Is ‘Queen & Slim’ Based on a True Story?

Films tackling the delicate state of race relations have been making a big impact these days. In fact, the Academy Awards have honored several such films. Get Out and BlackKklansman both won back-to-back Oscars for the smart, incisive ways they captured the African-American experience.

Now Emmy winner Lena Waithe is making the jump to screenwriter with the new film Queen & Slim. Its trailers promise to touch on the dynamic between the African-American community and police violence. But is the film’s ripped-from-the-headlines story actually based on true events?

Lena Waithe at the 'Queen & Slim' premiere
Lena Waithe at the ‘Queen & Slim’ premiere | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

What is ‘Queen & Slim’ about?

Like many harrowing thrillers, Queen & Slim begins innocently enough. The two titular characters — played by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith — meet up for a first date. But when the couple is pulled over for a traffic violation, the situation gets out of control, culminating in the cop’s death.

Before long, the couple is branded “cop killers” by the media. With seemingly no choice left, they end up becoming fugitives from the law. A video of their crime soon goes viral, possibly changing public perception of their crime.

Queen & Slim maintains a sense of realism throughout that may leave viewers wondering just how possible the events depicted onscreen truly are. After all, in today’s day and age, the film’s themes of media, fame, and violence are as relevant as ever.

Is Lena Waithe’s screenplay based on true events?

Although it definitely feels like something that might happen in real life, Queen & Slim is actually not based on a true story. Rather, Waithe’s screenplay creates an original premise through which she can tap into a variety of issues affecting African-Americans.

In addition to a rich, meaningful narrative, Queen & Slim also serves as a Bonnie and Clyde-esque crime thriller. Yet, unlike that famous criminal duo, Queen and Slim go on the run together after just a single date. Even without the larger implications of their crime, this premise alone results in an unorthodox love story.

Moreover, director Melina Matsoukas has a long history of directing Grammy-winning music videos for artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Ne-Yo, and Lady Gaga. So she brings that same visual flair to the thrilling romance of Queen & Slim. The film actually marks her feature debut after directing episodes of Insecure and Master of None.

Are Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith getting awards buzz?

Melina Matsoukas may be poised to get strong reviews for her first film. However, the real buzz surrounding Queen & Slim centers on its two stars. In fact, it appears that the awards season chances are on the rise for Kaluuya and Turner-Smith.

Given the weighty subject matter, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Kaluuya himself previously earned a surprise Best Actor Oscar nomination for Get Out. Since he’s already on the Academy’s radar, talk of a second nod for Queen & Slim might actually bear fruit.

The film’s role in next year’s Oscar season will depend, of course, on how it’s received and the competition it faces. But it has already proven to be a triumph of sorts for Turner-Smith, who reportedly gives a star-making turn in Queen & Slim. With a reported budget of just $20 million, the movie could very well be one of this fall’s sleeper hits.