Joseph Fiennes: ‘I’m Probably the Same Color as Michael Jackson’
Shakespeare in Love star Joseph Fiennes has responded to the uproar surrounding his casting as Michael Jackson in a new road trip comedy by insisting he’s the right color to play the King of Pop. Fiennes will take on the role of the “Thriller” star in a British TV special, which imagines a fictional car trip the pop superstar took with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor from New York to Los Angeles following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Fans of Jackson and African-American activists still smarting from the fact no black star, director or project picked up a nomination for the 2016 Oscars were outraged to hear a white British actor would be playing the late singer – and Fiennes admits he was just as shocked when he was first offered the role. “I’m a white, middle-class guy from London,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “I’m as shocked as you may be.” He added, “He (Jackson) definitely had an issue – a pigmentation issue – and that’s something I do believe. He was probably closer to my color than his original color.” Taylor, Jackson, and Brando will also feature Grease star Stockard Channing as Taylor and Brian Cox as Brando, and Fiennes is convinced that, despite all the controversy, the comedy is going to be a big hit. “It’s kind of off the wall, but the writing is a delight, and the kind of interaction between the three of them is funny, and also full of pathos,” he said. “It’s people who are so iconic, but (they) also can be detached. You know, you can get detached from society. So it’s examining that kind of wonderful and mad detachment. “It’s a light comedy look. It’s not in any way malicious. It’s actually endearing.” However, Jackson’s nephew TJ Jackson has an opposing view on the project. While he refused to comment on Fiennes’ casting, he had more of a problem with the content of the program. “It’s offensive to me and my family for my uncle Michael to be portrayed in a comedy taking place around 9/11,” TJ told Entertainment Tonight in a statement. “Like everyone else, he was distraught, saddened and trying to process what had just happened. Following the events of 9/11, my uncle, Michael, stayed with a family friend in New Jersey for a week before flying back. The rest of our family immediately took buses back to Los Angeles as planes were grounded. There was no road trip with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando.”