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Inside the making of Zendaya and John David Washington’s Malcolm & Marie: Mad Love

Malcolm & Marie

Malcolm & Marie Updates: EW presents more than two dozen of the most awaited films in 2021 exclusive looks this month. See our preview here for more information.

When Euphoria was pressured by COVID-19 to delay production last March, producer Sam Levinson immediately asked HBO, “Well, can we make a movie?”

He had spoken to his star Zendaya for two days, which soon would net Emmy’s unexpected triumph. There were flowers with imaginative juices. They were not able to stop. They were not ready.

Malcolm & Marie, the resulting film, was not funded by the home network of Euphoria, and it came together quietly as the rest of Hollywood shut down. One of the few ventures in the early days of the epidemic to start and finish the film, Levinson and Zendaya continued to bounce up their ideas until he had the first draft of 10 pages.

Malcolm & Marie Inside the making

The scene: A director forgot to say thank you to his wife for his wonderful premiere in his script, which they just celebrated. (Levinson did this, yeah, and yet felt guilty.)

Marie “encapsulated more of who I know [Zendaya] to be,” Levinson continues, compared with Euphoria’s Rue. She’s got opinions; she’s sweet, energetic, radiant, “This confident, rough lady who was a warrior a little bit. The 24-year-old actress accepted: “This was definitely a special departure from anything that I’ve been part of.”

Then Levinson’s next question came: “Who can go toe-to-toe with her?

 Malcolm & Marie

”I was thinking of John David Washington, the person who would soon be in the center of the most important pandemic gamble in the film industry. I was a little anxious because I knew he was in the biggest movie of the year, and I was going to invite him to be part of the smallest movie of the year.” Levinson said about the Tenet star.

“I had concerns — and not about the pandemic,” says Washington, 36, about signing on to the project. “I was at such a low. I’m aware of this script that I had, a movie that was scheduled to come out at a certain date, a movie that I was really proud of if the movie was very proud of, was ever going to come out! And here’s this opportunity to escape my reality.”

Over a turbulent night of arguments, revelations, and love, Malcolm & Marie tracks the pair. Two persons, one spot, simple enough for a secure COVID shot, huh? But as bare-bones as it may have been, there were few choices. Levinson, who made the film with Euphoria collaborators Ashley Levinson (his wife) and Kevin Turen, says, “We had to find a place where we could shoot without permits,” which resulted in shooting in Carmel.

The rules were as straightforward for the actors as they were strict.

Zendaya, for her part, enjoyed everything Washington added to the scene as a collaborator. He is very talented and detailed and poses all these incredible questions.

We are also ambitious and hard-working in this manner, but we are both very cooperative, trying to win and do well for each other. Because I thought it was very unique that you can do a scene and feel like you’re being applauded for, but you’re also being encouraged to do more. Because of the amount your artistic partner is going to do.

Levinson and the actors mine deep secrets about identity, artistry, and passion as Malcolm and Marie rip each other apart.

One of Levinson and Zendaya’s guiding powers was able to recruit and inspire their Euphoria crew while the others were bottled up in Hollywood. Almost everybody was from the HBO theatre on the stage of the film and was out of work.

The movie has received at least a very happy ending: Netflix purchased Malcolm & Marie in September for the record $30 million, just three months after the cameras began to roll, setting the release time on Feb. 5.

 

 

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Riya Nandi

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