EXCLUSIVE: Michael Jackson will be played by the late icon’s 26-year old nephew Jaafar Jackson in the Antoine Fuqua-directed film biopic for Lionsgate. Fuqua just posted a confirmation on Instagram. The singer and songwriter is the son of Jermaine Jackson, who is the brother of Michael and member of The Jackson 5. Jaafar has been singing and dancing since age 12, and has showcased himself singing tunes from Sam Cooke to Marvin Gaye, along with originals .
As Deadline revealed last week, the Emancipation helmer signed on to next direct Michael, which has a script by John Logan. The film’s being produced by Graham King, who turned the Freddie Mercury Queen story into the blockbuster Bohemian Rhapsody. GK Films will produce alongside the co-executors of Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain.
As you can see from the video below, the young man has the voice and moves to do right by his uncle. As an actor, he might well learn more than he wanted to about his world famous uncle, as we’ve heard the film will not shy away from the controversies of Jackson’s life, the pedophile accusations that haunted his latest years up to his death in 2009 at age 50, from cardiac arrest caused by a cocktail of sedatives.
The MJ estate’s presence gives rights to Jackson’s musical catalog, but has led some to question how protective they will be, but clearly things will have to be explored for the film to have dramatic edge and enough truthfulness to stand up to scrutiny while not turning off fans of Jackson’s songs and musical legacy. King and Oscar-nominated Gladiator screenwriter Logan previously threaded the needle perfectly with director Martin Scorsese on The Aviator, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Howard Hughes as he tried to pursue his innovations before mental illness turned him into a germophobic recluse. King and screenwriter Anthony McCarten captured the complexities of Freddie Mercury’s life before he died from AIDS. Michael will also be driven by Jackson’s musical accomplishments, which gives the film global potential similar to Bohemian Rhapsody, which grossed over $900 million worldwide, boosted the song catalog of Queen, got a Best Picture Oscar name and a win for star Rami Malek.
Jackson’s issues go back to the bullying influence of his father Joe, who brought the youth and his brothers from Gary, Indiana to stardom, but apparently as high cost to Jackson, who didn’t really have a childhood. As an adult, he became an even bigger star, but what was initially viewed as a Peter Pan-like life took on more sinister overtones when lawsuits began cropping up and multimillion settlements paid.
Fuqua is currently finishing The Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington in Italy, and then he will turn his attention to this one. Production will begin later this year, and we’ve heard that Fuqua will draft his Emancipation and Equalizer 3 cinematographer Robert Richardson to be by his side.
Lionsgate has world rights here but will seek an offshore partner, and we’ve heard Sony is squarely in the mix. That studio turned into a hit the 2009 docu This is Itincluding footage of Jackson rehearsing for a series of London concerts when he died.