What sounds like an introduction to a strange joke is actually the premise for a new movie about Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, and Elizabeth Taylor, renting a car on September 11 and driving together aimlessly to get out of New York. They ended up in Ohio. This gets stranger when the casting elements are discussed.
According to Vanity Fair, the movie is based on an article of the incident written by Sam Kashner for Vanity Fair. But it seems that the role of Michael Jackson will be played by a white, English guy, Joseph Fiennes, brother of Ralph Fiennes.
“I think the casting is inspired, actually. Sometimes life isn’t just stranger than fiction, it’s fiction’s muse!” And the author of the original story about Liz, Michael, and Marlon’s escape isn’t surprised at all to see it taking on new life. “There’s something just so irresistible about simply the image of this holy trinity in the car together. It’s a kind of comic misrule flight out of Egypt story, and a tale told out of the celebrity Bible that should go on forever.”
Stockard Channing will play Elizabeth Taylor, and Brian Cox will play Marlon Brando.
Fiennes, speaking to WENN, agrees that the film is a “challenge,” and describes the story as “a fun, light-hearted tongue in cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like. But also it’s rather beautiful and poignant about their relationships as well.”
But the Daily Beast believes that casting Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson is a glaring example of Hollywood’s racism problem. When fans think of the King of Pop, nobody even considers Joseph Fiennes, best known for Shakespeare in Love.
“I got the script the other day,” Fiennes explained to WENN. “It’s a challenge. It’s a comedy. It doesn’t poke mean fun but it’s a story, possibly urban legend, whereby Michael, Marlon Brando, and Liz Taylor were all together the day before 9/11 doing a concert. Airspace was shut down and they couldn’t get out and Michael had the bright idea to go to hire a car and drive.
And the movie shows that Jackson, Taylor, and Brando are just like everybody else.
“So the three of them got in a car and drove 500 miles to Los Angeles. It took them a while because they had to stop at a lot of Burger Kings for Marlon, but they got out!”
But with the #OscarsSoWhite campaign in full swing, this casting is raising eyebrows, and others are taking sides.
“While Brits Charlotte Rampling and Michael Caine shrugged off the #OscarsSoWhite campaign (Rampling even said it was “racist against whites”), U.K. star Idris Elba recently spoke to the Houses of Parliament regarding the lack of varied opportunities for non-white actors in British entertainment and how it affected him both as a black fan and as a black actor.”
Idris Elba decided to push to be on television. He is the star of the hit show Luther.
“There wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead,” Elba said. “When you don’t reflect the real world, too much talent gets trashed. Thrown on the scrapheap. Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t. And talent can’t reach opportunity.”
But others point out that a white woman has more physically in common with Michael Jackson than a black man.
“It seems not well thought-through to be upset over casting an excellent actor to act as a character with whom he seems to share many physical resemblances,” argued producer Vincent Newman. “I suppose those offended by this would have disqualified Al Pacino from acting as Tony Montana or James Caan as Sonny Corleone. It’s acting after all, and the merit of the choice will be assessed as it is with all casting choices, on the quality and believability of his performance.”
Billboard writes that there is nothing malicious in the casting of Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.
“I’m a white, middle-class guy from London,” he said. “I’m as shocked as you may be.”
But honestly, at the time of his death, Jackson was a lot closer in color to Fiennes than anyone of color.
“He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”
Is this a movie you would like to see?
[Photo courtesy of Mario Tama/Getty Images]