On Wednesday it was announced that British actor Joseph Fiennes would play Michael Jackson in a Sky Arts project and everyone thought it was a joke.
Wait wait wait. Joseph Fiennes is playing MJ? This wasn't a joke?
— This Is Rochelle…(for now) (@RR416) January 27, 2016
Then made some pretty valid points about double standards.
Joseph Fiennes can play Michael Jackson. (A real person). But Idris can't play James Bond (a fake spy for a fake agency)? Cool, cool, cool.
— Prentice Penny (@The_A_Prentice) January 27, 2016
While acknowledging that — in later life at least — Jackson looked more like a white man than a black man.
Following the social media backlash, Fiennes defended his casting as Jackson, telling Entertainment Weekly: “I’m a white, middle-class guy from London. I’m as shocked as you may be. [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.”
The Shakespeare In Love actor later told The Wrap that they cast a white actor because they didn’t have the budget to pay for prosthetics.
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I think someone’s got this wrong. I mean, really?'” he said. “The budget was too low to do prosthetics or anything, so it literally is straight-forward makeup.”
Fiennes also described the role as “a challenge.”
“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,” he told WENN.
“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! It’s a lovely thing about Michael’s relationship with Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando. 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 one-off drama will air on Sky Arts.