwick Boseman.