Leaving Neverland: James and Wade attend Sundance festival
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Last month it was announced that Michael Jackson will be getting his very own biopic in the next couple of years. The as-of-yet untitled picture will star the King of Pop’s real-life nephew, Jaafar Jackson, playing the singer throughout his life – but people are already calling out the movie for its glorification of the Thriller performer.
Jackson was accused of child sexual assault multiple times throughout his life. The most recent came in the 2019 documentary, Leaving Neverland, which told the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claimed Jackson had abused them as children in his home, Neverland.
Now, the director of the documentary, Dan Reed, has spoken out against the biopic, claiming it sends a dangerous message to “millions of survivors of child sexual abuse”. He asked: “How do you explain the completely uncontested fact that for years Jackson spent innumerable nights alone in bed with young boys? What was he doing with them, alone in his Neverland bedroom, with alarm bells in the corridor? That cannot be acceptable by any measure.”
The British director wrote for The Guardian to say no one is “talking about cancelling the movie” – despite the fact it is “glorifying a man who raped children”.
Recent reports claim Jackson’s upcoming biopic will go into some detail about the accusations he received over the course of his career.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “According to Lionsgate [the distributor], the film will address all aspects of Jackson’s life, though it is unclear how the film will address the many controversies involving the late music icon, given that the film is made in conjunction with his estate, which has defended him against accusations of sexually abusing children.” Further reports claim the movie is going to “deal squarely” with the accusations.
However, Reed had one major question for the filmmakers: “How will you represent the moment when Jackson, a grown man in his 30s, takes a child by the hand and leads him into that bedroom? How will you depict what happens next?”
Reed went on to say that sidestepping Jackson’s accusations will “broadcast a message to millions of survivors of child sexual abuse. That message is: if a paedophile is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him”.
At the moment, no comment has been made by the Jackson estate, who is working in conjunction with the filmmakers to bring this biopic to life. They have teamed up with the co-executors John Branca and John McClain, as well as Graham King, who brought Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody to life.
The Michael Jackson biopic is being director by Antoine Fuqua, who is best known for helming Training Day and The Equalizer series.
Fuqua said of the movie: “The first films of my career were music videos, and I still feel that combining film and music are a deep part of who I am. For me, there is no artist with the power, the charisma, and the sheer musical genius of Michael Jackson. I was influenced to make music videos by watching his work – the first Black artist to play in heavy rotation on MTV.” (sic)
He added: “His music and those images are part of my worldview, and the chance to tell his story on the screen alongside his music was irresistible.”
The director also recently posted a photo of Jaafar Jackson, confirming his casting in the movie.
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