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

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


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.”



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.


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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