CHICAGO (CBS) — Spike Lee’s controversial movie “Chi-Raq” had its world premiere last night.
The film about gang violence in Chicago prominently features the work of an inner city priest modeled after Father Michael Pfleger.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley sat down with Pfleger and the Chicago actor who portrays him on the big screen, John Cusack.
Cusack plays an inner city priest, Father Mike Corridan, fighting to end violence.
There is no doubt the character is based on Pfleger.
“Maybe 80 to 90 percent of everything I said, [Pfleger] said, either in the pulpit or on the streets.”
Pfleger, longtime pastor at St. Sabina Church, says he quickly found rapport with Cusack.
“After the first day we were together, he felt like my brother because we had so much in common. We think about things so much in common, and we have the same kind of passions.”
Cusack says he and Lee spent weeks at St. Sabina.
“We’d go to see his sermons, and I would look over and there’s Spike and he’s writing in his notebook and I’m writing on napkins,” Cusack said.
They were putting to paper the fiery phrases and passionate delivery that Pfleger has made his trademark.
“I believe the role of the priest or the pastor ought to be the prophetic role that challenges the status quo,” Pfleger said.
The film depicts a violent, gang-filled landscape in Chicago, but it also reflects great respect for a certain parish priest.
“I don’t think the people of Chicago truly appreciate … he’s a living saint in my book,” Lee said. “He’s a great great American in my book. I don’t think the vast majority of Chicago knows how great he is.”
Lee said he made the movie to touch the hearts of young black men involved in gang life, hoping to show them they are on the wrong path.