Getty Images | Paul Natkin

AT HIS BEST, Michael Jackson was a celebrated musician whose career elevated him to an unrivalled status as the ‘King of Pop’. At his worst, he was an alleged child abuser with a high profile tarnished by a myriad of problematic scandals. Jackson remains a polarising figure, and filmmakers aren’t going to ignore his chequered past.

Jackson’s latest biopic, simply titled Michael, won’t be shying away from the King of Pop’s darker moments. Helmed by Antoine Fuqua, who directed Training Day and the Equalizer trilogy, and Oscar winning producer Graham King, Michael aims to tell the musicians life story based on facts.

Appearing on Good Morning America, Fuqua broke down the difficulties in portraying such a polarising figure, “He was a great artist. He was human. We’re gonna show the good, bad, and the ugly,” Fuqua said. “We’re just going to tell Michael based on the facts that I have… it’s for the audience to make a decision on how they feel about Michael.”

Biopic filmmaking is risky business. Get it right, and Oscar nominations will abound. Get it wrong and legions of aggrieved fans and hostile critics can flush a filmmaker’s reputation down the toilet.

Despite the risks involved, biopics regaling the glamorous tales of musician’s lives have been coming thick and fast in recent years. The products of this renaissance include Bohemian Rhapsody, which covers the life and times of Freddie Mercury, the Elton John-focused flick Rocketman, and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. All of these films met widespread critical acclaim and had successful box office runs—Bohemian Rhapsody netted leading man Rami Malek an Oscar for Best Actor, and who could forget Austin Butler’s eclectic interpretation of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll—but none of the subjects of these films have been as difficult to tackle as Jackson, which begs the question, is this all a recipe for disaster? And, who in fact, will play the man himself?

Why is Michael Jackson controversial?

Throughout the latter stages of Jackson’s life, the singer was marred by accusations he sexually abused multiple children. In 2003, Jackson was arrested and charged with seven counts of child molestation, but he was eventually acquitted.

Allegations against Jackson were brought back to attention after the singer’s death. In 2019, the documentary Leaving Neverland highlighted further instances of Jackson’s alleged child sex abuse. Two more cases against Jackson were brought to trial following the documentaries release, but both were dismissed.

Earlier this year, Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed slammed the new biopic’s filmmakers for making a film that “will glorify a man who raped children”. Reed questioned whether all sides of Jackson’s story will be told and said that the making of the film represents a widespread, complacent willingness to “set aside [Jackson’s] unhealthy relationship with children and just go along with the music.”

Have there been other films about Michael Jackson?

Michael is the latest in a long line of films focusing on Jackson’s life. In total, ten films have tackled the topic of Jackson’s past, but most of them have been documentary films addressing addressing his child sex abuse allegations, or concert films. Michael is the first time Jackson has been given the biopic treatment, with a focus on his entire life rather than any specific area.

Who is playing Michael Jackson in the upcoming film?

Michael is being made with the approval of Jackson’s estate. Jaafar Jackson, Michael’s actual nephew, has been cast to play his own uncle in the film—so there’s no need to worry about the leading man not resembling the subject. No release date has been set, but filming is expected to begin later this year.

Jaafar Jackson with his mother, La Toya Jackson (Getty Images | Gabriel Olsen)


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