A new Michael Jackson biopic in the works from the producer of Bohemian Rhapsody will “glory a man who raped children,” says Dan Reed, director of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland, in which two men say Michael Jackson seduced them and their families when they were children in order to repeatedly sexually abuse them.
Though Jackson was never convicted of any criminal charges, accusations of child molestation followed him for the final years of his life. He was acquitted of molesting two boys in 2005 after a months-long criminal trial in Santa Maria, California. (They were separate from the two young men featured in Leaving Neverland.)
In 1993, he settled a multimillion-dollar civil suit in which he was accused of molesting another boy. Jackson’s attorneys condemned the accusations as shakedowns, though Jackson himself acknowledged sleeping with young boys in what he positioned as innocent sleepovers.
Will the New Michael Jackson Biopic Glorify Him?
The new biopic, which will shoot this year, is expected to be a sympathetic portrayal of the singer, because it is being made with the cooperation of the Michael Jackson estate and will star his nephew, Jaafar Jackson, as the self-titled King of Pop. Antoine Fuqua, who will direct the film, has said that “For me, there is no artist with the power, the charisma, and the sheer musical genius of Michael Jackson.”
Reed complained that when news broke about the planned Michael Jackson biopic, almost no one objected.
“In an era when full-throated outrage accompanies anything that smells of delegitimisation or insensitivity against a vulnerable group, it amounts to a deafening silence,” Reed wrote in The Guardian. “No one is talking about ‘cancelling’ this movie, which will glorify a man who raped children.
Reed added: “The most shocking insight of Leaving Neverland, and the most painful for any parent to accept, is that, as part of the grooming process, the predator makes the child fall in love with him, drawing them into a kind of guilty complicity in the abuse. So child sexual abuse victims will — bafflingly to the uninitiated — cover up for their abusers and protect them for years or decades,” Reed wrote.
He says that is why one of the men portrayed in his film, Wade Robson, took the witness stand to defend Jackson during his 2005 child sex abuse trial. “He now admits that he lied in court to protect his mentor and abuser,” Reed noted.
Leaving Neverland also tells the story of both Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom tell their stories firsthand in the doc.
Representatives for Graham King, who produced the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, as well as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, among other films, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Michael Jackson biopic Monday.
Michael Jackson Estate Response to Leaving Neverland
If the Michael Jackson biopic does celebrate his life, it will be seen in some ways as a rebuttal to Reed’s film, which sought to dismantle the mystique that surrounded Jackson for much of his career and portray him instead as a malicious manipulator.
When Finding Neverland was released, Jackson’s estate said the film was “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge.”
The estate added: “The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.”
The estate also sued HBO for $100 million, alleging that the film film violated a 27-year-old non-disparagement clause from a 1992 Michael Jackson concert film made during the singer’s “Dangerous” tour.
Michael Jackson died in June 2009 at the age of 50. His cause of death was a cardiac arrest brought on by an overdose of propofol and benzodiazepine.
Main image: Michael Jackson biopic subject Michael Jackson, as seen in HBO’s Leaving Neverland.