Joseph Fiennes responds to uproar over his upcoming portrayal of Michael Jackson


On Monday, The Guardian reported that British TV network Sky Arts was developing a movie with an intriguing plot: what if, after the September 11th attacks, and with air travel suspended, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson took a cross-country road trip together?

The producers of the film then offered another intriguing hypothetical: what if a white actor—say, the guy from Shakespeare In Love— was cast as the King of Pop? Well.

White British actor Joseph Fiennes has indeed been cast as the black music icon Michael Jackson. The reaction on Twitter has been suitably caustic.

The actor Orlando Jones was especially biting, pointing out what many viewed as the absurdity of the casting choice:

Not helping matters is Fiennes’ reaction. Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, he said he was “shocked” he had been cast, but saw a certain logic to it.

“[Jackson] definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue — and that’s something I do believe,” the Shakespeare in Love star explained. “He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”

Stunt casting is nothing new, especially in movies about famous musicians, but this one might be going too far, if initial reaction is any indication.

Weirdly, the plot of this as-yet-unproduced work is based on an urban legend, or at least some really poorly sourced gossip. Allegedly, Jackson, Taylor, and Brando were all hanging out in New York City at the time and their only way to get back to Los Angeles was by car.

It has become the basis of a recent short story by author Zadie Smith, and was included in a biography of Liz Taylor, an excerpt of which you can read inVanity Fair:

A former employee of Michael Jackson’s says that Michael, like General Washington, led his entourage to a temporary safe haven in New Jersey, before the three superstars took to the open road. “They actually got as far as Ohio — all three of them, in a car they drove themselves!” he recalls. Brando allegedly annoyed his traveling companions by insisting on stopping at nearly every KFC and Burger King they passed along the highway. One can only imagine the shock their appearance caused at gas stations and rest stops across America.

Right, sure. Perhaps a saving grace will be Orlando Jones’s proposed casting choice for Liz Taylor, as Angela Bassett is totally ready:

Now that we’d watch.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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