Malcolm & Marie, the brand-new Netflix drama starring Zendaya and John David Washington that debuted on Friday, won’t take long to make the connection that it is based on an accurate tale. When Malcolm, played by Washington, and his younger girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) arrive home after the premiere of their successful new movie, Marie isn’t in the mood to celebrate.
Why? Malcolm failed to thank Marie in his speech because of this. She told him everything was okay, and he quickly apologized, but it was not okay. Instead, it is the starting point for a heated argument in which Malcolm and Marie rip apart their personal and professional ties. We find that Marie’s drug usage at least somewhat influenced Malcolm’s movie, and she thinks he’s just using her trauma as fodder for a plot.
We discover that Marie is an actor who applied to be the lead in Malcolm’s movie but was turned down. We find out that Marie cheated on Malcolm, that Malcolm supported her through her recovery, and that Malcolm truly despises this one white reporter from The LA Times.
Are Malcolm and Marie based on a true story?
That would be inaccurate to state that everything between Malcolm and Marie is a “true story,” as that is not true. The writer/director Sam Levinson, who is also known for creating the HBO series Euphoria, did, however, base one significant aspect of the movie on an actual incident in his life: the time he neglected to thank his wife, Ashley Levinson, at the 2018 film premiere of Assassination Nation.
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The writer/director noted in an interview for the Malcolm & Marie press notes, “I wondered, what’s a terrible thing one partner can do to another? Then I thought back to this particular instance from the Assassination Nation premiere. It had been a tremendously complex and demanding process, especially the film’s editing, which I worked on for nearly a year nonstop.
When we were at the premiere, I failed to thank Ash for watching 100 cuts of 100 various versions of that movie throughout that period. We didn’t end up fighting significantly as Malcolm and Marie do; instead, we had a straightforward discussion that said, “Who the fuck is more important to your process than me?” But it got me thinking about what a partnership is, whose work is most important, what we each bring to the table, and how it feels when those contributions go unacknowledged.
Ashley Levinson is a film producer rather than an actor like Marie, and some of her credits include Malcolm & Marie and Assassination Nation, Queen & Slim, Bombshell, Euphoria, and The Green Knight. She gave her account of the speech incident in the same news interview. She recalled that we never brought it up again after the one time I brought it up, which was on the way home from the premiere.
Therefore, we laughed when he began writing Malcolm & Marie and stated, “I think I came up with the right idea—Malcolm forgets to thank Marie at the premiere.” I should also mention that he gave one of the most lovely, insightful, and eloquent speeches on relationships, love, partnership, and my value to him at the Euphoria premiere that took place in the same venue a year later, so there was a lovely irony about the whole affair.
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So, while the speech event is based on a factual story, the awful fight is not so you can rest easy. There are similarities between the movie Malcolm created in Malcolm & Marie and Levinson’s popular HBO series Euphoria, which stars Zendaya as a kid overcoming drug addiction, even though neither Levinson brought it up. Levinson has discussed how his battle with addiction influenced the program, and it appears that those experiences likely influenced Marie’s persona as well.
Many believe that when Malcolm refers to “the white bitch from the LA Times,” he is alluding to a critic who has previously criticized his film Assassination Nation. Levinson did not confirm or deny in an interview with the Independent that he was attacking a particular person. It just seemed amusing, Levinson remarked after a moment. Malcolm always says things that make people chuckle.
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