Contrary to popular belief, the real Ron Stallworth never used a "white" voice on the phone. He ironically had to use his real voice or they would have caught him if he slipped out of character. When his white colleagues told him it could not work, he asked what made his voice any different from theirs, but they never answered.
Director Spike Lee and his writers moved the story back seven years from when it actually took place in 1979 to 1972. This allowed the film to reference both the then trendy blaxploitation movies and the re-election campaign, supposedly supported by the Klan, of President Richard Nixon.
Actor Topher Grace said in an interview with IndieWire, that portraying David Duke left him feeling depressed, so as an act of catharsis he took on the project of editing Peter Jackson's trilogy of films based on The Hobbit into a single two hour movie.
This film contains clips from D. W. Griffith's silent movie The Birth of a Nation. While Spike Lee was a student at NYU Film School, he was so outraged that his NYU Film School professors taught The Birth of a Nation (1915) with no mention of its racist message or role in the Klan's twentieth-century rebirth that he made a student short film titled The Answer (1980) as a response. The film so offended many of his professors that Lee was nearly expelled from NYU. He was ultimately saved by a faculty vote. After Lee's film industry successes, he became a professor at NYU Film School, serving as the Artistic Director of the Graduate Film Department.
The real David Duke called Ron Stallworth to express his concern over his "baffoonish, cartoonish idiot" portrayal in the film. Duke also said he respected director Spike Lee. After seeing the film, he was not pleased that the film did not follow the events of the book.
When producer Jordan Peele first pitched the story - "Black man infiltrates Ku Klux Klan" - to director Spike Lee, Lee first thought it might be a suitable Dave Chappelle skit, until Peele assured him that the story was authentic. For Lee, it was just too outrageous a story to ignore. He had only a couple of conditions for directing: that he be allowed to include comedic elements, and that he could draw parallels with contemporary racial issues.
The film is dedicated to the life of Heather Heyer, who was fatally hit by a car while protesting the "Unite the Right" rally held on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, VA. The film opened in the US on August 10, 2018 to mark the one-year anniversary of the rally and her death.
During an interview with Dave Karger at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Topher Grace said that once he got the role and during the filming, he was not allowed to tell anyone that he was playing David Duke.
This film depicts D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation being screened at a Klan ceremony during the 1970s. This is an accurate representation of how the modern Klan really did still use Griffith's century-old, silent, black-and-white movie for propaganda purposes at least into the early 2000s. In his 2002 book "THEM: Adventures with Extremists," Jon Ronson recounts his visit to a KKK compound in Arkansas for their annual National Congress meeting. After a variety of racist speeches and a cross-burning, the Klan members enjoyed a screening of The Birth of a Nation.
Mr. Turrentine (Isiah Whitlock Jr) says his trademark "Sheeeeeee-it" spoken by his character Clay Davis from The Wire (2002). He first used this trademark in The 25th Hour (2002), another film directed by Spike Lee.
One of the clips that director Spike Lee uses to open the film with is from Gone with the Wind (1939). This movie is frequently cited as one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, but it is also controversial for its depiction of slave-holding white Americans as sympathetic, Afro-American slaves as servile and dim-witted, and its omission of common treatments of slaves, such as chaining and whipping.
John David Washington has said that the toughest time on set was filming the banquet scene. He later called Ron Stallworth to ask how he had contained himself amid such hatred when dealing with the actual KKK.
BlacKkKlansman (2018) premiered on May 14, 2018 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or and won the Grand Prix. It was theatrically released in the United States on August 10, 2018, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally.
Both director Spike Lee and star John David Washington are graduates of the Historically Black College/University (HBCU) Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. (Frequent Spike Lee collaborator Sam Jackson is also a graduate).
The film is produced by Spike Lee, Raymond Mansfield, Shaun Redick, Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, and Jordan Peele. Redick purchased the film rights to the book in 2015, and Lee signed on as director in September 2017. Much of the cast joined the following month, and filming began in New York State (Ossining, New York).
Topher Grace spent a month researching David Duke, including reading Duke's autobiography and watching footage of him. Grace claimed that he found Duke to be even more of a racist than he had assumed, but found most frightening Duke's ability to make himself charming to an audience in spite of his racism, and that is what he wanted to come through in his performance.
The real Ron Stallworth claimed that one of his biggest regrets in the investigation not being made public is that, had it been revealed, David Duke would have been made a fool for having been conned by a black man, and might not have continued his political career.
At a post-film cast Q&A on August 11, 2018, actor John David Washington revealed that right before his character's post-KKK gun shooting scene was filmed, director Spike Lee told him that the metal targets depicting black men running were not props and that they were purchased on the Internet. Washington said filming that scene with that knowledge affected his performance.
The real Ron Stallworth kept his Klan membership card and unexpectedly revealed while promoting the film that he still carries it in his wallet. Stallworth joked that he was amused at the prospect of someone discovering it in his personal effects after his death.
The final shot is of an American flag in black-and-white, depicted upside-down. In the USA, hanging a flag upside-down is a signal of distress or emergency. When used as a sign of protest, it is meant to signify political or civic distress.
The Charlottesville (VA) "Unite the Right" rally (Aug. 2017) occurred while the movie was in the editing phase, prompting Spike Lee to include the tragic event as an apt way to conclude his film. As a gesture of respect for the tragic murder of Heather Heyer during the rally, he asked Heyer's mother Susan Bro for permission to include the media footage followed by a dedication in the closing credits to Heyer's memory.
DIR. TRADEMARK: When Ron and Patrice enter the hallway with their guns drawn, they are standing on a moving platform making it appear they are gliding down the hall. A technique frequently used by Spike Lee.
The music used during the ending scene and closing montage is a track called "Photo Ops" originally composed by Terrence Blanchard for Spike Lee's film Inside Man. Lee has also used it in his documentaries When the Levees Broke and If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise.
The film is based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. Original literary source: "Black Klansman. A Memoir", book by Ron Stallworth, Policed and Fire Publishing, Spartanburg (South Carolina), 16-1-2014, ISBN: 9781936986316.
Early in the film during Kwame Ture's speech to students, the police officers eavesdropping from their car can overhear a female say "F*** tha police." That phrase is also the title of a famous NWA song. Corey Hawkins, the actor portraying Kwame Ture, also portrayed Dr. Dre in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton - which chronicled the controversial rap group.
Adam Driver's character was named Flip Zimmerman. His character was a Jewish man pretending to be non-Jewish, while using a black man's name (Ron Stallworth). Danny Hoch, who played Agent Y in this film, also played a character named Flip in the 1999 film Whiteboyz. That character was a white man pretending to be black.