A Michael Jackson biopic is happening, and Emancipation director Antoine Fuqua is at the helm. That’s good news for Jackson fans, as Fuqua’s track record suggests that he has the filmmaking chops to approach what is sure to be a multilayered look at the icon’s life and legacy.
“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,” Fuqua said in a press release obtained by Deadline. “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. 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 biopic will simply be called, Michael. It will be Fuqua’s next project after he returns from Italy when Equalizer 3, starring Denzel Washington, is done. Lionsgate is the studio for Michael, and the script was written by John Logan.
Logan’s written a variety of films, including one on the super-agent Sue Mengers, another, which he’s directing billed as a horror film at a gay conversion camp, and a film about a boy who forms a friendship with the legendary actor/dancer Gene Kelly.
He also co-wrote Best Picture winner The Gladiator starring Russell Crowe and the Bond film Skyfall. The producer on Michael is Graham King, who will coproduce with Michael Jackson’s estate executors, John McClain and John Branca. King, through his GK Films, also produced the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which won the Best Actor Oscar for Rami Malek and earned $903 million worldwide.
Deadline says this film is a “passion project” for King and Logan. They have teamed up before for The Aviator, the Howard Hughes biopic starring Leonard DiCaprio as the wealthy entrepreneur aviator and movie producer.
The film is said to be a thorough look at Jackson’s life, up to and including the allegations of pedophilia that dogged his later career and legacy. The Michael Jackson estate is in litigation with HBO over the 2019 Leaving Neverland documentary, in which dancer/choreographer Wade Robson and Jackson’s friend James Safechuck alleged Jackson had sexually molested them as children.
The documentary did not provide the perspective of the numerous children, now adults (and several that are celebrities) that refuted any sexual abuse in their experience with the legendary artists. While Leaving Neverland sparked a backlash against Jackson and his music, other Jackson projects prospered.
The Thriller 40 documentary, celebrating the four-decade anniversary of the top-selling album of all time, was well-received by the few who saw it in preview screenings, but a scheduled January 2023 release date has come and gone. But the prevalence of projects shows that there are still audiences open to seeing and learning more about Jackson.
“Antoine’s films provide personal perspectives of larger-than-life characters that continuously captivate global audiences,” King said. “I’m confident that Antoine will make an exceptional and compelling film that will both celebrate and give profound new insights into the life of the King of Pop.”
As for casting, no announcements have been made yet.