Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo
Plot: Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.
Director Spike Lee removed all mention of Louis Farrakhan from the film after receiving specific, direct threats from him.
In the film, a white student offers her help to Malcolm X, who rudely declines. The scene is based on a real-life event, and Malcolm regretted it after he left the Nation of Islam.
Director Spike Lee urged kids to cut school to see his movie, believing that it provides just as much education.
After the assassination, all footage of Malcolm X is of the real man, mostly in black and white.
The image of Denzel Washington holding the assault rifle and peering out the curtains is a direct visual recreation of an iconic photo that appeared in LIFE magazine.
At the end of the film, when Nelson Mandela addresses a South African classroom, he quotes a Malcolm X speech directly. He refused to repeat the last four words, "by any means necessary," so director Spike Lee inserted black and white footage of Malcolm X saying it himself.
Initially, director Spike Lee requested $33 million for the film. Warner Bros. offered $20 million. Lee raised funds from celebrity friends, including Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby to regain control of the project. Warner Bros. eventually kicked in more funds after a positive screening of a rough cut.
The scenes of President John F. Kennedy's assassination were taken from the movie JFK (1991). Vincent D'Onofrio was credited as playing Bill Newman in the footage taken from that film. The stand-ins who played the Kennedys and the Connallys in JFK (1991) were also credited in this film.
Brother Baines, who leads Malcolm X to the Nation of Islam, is a fictional character. In his autobiography, Malcolm X says he was led to the Nation of Islam through letters from his brother and sister.
The speech that plays over the documentary footage of Malcolm X's life near the end is read by actor Ossie Davis, who wrote and delivered the eulogy at Malcolm's funeral service in 1965.
At one point, Oliver Stone expressed interest in directing this project as a follow-up to JFK (1991), and his first choice to play Malcolm X was Denzel Washington.
This was the first non-documentary film that was given permission to film in Mecca. The film's second unit filmed all the scenes at Mecca.
Al Freeman Jr., who played Elijah Muhammad, portrayed Malcolm X in Roots: The Next Generations (1979).
The scene where Betty Shabazz argues with Malcolm about his misplaced loyalties to Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam were contrived mostly to add dramatic effect to the film. The real-life Shabazz said the scene was inaccurate, as she and Malcolm never argued nor raised their voices at one another and she supported her husband at every turn.
The original director was going to be Norman Jewison, but he withdrew due to outside pressure demanding a black filmmaker. He would later direct Denzel in the critically acclaimed film The Hurricane(1999)
Angela Bassett also played Betty Shabazz in Panther (1995).
A month before the film was released, director Spike Lee asked that media outlets send black journalists to interview him. He felt given the subject matter of the film, that black writers have "more insight about Malcolm than white writers."
Washington was close to Malcolm X's age when he was assassinated, both men were from large families, both of their fathers were ministers, and both were raised primarily by their mothers.
Roger Guinver Smith, who had a small role in this film as an accomplice of Malcolm during his criminal days, played "Smiley," a man selling photographs of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Do The Right Thing (1989), also directed by Spike Lee.