Starring Zendaya and John David Washington, it's the new Netflix love story everybody’s talking about
1. Incredibly, it was made entirely during the pandemic.
Malcolm & Marie was written, shot, edited and sold between April and September 2020. Sam Levinson was about to start filming the second series of Euphoria when they were told production couldn’t go ahead. Seeing a window of opportunity, Malcolm & Marie sprung into action. “We [Euphoria] got shut down a day before we were supposed to start shooting,” he says. “We kept waiting, but then six weeks went by, and HBO told us that we would probably be shut down until September so we found ourselves with this window of time that we didn’t think we would ever have.”
2. This wasn’t the crew’s first time together.
Almost all of the film’s crew had worked together before, most recently on Euphoria – including director of photography Marcell Rév, production designer Michael Grasley, editor Julio Perez and music supervisor Jen Malone. With crew kept to a minimum for Covid purposes, Malcolm & Marie’s costume design was overseen by Zendaya and John David Washington’s own personal stylists, Law Roach and Samantha McMillen.
3. The fight scene was inspired by a true story.
During the film, we see filmmaker Malcolm forget to thank his partner at a film premiere – an encounter based on Levinson’s own experience. He explains, “I remembered this moment when I was at the premiere for Assassination Nation. It had been a really brutal and intensive process, particularly the editing of that movie which I cut for about a year straight. Over that time, Ash [Levinson’s wife and co-producer, Ashley Levinson] had watched 100 cuts of 100 different versions of that movie, and when we were at the premiere, I forgot to thank her.”
4. It was filmed entirely at night.
A tiny skeleton team of 22 cast and crew put the production together (for context – Iron Man 3 counted 3,310 crew members). Shot in the Northern California city of Carmel – the only place in the state allowing shoots on private properties without a permit – nobody was allowed to leave the property and everyone was instructed to wear gloves, face shields and masks, with a local doctor and nurse visiting for tests. Filmed entirely at night, it took just two weeks to film – yep, pretty insane.
5. Zendaya kept it real.
She explains, “I was doing my own hair and makeup and I brought extra clothes with me just in case they needed more for set decoration. There’s actually a moment in the film where I’m throwing my shoes into the closet and those are all my own shoes. We were also all making sure we kept up with continuity, so if we put something down or used a certain hand, we’d have to remember what we’d done because we didn’t have a script supervisor. It was really a group effort with everybody coming together and doing it in ‘indie film’ style.”
6. It gave back to the local community, too.
During filming, the LA school systems shut down due to Covid-19 which meant conversations were had about the role the team could play in helping the local community. As a result, proceeds from future sales of the film were agreed to go to Feeding America. “The schools are the biggest provider of lunch for kids so it was a dark time culturally and historically,” recalls producer Kevin Turen. “There were a million charities we thought of, but we felt that food seemed the most necessary, as well as the most primal and practical. It was a very simple decision to make.”
7. It was filmed entirely in black and white.
Zendaya explains, “I couldn’t imagine this movie being shot in anything other than black and white. It feels like it was made for that and it really contributes to the story because of this idea of reclaiming the narrative of Black movie stars who in the black and white film era didn’t get their day or the same opportunities, love, or support. It wasn’t meant for them. So it was also an emotional choice to reclaim that and show these two actors in black and white on film.”
8. The stars hadn’t met prior to filming.
Despite their incredible on-screen chemistry, the leading couple didn’t know each other. “I am a huge fan of Euphoria and what Zendaya has done with the role of Rue,” says Washington of his co-star. “I already knew her as this world-renowned superstar, but when I saw her as a Rue I was struck by her depth. I think that when people see Zendaya as Marie, they’re going to be even more impressed by her capabilities and how much range she has. She has such integrity, inclusiveness, brilliance, intelligence, and she brings an abundance of love and spirituality to the process and to the character.”
9. Marie’s name is significant.
Zendaya’s middle name is Maree, which is why Levinson named his female lead Marie, he says. “From the very beginning, I wanted her to know that this character was hers, and in some ways, an extension and embellishment on who she is as a person. So I named her Marie. I also like the idea that Marie shares a lineage with Rue, that this is a possible evolution of that character merged with who I know Z to be – confident, tough, funny and she doesn’t take any shit.”