Joseph Fiennes has defended his casting as pop legend Michael Jackson, saying that the late singer was ‘closer to my colour’.
Twitter exploded yesterday following the news that he is set to play Jackson in a comedy-drama about an alleged road trip taken by Jackson and friends Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando following 9/11.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Fiennes said: “[Jackson] definitely had an issue – a pigmentation issue - and that’s something I do believe.
“He was probably closer to my colour than his original colour. I’m a white, middle-class guy from London. I’m as shocked as you may be.”
He added to WENN that the project is a 'challenge’, though it doesn’t poke fun at its subjects.
“It’s a lovely thing about Michael’s relationship with Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando,” he said.
“It’s 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.”
The film centres around the urban legend that Jackson, Brando and Taylor hired a car following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and attempted to drive from New York to California, after air travel was suspended.
A former employee of Jackson made the claim, which was reported in Vanity Fair, though Taylor’s reps have always denied the story.
“[They] got as far as Ohio – all three of them, in a car they drove themselves,” said the source, though seemingly progress was hampered by Brando’s frequent requirements for fast food.
In the movie, Brando will be played by Brian Cox, with Stockard Channing playing Taylor.
Some criticised the casting yesterday, however, with a YouTube video of Jackson being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 1993 doing the rounds on social media, in which slammed rumours he’d asked for a white child to play his younger self in a Pepsi commercial.
“That’s so stupid. That’s the most ridiculous, horrifying story I’ve ever heard,” says Jackson.
“It’s crazy. I mean… why? Number one, it’s my face as a child in the commercial - me when I was little. Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a black American. I’m proud to be a black American. I’m proud of my race. I’m proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride in who I am, and dignity. That’s like you wanting an oriental person to play you as a child. Does that make sense?”
But while some were left baffled by the casting choice, others applauded it.
British comedian Shappo Khorsandi tweeted:
Joseph Fiennes is playing Michael Jackson? Fab. Now we can all shut up about lack of diversity.
— Shappi Khorsandi (@ShappiKhorsandi) January 27, 2016
The movie will air on Sky Arts.
Image credits: IBT/Deadline/Getty