‘Da 5 Bloods’ is Spike Lee’s first feature-length venture with Netflix, and it follows the story of four black Vietnam war veterans who go back to the jungles where they had lost their beloved squadron leader. Another angle to their reunion is the retrieval of the gold that had been buried there all those years ago.
With this film, Lee gives the audience a glimpse into the stories of African-American soldiers, who despite their significant contribution in several wars for America, have somehow remained out of sight on the big screen. The film also releases in the time when the Black Lives Matter movement has, once again, stood its ground against the atrocities and the negligence of administration towards the black population. The importance of Lee’s film increases tenfold because of the timing, and this makes us wonder if the story is based on some real incident? Is ‘Da 5 Bloods’ based on real life? Let’s find out.
Is Da 5 Bloods Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is not based on a true story. The script was originally written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo and featured the story of a group of white war veterans who go back to Vietnam. Titled ‘The Last Tour’, the film was set to be directed by Oliver Stone, who dropped the project in 2016. After some time, the script found its way to Spike Lee, who was still working on ‘BlackKklansman’.
Lee shared the script with Kevin Willmott, and over a brainstorming session, they decided what parts of the original script they wanted to keep and which ones they were going to add their own touch to. The first thing that they both agreed they had to change were the protagonists. Lee was tired of Hollywood’s whitewashing of the war and found that even when there were some very good films about the Vietnam war, none of them ever accounted for the point of view of an African-American soldier.
Growing up, he had loved World War II movies and spent a lot of time watching them on the TV with his brother. But one thing that his father said stuck with him. “We fought in the war, too,” he said. The lack of African-Americans on the screen felt like a void to Lee, and he decided to correct the course of history starting with ‘Da 5 Bloods’.
Lee thought back to his childhood when the war was televised in America, becoming the first one to be so. He got to see everything on the TV, from the war to the protests against it. The death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots that followed, to the resignation of Nixon- everything was told to him from the TV set, which is why he decided to film the flashback scenes in his movie in 16 mm.
For his research, Lee relied on books and documentaries and watched and read everything he could find about the war. He singled out Wallace Terry’s ‘Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans’, which the actors were also advised to read. Another thing that Lee and Willmott agreed upon was expanding the role of Chadwick Boseman’s Stormin’ Norman. Wilmott said, “We based Norman on the black squad leaders that were very rare in Vietnam. We wanted to show the pressure they were under, the responsibility they felt toward their men, and the love and reverence their men had for them.”
Lee also wanted to create a wide array of characters in the film, with each Blood distinctly different from the other. “As my late mother told me very early on, ‘Spikey, Black people are not one monolithic group’. We don’t all look alike, think alike, et cetera. And so, even though these guys form a bond in Vietnam, they still went their merry ways, different paths in life. This is the first time they’re getting back together since they left ‘Nam. So what could be more extreme than having one of these characters be an Agent Orange supporter? And there is a very, very small percentage of Negroes who did vote for Agent Orange,” he said to THR, about one of the Bloods being the supporter of President Fake Bone Spurs.
Willmott also noted that had some other director gotten hold of The Last Tour and made it with the original script, it would have been merely an adventure film. But as Lee said, “We flipped it. Put our flavor on it, some barbecue sauce, some funk, some Marvin Gaye. And there you have it.”
Read More: Where was Da 5 Bloods Filmed?