- Dawson Casting:
- Malcolm is in his late teens when the film starts, but played by the then-30-something Denzel Washington. Justified as he continued to play Malcolm throughout the duration of the movie and the rest of Malcolm's life.
- Ernest Lee Thomas plays Elijah Muhammad's (played by Al Freeman Jr.) son Sidney. In reality, the two are only 12 years apart.
- Executive Meddling: The studio demanded the film not be longer than 2 hours, 15 minutes and the budget not higher than around 32 million dollars. Luckily, multiple prominent African-Americans stepped in to donate money so Lee could make the film as long as he wanted.
- Real-Life Relative: This was the first film appearance of Denzel Washington's son John David, as a Harlem schoolboy. He was 8 years old at the time.
- What Might Have Been:
- An early draft of the screenplay was co-written by James Baldwin. It has since been published under the title One Day When I Was Lost.
- David Mamet and Eddie Murphy also wrote a drafts of the screenplay.
- Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night, A Soldier's Story) was originally attached to direct, and even cast Denzel Washington, but left the project due to difficulties with the material and the controversy of having a white filmmaker telling the story.
- Spike Lee originally intended to include Louis Farrakhan as a character, but removed all mention of him from the script after he received specific, direct threats from him.
- Lee originally intended the role of West Indian Archie for Samuel L. Jackson. Avery Brooks and Charles S. Dutton were also considered.
- Regina King auditioned unsuccessfully for a role in this film. It was an experience she told the Hollywood Reporter was the worst audition of her career.
- William Fichtner was hired to play a role as an NYPD officer, but does not have an appearance. A scene was never shot, but he was still paid.
Trivia / Malcolm X