It's almost impossible to overstate the impact Michael Jackson had on music and pop culture. The man had a lifetime of hits, many of which made history and created inspiration for generations of musicians. Any TV show or film about his life would be facing a tall task in honoring his life, not to mention the pressure on any actor picked to portray him. Unfortunately, more than six years after his death, it looks like a British TV movie is getting off to a poor start by casting the White Joseph Fiennes as the King of Pop.
Fiennes is the younger brother of Ralph Fiennes and quite possibly a fine human being, but one thing he's definitely not is a Black man. In 1993, Jackson told Oprah in a famous interview at his Neverland Ranch that he was outraged anyone would suggest he'd want a White person to portray him in his youth. "That is so stupid," he said in response to a rumor that he wanted a White boy to play him in an early '90s Pepsi commercial. "That's the most ridiculous, horrifying story I've ever heard. It's crazy."
It didn't stop there, with him adamantly expressing, "Why would I want a White child to play me? I'm a Black American. I'm a Black American. I'm proud to be a Black American. I am proud of my race." The Internet isn't really pleased with the decision either, timely given the recent #OscarsSoWhite situation.
For his part, Fiennes understands why people are upset. "I'm a White, middle class guy from London," he told ET. "I'm as shocked as you may be." At the same time, how shocked can he really be? After all, he had to have auditioned for the part at some point, and there's no way it didn't cross his mind even once that him landing the role might be controversial.
The film, unnamed at this point, centers on the bizarre, allegedly true story of a 2001 road trip that Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando took together in the wake of 9/11. The trio apparently got into a car and drove themselves from New York to Ohio in an attempt to get home after the terrorist attacks.
Because Jackson was affected by a skin disorder that affected his skin's pigmentation, Fiennes says it's understandable that a White actor would be cast to play him. "[Jackson] definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue — and that's something I do believe," he explained. "He was probably closer to my color than his original color."
That statement is probably going to do the opposite of pacify those who are angry with the casting decision, but at least he's a big fan of Jackson's work. "The more I actually looked at Michael, the more I kind of fell in love with him," he said.
Cover image: Wikimedia