Leaving Neverland director hits out at Michael Jackson biopic for ‘dismissing allegations’

Dan Reed condemned a draft of the script as a ‘complete whitewash’ of allegations

Ellie Muir
Monday 18 March 2024 20:48 GMT
Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed defends Michael Jackson accusers

The director who made the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland has called out a forthcoming biopic for ignoring the child sexual abuse allegations against the musician.

Training Day director Antoine Fuqua’s forthcoming film Michael has gone into production and is being made in collaboration with Jackson’s estate. It is being billed as a definitive cinematic portrayal of the “Billie Jean” singer’s legacy.

Early reports on the casting announcements seem to suggest that the film will focus on Jackson’s positive contributions to the music industry and his legacy. There is still a question mark over how the film will address the allegations that Jackson abused young boys.

In a new interview with The Sunday Times, Dan Reed – the director of HBO’s 2019 documentary about the allegations, Leaving Neverland – said he had seen a draft script for Furqua’s forthcoming film and called it a “complete whitewash” that ignores certain details about the allegations against Jackson.

The Jackson estate vehemently denies the claims that the singer sexually abused young boys and the allegations were never proven in court; Jackson was acquitted of child molestation in 2005.

Leaving Neverland , however, brought renewed attention to the allegations by presenting the viewpoint of two accusers: Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both claim the singer abused them as young boys.

“It’s an out-and-out attempt to completely rewrite the allegations and dismiss them out of hand, and contains complete lies,” Reed said of the Michael draft. “You never even see him alone with any boys, when it is a matter of fact that he shared his bed with small children for many years.”

The Independent has contacted representatives for Fuqua and the production team behind Michael for comment.

Jackson pictured in 2005 (Getty Images)

The Jackson estate sued HBO over Leaving Neverland, arguing that the network violated a non-disparagement clause. The case is still going through the courts and the estate unsuccessfully subpoenaed Reed for his footage.

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Reed is making a follow-up documentary titled After Neverland, which will follow the lives of Robson and Safechuck after the allegations, and document their legal efforts.

“They are very aggressively defending their commercial asset — and that’s their job,” Reed told The Sunday Times of John Branca and John McClain, the managers of the Jackson estate who are involved in the Michael film.

“The Jackson machine has made probably going on a billion dollars since his death. They claim Wade and James are out to make money, yet the people trying to make the money is them,” said Reed.

The Independent has tried to reach Jackson’s estate for comment.

This is not the first time that Reed has been critical of Fuqua’s forthcoming project.

“What the total absence of outrage accompanying the announcement of this movie tells us is that Jackson’s seduction is still a living force, operating from beyond the grave,” he wrote in a February comment piece published in The Guardian.

Jackson pictured in March 2009 (Getty Images)

“It seems that the press, his fans and the vast older demographic who grew up loving Jackson are willing to set aside his unhealthy relationship with children and just go along with the music.”

Jackson’s nephew, Jaafar, has been cast in the lead role in Fuqua’s film, which is reported to portray the singer as a victim preyed upon by people seeking a piece of his fortune.

Oscar-nominated Colman Domingo will play Jackson’s father, Joe, while Whiplash‘s Miles Teller will play Branca, Jackson’s manager.

In addition to the forthcoming film, there is also MJ: the Musical, a show about the King of Pop, which recently transferred from Broadway to London. A US tour of the production is also under way, while international dates have been scheduled.

The musical, developed in collaboration with the Jackson estate, was similarily criticised for not addressing the allegations against the singer.

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