Spike Lee said he had “more joints to make” as he was honoured for his glittering Hollywood career.
Lee, a prolific director whose movies include Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, BlacKkKlansman and Da 5 Bloods, received the American Cinematheque award for his “significant contribution” to filmmaking.
A star-studded list of his collaborators paid tribute during a virtual ceremony, with Jodie Foster, actor Delroy Lindo and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler all sharing their memories of working with Lee.
After accepting the honour, Oscar-winner Lee said: “Let’s keep it going.”
He dedicated the award to everyone he had worked with, both in-front and behind the camera, after sitting through a retrospective of his career with Foster, who he directed in 2006 heist movie Inside Man.
Lee, 63, said he has no plans of slowing down.
He said: “So, here’s the thing, if you love what you are doing, you can delay Father Time. Especially if you’re not an athlete. So I have got some more joints to make.”
Asked about his legacy, Lee pointed to his formidable body of work.
He said: “It’s very important but from the very beginning I wanted to build a body of work, because I noticed that the great artists that I loved had a body of work. It was not just a one and done thing.
“Over the years they kept working on their craft. So for me, that was the model.”
Lee is synonymous with his hometown of Brooklyn, where many of his films are set.
He made his directorial debut with She’s Gotta Have it in 1986 and three years later came what many consider his magnum opus and one of the greatest films ever made – Do The Right Thing.
Set on a sweltering summer day, it explores racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighbourhood.
Lee’s films, known for his inimitable style, often explore race relations in the US.
He directed 1992’s Malcom X, with Denzel Washington playing the civil rights leader.
Lee revealed on the set of the film he would jokingly ask Washington if he had brought his passport, “just in case we had to slip out of the country under the cover of darkness,” such was the potentially incendiary nature of the movie.
His most recent film is Da 5 Bloods, a Vietnam War drama which also explores Trumpism.
It starred the late Chadwick Boseman as an heroic soldier killed in battle.
Boseman died in August at the age of 43 following a four-year battle with colon cancer. Lee said it took an actor of Boseman’s talent to play a character of “mythic” status in Da 5 Bloods.
American Cinematheque board chair Rick Nicita said: “Our virtual presentation of the AC award to Spike Lee is a celebration of his extraordinary body of work and an incredible look at the importance of his legacy to his generation and the ones that are following as told by his friends and collaborators over four decades.”
The American Cinematheque is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the public presentation of the moving image in all its forms.
Previous recipients of its annual award include Washington, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Al Pacino.