GN$F! INSIDE “Do The Right Thing”: Rosie Perez’s opening dance sequence

Tina and Mookie "Do The Right Thing" (1989)

FIGHT THE POWER IS A MOTHERFUKCA!

The opening credit sequence for Do The Right Thing showcases Rosie Perez’s fly girl dance moves. Originally the choreographer, Otis Sallid, wanted a 1960’s soul dance move to the song Cool Jerk but, all of that changed when director Spike Lee convinced Chuck D to write the film’s theme song: Fight The Power, it became the hottest hip-hop anthem song of 1989.

When Spike first heard the track he thought, “I was like, ‘This is a motherfucka! This is it!'”

Chuck D said, “I went to Brooklyn to see a rough cut that has a version of the song that was unmixed and incomplete. I remember just sinking deeper in my seat, thinking, ‘This has to get better.’ Especially considering how much he used it in the movie. I had never heard a song used in a movie that much.”

A FLY GIRL PRACTICES MAKE PERFECT

PEREZ:

When we were doing the opening credit sequence, I never got sick of Fight The Power, because it is brilliant. Its anger and angst actually kept me going when my body was exhausted. I mean, you can’t dance for eight hours straight with only a lunch break and ten minutes here and there. I developed tennis elbow, because Spike kept having me punch at the camera as if I was boxing. My back went out, my knees were messed up-I ended up on crutches. Also, we were doing it on a soundstage in Brooklyn, which had a concrete floor. That made it even more taxing, because, unlike wood, concrete has no give. I remember telling Spike that I can’t do it again, and he was like, “We’re going again.” He kept telling me to bring more passion and anger to the dance. At one point, I looked over and saw him sitting there, and I was so pissed off, my nostrils just flared. I kept getting more and more exhausted and angry and I was almost on the verge of tears. It’s funny, because many people have told me that one of their favorite parts of the scene was when I put my hands in my hips, grinded down towards the floor, and looked to the side. They would say how sexy it was. Of course, I wasn’t trying to be sexy-I was just so angry that I that I couldn’t even look at the camera. It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I understood what he was doing. I think the emotional part of the sequence is brilliant, but as a dancer, I still have a problem watching it, because I thought my dancing was horrible as a result of how tired I was.

CHOOSING ROSIE AS THE OPENER

SPIKE LEE: If you look at the opening credits of all my films, they give the audience a hint, a taste of what the film’s about. And Rosie is a great dancer-she was dancing the first time I met her, so that’s how I wanted Do The Right Thing to start.

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