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Inside Zendaya And John David Washington’s Quarantine Movie



Of the movies made during the pandemic thus far, “Malcolm & Marie” is probably the one with the highest profile. In September, Netflix paid an astounding $30 million to acquire the film, which debuted Friday in an apparent bid for awards-season recognition

“Malcolm & “Marie” begins with its title couple arriving at their palatial California rental home. Malcolm (John David Washington) is a director whose new movie just had a rapturous premiere. He’s on cloud nine, reveling in the praise and mocking white sycophants’ performative fawning. Marie (Zendaya), meanwhile, is not so charmed. Despite having lifted details of Marie’s former drug addiction for his film, Malcolm forgot to thank her during a speech, inflaming a fundamental issue in their relationship. What follows is a long, stormy exchange about art, Hollywood and what partners owe each other. 

“Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson wrote and directed “Malcolm & Marie” after Zendaya suggested they make a movie together as COVID-19 shut down most productions. Photographed in slick black and white, its debt to the hothouse tension of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is obvious. 

“We spent like two weeks in a bubble before we started shooting,” Hungarian cinematographer Marcell Rév said. “We were quarantined in a property next to the location. It’s like rehearsing, but at the same time, we were trying to figure out how this looks and how we are going to shoot it. Of course, when you arrive to the set and things start to take shape, you change your plan.”

What Levinson didn’t anticipate was how much Malcolm’s bitter rants about critics and showbiz at large seem like they could be his own. Malcolm spends a lot of time bemoaning a mostly favorable review by “the white girl from the Los Angeles Times,” and a quick Google search will tell you that a white woman from that very publication did not care for Levinson’s previous movie, the hyperviolent satire “Assassination Nation.” Whatever Levinson’s intentions, this aspect of “Malcolm & Marie” makes it navel-gazing, as many reviews have noted.

During a recent Zoom conversation, I asked Levinson whether he does, in fact, identify with Malcolm. After all, maybe he’s more of a Marie, lambasting Malcolm’s relentless self-involvement. Independent of those dynamics, the specifics of how “Malcolm & Marie” came together are pretty fascinating, too. (For reference, he refers to Zendaya as “Z” and Washington as “JD.”)

There’s a lot riding on this movie for a number of reasons, one of which being that Netflix paid a reported $30 million for it. That is a gargantuan sum for a film acquisition. Even the splashiest Sundance or TIFF premieres usually go for under $20 million. What were those conversations like, and how did you feel when you were hearing those numbers?

Look, I think the reality is, this started off as a very simple idea. Z said, “Sam, you think we can shoot a movie in my house?” “Euphoria” had been shut down for a period of time. Marcell and I started talking about what was possible. My wife, Ash, and our producers, Katia Washington and Harrison Kreiss, started looking into COVID protocols and how we can pull something off. Eventually, out of that came this idea of doing a movie in one location. And at the same time, it was a way of getting our “Euphoria” crew back to work because it was an uncertain time for everybody.

We were able to design a financial structure in which all of our department heads and staff had actual ownership in the movie. We were able to carve out a portion of the backend for [the nonprofit organization] Feeding America. If we were able to get back to work, we would be able to help provide for people who aren’t able to work at this particular moment in time. And also, just on a creative level, the challenge of telling a story given these restraints: just two actors, one house and, essentially, just one long scene. I think the expectations weren’t more than, “Can we do something that’s engaging?”

Washington and Zendaya in “Malcolm & Marie.”

Was it filmed at Zendaya’s house? I didn’t realize that.

No, no, no. It wasn’t. That’s just the initial idea. She was like, “Can you come over here?” The main reason we couldn’t do it in Z’s house is because we couldn’t get a permit to shoot there. The only place we could get a permit was Carmel because it doesn’t require one for private property.

How did you arrive at the aesthetic of the film, specifically the black-and-white roving style in which you filmed these long conversations?

I think there was a couple of things that informed that. Early on, it was sort of an instinctual thing that Marcell and I both felt. And also, once the script started to take shape, I knew it was about this couple in a house, that it was about Hollywood, it was about storytelling. Marcell and I started to go through our references of images and different films. We’re looking at “La Notte,” Joseph Losey’s “The Servant,” “Bunny Lake Is Missing,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” And I think it was striking to us that all of these beautiful black-and-white films featured all white actors. By the time Black actors were getting opportunities in Hollywood, black-and-white films had fallen out of fashion.

Spike Lee has done it since, and Charles Burnett. But I felt that, because this was a film about Hollywood, because it was about the industry, it felt like an interesting way to reclaim the iconography of that era of filmmaking and frame these two actors in the timelessness of some of these indelible images.

In plotting all of that, how specifically did you map out the film? You have this incredibly wordy script and this large, rambling house where your two actors can theoretically move here, there and everywhere. Do you give them that freedom? Or is it all blocked out with precision?

So, we shot the first day. We had a very formal idea as to how we were going to shoot it: dolly shots, very clean Otto Preminger-style choreography. We shot the whole day. Marcell and I get into the car. We both felt like it was too clean. There wasn’t enough life. It looked like a fucking whiskey commercial or something. So we go to sleep, we’re depressed. We wake up. Marcell says, “What if we would just do handheld [cameras]?”

We were watching “Bullet Ballet” on our phones on the car ride up to set. We get to set. I tell JD and Z, “All right, we’re going to throw out everything we did yesterday. We’re going to start over.” JD goes, “You mean there’s nothing usable?” I go, “No. No, nothing. We’re going to throw the whole thing out.” He’s like, “OK. We did like 30 takes though!” I’m like, “I know. Throwing it out.” 

I think the reality is that people tend to assume that because I’m a filmmaker and Malcolm’s a filmmaker, that I am 100% Malcolm. I completely reject that idea.
Sam Levinson

So then we did the whole thing handheld. We got into the car towards the end of the day, and Marcell’s lost 10 pounds. He’s sweating. We both look at each other, and we know that there’s no design to the movie, that it feels too haphazard. So we just decided to jump forward and move ahead. And we were doing a connecting shot from the bathroom to when JD comes in [at the beginning of the movie]. He’s listening to James Brown in the living room, and we just decided to play the whole thing out in a seven-minute take so we’re entering the movie from an objective standpoint. We’re able to see the world of the film. We’re able to see John David, or Malcolm, totally excited, celebrating. He’s in one universe, and Marie’s in this other universe, smoking a cigarette, not having the best night of her life. And I think it was important because of the nature of the film, which is essentially this Socratic dialogue between these two characters. Someone stakes a position, the other person starts to pull apart the threads, and it just continues to go on and on like that.

I think the reason that that shot worked and helped frame the film is that it instills a certain kind of confidence that we’re not coming into this taking sides. This is an ongoing battle between these two characters and a fight for acknowledgment and a mining of the truth of their relationship and the imbalances of power. That’s why it worked, and that’s why it felt right. After that moment, Marcell and I realized that we had to table any ideas that we had previously had about how we were going to shoot it and be humble to the life that was taking place on set, and to make sure that we weren’t approaching it from too subjective an angle.

That makes a lot of sense. You mentioned knowing from the outset that the DNA of the movie was about Hollywood. Aside from the fact that you yourself are a filmmaker and a movie lover and therefore very invested in that world, why was that the choice you made? I wonder whether you considered other professions, something perhaps a bit more universal?

What do you mean by universal? What’s a more universal profession?

Almost anything. I mean, to be fair, movies about movies are not inherently relatable to the average person, however entertaining and effective they may be.

I feel like this is that age-old thing. You know, you watch shows about doctors. I don’t understand what they’re talking about when they’re saying, “We need 10 CC’s of this!” You know what I mean? You watch a show about lawyers. I don’t understand the life of a lawyer. If I were to watch a show about, you know, someone who’s building a fence, I don’t know much about building a fence. I think movies by nature are a window into a world. I don’t necessarily place a particular value on the relatability of the world because I think it’s the film’s job to either make you care about the characters or not. And if you don’t, you don’t.

 Sam Levinson and Zendaya at a New York screening of "Euphoria" on June 14, 2019.

 Sam Levinson and Zendaya at a New York screening of “Euphoria” on June 14, 2019.

So, I don’t think that there was ever any consideration in that, because I sort of reject that idea in general. But I do think that what was interesting about him being a filmmaker is it allowed the argument to not just be the argument, right? It’s not just, “You did this to me, I did that to you.” It’s because he made a movie and interpreted her life and subsequently didn’t give her credit for it. It gives us another way to explore and examine that relationship through the lens of something that’s fictional and up for interpretation, which gives it a whole other kind of multifaceted side to the exploration of their relationship.

As both the writer and director, how much of Malcolm’s perspective and experiences did you relate to, and how much of Marie’s perspective and experiences did you relate to? People are going to come away from this movie wondering whether Malcolm’s rants about critics are really just Sam Levinson’s rants about critics.

Right. But Marie sides with the critic.

Yes, right. That’s why I ask where that ratio was for you.

Right, but this is what’s so funny about this whole conversation. What was interesting to me is, Malcolm receives an incredible fucking review, a great review. There’s a ton of praise, but it’s not in the exact way he wants it to be. So therefore it completely unmoors him as a character until he’s screaming about identity and [physicist Bruno] Pontecorvo at the fucking trees. It’s a way, I think, to explore how truly sensitive and completely narcissistic and absurd this character is in this particular moment.

To further compound that, we then have Marie, who’s saying, “You know, not only do I agree with the critic’s criticism in that one small part, but I actually am going to take it a step further and say that her problem with you as a filmmaker is my problem with you as a human being and a partner.” I think it gets to the key theme of what this movie is about, which is if we are not able to listen to critique, we are not able to grow as artists — and, more importantly, as human beings.

What I’ve been a bit surprised about is I feel like the way certain people are interpreting this movie. They’re mirroring essentially what Malcolm does to Marie, which is to completely negate and dismiss her narrative in this movie by just getting hung up on what he’s saying. Her counterargument, which I might argue is the emotional, gravitational pull of the entire film, is going unnoticed because someone got their feathers ruffled.

Zendaya and Washington in "Malcolm & Marie."

Zendaya and Washington in “Malcolm & Marie.”

Do you think there is any credence to the idea that this movie is, at least in some regard, a response to reviews that you yourself have received? Specifically, perhaps, from the Los Angeles Times, with “Assassination Nation”?

No. A lot of people didn’t like “Assassination Nation.” That’s a totally valid position for one to hold. Again, Malcolm gets a phenomenal review with one piece of criticism that Marie agrees with and takes a step further. I think that there’s a strange irony to it. And in a way, the response is in some ways mirroring the film. What’s interesting is that I think it is this sort of Socratic dialogue between these two characters. The film doesn’t take a position on “these are the right ideas, these are the wrong ideas.” They’re just ideas. They’re just discussing them.

But I think that that’s maybe unusual right now, just culturally speaking, that you allow the audience to decide what they agree with or disagree with. I think that there is no ideological throughline that people can say, “Oh, OK, it’s saying exactly X, Y, and Z.” I think the reality is that people tend to assume that because I’m a filmmaker and Malcolm’s a filmmaker, that I am 100% Malcolm. I completely reject that idea.

That’s why I asked about the ratio between the Malcolm and the Marie in you. You’re not necessarily just Malcolm. 

But Marie is, in some ways, an extension of [Zendaya’s “Euphoria” character] Rue. I think I’ve been very honest and forthright about how much of myself is in the character of Rue. I am someone who is a recovering addict. There is an enormous amount of myself in Marie. And I think that what’s happening here is these two characters are reflecting different aspects of not just myself, but also the people I’m writing the characters for and that I’m collaborating with on the characters.

This isn’t a script that was written in isolation. This is a script that I wrote where every day I called the actors, read it aloud to them, discussed it for hours on end, had 65 pages of a script, got to Carmel, sat down with Marcell, Z and JD, and talked out every single aspect of this movie. They’re not just actors — they’re producers and co-financiers of the movie.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 





Angela Yee Officially Leaves ‘The Breakfast Club’ After 12 Years On Radio Show



Radio show host Angela Yee has bid farewell to Power 105.1′s nationally syndicated show, “The Breakfast Club,” after 12 years.

On Friday, Yee appeared on her final episode of the show, which she hosted with Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy. Her co-hosts each gave tributes celebrating the media personality’s influence on the radio.

“Job well done,” Charlamagne tha God said on-air. “They can never take away what we built. We’ve all made history together as a radio show.”

“I’m gonna miss my sister,” DJ Envy chimed in.

Yee, Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy hosted the first episode of “The Breakfast Club” when the show launched in December 2010. The trio interviewed countless notable guests, musicians, actors, and politicians. The show has faced controversy for some of its segments and has had many successes.

In 2020, “The Breakfast Club” was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. President Joe Biden appeared on the show months before he was elected to office that same year.

DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne Tha God at the Barclays Center on November 2, 2013 in Brooklyn, New York.

Michael Stewart via Getty Images

Yee announced her plans to leave the show on Twitter in August, writing, “The Breakfast Club as you know it is officially over.”

She’s launching her nationally syndicated show on iHeartMedia called “Way Up With Angela Yee” at the beginning of 2023, she told Variety in an article published Friday. She also co-hosts a podcast called “Lip Service.”

Yee said that she hopes her new role will allow her to support and mentor other Black women breaking into the media industry.

“I think about who is going to be following me and who is next, who I can help mentor, and all of those things are exciting to me,” she told Variety. “I hope later on in life there are a bunch of other Black women radio personalities who can say, ‘Angela gave me my shot,’ or ‘Angela helped me do this,’ or ‘Angela plugged me with this person.’”

She continued, “I think that’s what really means a lot, not just what you did for yourself but for other people, also how you spread the love.”


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Jim Parsons And Ben Aldridge Reflect On The Real-Life Love Story Behind ‘Spoiler Alert’



After appearing in the seminal queer dramas “The Normal Heart” and “The Boys in the Band,” Jim Parsons was eager to play a character who wasn’t “suffering at the hands of his homosexuality.”

The “Big Bang Theory” star found the role he was looking for in “Spoiler Alert,” the movie adaptation of Michael Ausiello’s 2017 memoir. The romantic drama opened in select cities Friday ahead of a nationwide release next week.

“I’m playing a guy who — in the thrust of love, excitement and romance — is on an incredible journey he can’t believe he’s there for, and then, with tragedy, is again on an incredible journey,” Parsons told HuffPost. “It’s a deep-dive journey that these two souls go on together. I felt very hungry to get the chance to portray that as best I could.”

Watch the trailer for “Spoiler Alert” above.

Jim Parsons (left) and Ben Aldridge in “Spoiler Alert.”

Linda Kallerus/Focus Features

Directed by Michael Showalter, “Spoiler Alert” follows Ausiello (played by Parsons), an endearingly nerdy journalist who falls for an aspiring photographer, Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), after a dance floor meet-cute. Before long, the two men are living together and hosting dinner parties in their chic New York apartment. Their 13-year relationship is sadly tested, however, when Cowan is diagnosed with a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer.

The real-life Cowan died in 2015 at age 43, and as a love story, “Spoiler Alert” is first and foremost a tearjerker. Still, the movie offers plenty of humor and heart, most notably in scenes that recall the early days of Ausiello and Cowan’s romance. It also boasts a stellar supporting cast, including Sally Field and Bill Irwin as Cowan’s parents, Bob and Marilyn.

Ausiello, who is the founder and editorial director of the entertainment outlet TVLine, began writing “Spoiler Alert” at the suggestion of an editor at the Simon & Schuster book publishing company who had taken note of his Facebook statuses throughout Cowan’s illness.

Writer Michael Ausiello (left) with Parsons and Aldridge.
Writer Michael Ausiello (left) with Parsons and Aldridge.

Kimberly White via Getty Images

A week after the book was published in 2017, Parsons and his husband, Todd Spiewak, approached him at a Q&A in San Francisco to tell him they wanted to adapt the book as a movie.

When it came to translating his story, the writer had just one stipulation for screenwriters David Marshall Grant and Dan Savage.

“I didn’t want the movie to portray Kit as a victim,” Ausiello, also an executive producer on the film, said. “He wasn’t a victim, he didn’t see himself as a victim and never acted like a victim. I also wanted to depict the fact that his parents showed up for their son when he got sick. They didn’t shy away from the hard stuff. They were there for their son.”

In keeping with Ausiello’s advice, Aldridge plays up Kit’s debonair charm even as his body succumbs to cancer. The actor, whose credits include “Fleabag” and “Pennyworth,” described the experience as “very life-affirming and exhilarating.”

“It’s important to risk rejection and risk heartbreak to live your fullest life,” said Parsons (right, with co-star Sally Field).
“It’s important to risk rejection and risk heartbreak to live your fullest life,” said Parsons (right, with co-star Sally Field).

Linda Kallerus/Focus Features

Though “Spoiler Alert” isn’t an overtly political film, its stars are conscious of the fact that it’s being released at a challenging time for the queer community. The Supreme Court’s ultraconservative rulings on abortion and gun control as of late have sparked justifiable concerns among many Americans that LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage, could soon be rolled back at the federal level.

“If it changed minds, that would be incredible — I couldn’t ask for more,” Aldridge said. “But we just saw a chance to tell a story that felt real to us. Love is love, and this film is real proof of that.”

As for Parsons, his biggest takeaway from “Spoiler Alert” is personal.

“As we were filming, I realized that one of the most painful things in my life is something I do to myself, which is not telling other people when I love them or when I care about them for fear of rejection or for fear of looking sentimental or caring more than might be cool,” he said. “It’s important to risk rejection and risk heartbreak to live your fullest life.”


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Broadway Actor Quentin Oliver Lee Dead At 34



Broadway actor Quentin Oliver Lee, best known for playing the title role in the national tour of “Phantom of the Opera,” has died at the age of 34.

“I saw his last breaths, held his hand tight, and felt his heartbeat slowly drift away,” she wrote. “He had a smile on his face, and was surrounded by those he loves. It was peaceful, and perfect.”

She described her late husband as an “incredible man, husband, father, son, brother, friend, singer, actor, and disciple of Christ with great faith in his Father in Heaven.”

The “Phantom of the Opera” show paid tribute to Lee, writing on Instagram it was “saddened to hear of the passing” of Lee who’d “brilliantly lead our North American tour in 2018.”


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Angela Bassett’s Reaction To Keke Palmer’s Popular Impression Of Her Is Priceless



Keke Palmer finally performed her well-known impression of Angela Bassett in front of none other than the veteran actor herself.

During a conversation in a Vanity Fair video published on Friday, Bassett asked to see Palmer’s impersonation in person, after seeing clips of Palmer imitating her online.

“I’ve seen you online imitating me,” Bassett said with a laugh. “You do a great job.”

Palmer replied that the impression is one of her “most notable” ones. She explained that Queen Latifah would ask her to imitate Bassett whenever she and Palmer worked on projects together.

The “Nope” actor then carried out her impression of a scene that Bassett performed when she portrayed Katherine Jackson in the 1992 miniseries “The Jacksons: An American Dream.”

Bassett hilariously joined Palmer to recite one of the lines. She then revealed that she’d improvised that bit of dialogue, to which Palmer responded: “Now let’s get into it!”

During a video interview with Wired in July ― where she (of course) did the impression ― Palmer said she often gets told she resembles Bassett.

Palmer and Bassett memorably played a mother and daughter duo in the 2006 film “Akeelah and the Bee.”

Bassett told Palmer in the conversation for Vanity Fair that she was impressed with how “present” Palmer was when she played Akeelah at the young age of 11.

“I’ve worked with a few kids here, and child actors are very serious if they get into it at all,” Bassett said. “But you were always very present, but also just so bubbly, and full of life and energy and spirit.”


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Kate Middleton Makes Bold Fashion Statement In $91 Rented Gown



Royals! They’re just like us. At least ― this one time.

Kate Middleton showed up to the 2022 Earthshot Awards on Friday in a rental dress from the rental platform HURR.

Attendees of awards were asked to focus on sustainability or wear something recycled or vintage for their red carpet looks, and the Princess of Wales was right on theme.

Kate’s gown was from the designer Solace London. You can rent the Sabina dress, too, as it retails from $91 to $238.

She paired the dress with a necklace from the collection of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Earlier in the day, the Prince of Wales wrote an exclusive essay for HuffPost about why he was “thrilled to bring The Earthshot Prize to U.S.” ― and why he remains a “stubborn optimist” about the planet’s future.

“I believe in the power of human ingenuity, and I’m thrilled to bring The Earthshot Prize to the U.S.,” he wrote. “This week, in Boston, we want to demonstrate what we can all do to help put the world on a path toward a stable climate where communities, nature and oceans thrive in harmony.”

The prince added, “In this critical decade, I invite you all to be optimistic, to support the game-changers, and to believe in the power of human ingenuity.”

See more photos of the royals’ visit to Boston below:


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‘Orange Is The New Black’ Actor Brad William Henke Dies At 56



Brad William Henke, the former NFL player known for his role as corrections officer Desi Piscatella in “Orange Is the New Black,” died Tuesday at age 56, a representative of the actor told Variety.

“Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy. A very talented actor, he loved being a part of this community…. and we loved him back. Our thoughts are with his wife and family,” his manager, Matt DelPiano, said in a statement to TMZ.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Henke began a career in acting after injuries forced him to retire from professional football in 1994. Over his career, he appeared in dozens of TV series, including “Law & Order,” “Life on Mars,” “Shameless,” “Criminal Minds,” Bones,” “Lost” and and “The Office.”

His movie appearances included “Pacific Rim” and “World Trade Center.”

He played college football at the University of Arizona before he was drafted in 1989 by the New York Giants. He went on to play for the Denver Broncos and in 1990 played on their defensive line in Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers.


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A Resurfaced ‘Drew Barrymore Show’ Clip Has Twitter Users In Shock



A clip of a couple’s interaction on “The Drew Barrymore Show” didn’t sit right with Twitter users this week, but the full clip clears up the pair’s complicated love story.

The clip, which depicts part of a “Drew’s News” segment that aired during the show’s last season, shows a woman telling the man sitting next to her in the audience that he’d “ruined everything,” then the woman explains what the man had ruined in their relationship.

The couple were shown in the audience when Barrymore and Ross Matthews asked audience members to respond to a question about what they’d do if they didn’t like a friend’s partner.

Barrymore called on a couple that had been “giggling.” The man in the couple told her that you “have to be honest and also not ruin everything” ― but then the woman chimed in to say that he had “ruined everything.”

The woman then told Barrymore that he had just spoiled her attempt to propose to him while they were on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“He said to me, ‘Oh, no, it’s embarrassing. Get up,’” said the woman, who left Barrymore and the audience in shock.

You can watch the clip below.

“What does this have to do with a friend?” Drew asked the couple.

“Nothing,” they both said.

“I had to do this,” the woman then said to the man.

Twitter users called for the viral clip to receive an “Emmy immediately” while others appeared to celebrate the woman’s on-air comment.

The Twitter clip, however, left out a “happy ending” to the couple’s story.

“I wanted to do it myself, later. Not today,” the man said of the proposal as he received a mix of awww’s and — later — laughter.


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