Outrage Watch: Joseph Fiennes is playing Michael Jackson in a movie, naturally
Welcome to Outrage Watch, HitFix's semi-regular rundown of entertainment-related kerfuffles. Not anxious enough already? Get your fix of righteous indignation below, and stay posted for outrage updates throughout the week.
Joseph Fiennes, in case you'd forgotten, is the white British actor who rose to fame playing William Shakespeare in the Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love opposite Gwyneth Paltrow. Michael Jackson, meanwhile, is the black American entertainer who became the most famous pop-music performer of his time before a round of plastic surgeries rendered him unrecognizable and allegations of child molestation derailed his career.
The new film, which is being produced for British TV, will be an imagining of an alleged (and subsequently refuted) road trip Jackson took with his friends Elizabeth Taylor (to be played by Stockard Channing in the movie) and Marlon Brando (Brian Cox) between New York City and Ohio immediately following the events of 9/11.
Can any of this be real? Indeed it can. Fiennes himself has confirmed his casting, telling WENN:
“I got the script the other day. It’s a challenge. It’s a comedy. 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. 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 casting no doubt presented a challenge for the filmmakers given Jackson's appearance in 2001, which can only be described as: pale. But the Twitters have exploded in acrimony since the Guardian broke the news, which comes on the heels of the #Oscarssowhite debate that has dominated the news cycle since the lily-white crop of 2016 acting nominees were announced.
Here's a sampling of responses:
Am I the only one who sees Joseph Fiennes cast as Michael Jackson offensive? https://t.co/Z0THWH1ZWU— Yukio Strachan (@boldandworthy) January 27, 2016
WTF? Joseph Fiennes is playing Michael Jackson? This is NOT the colorblind casting we meant, entertainment industry https://t.co/1EPpbC8jcO— Dorothy Snarker (@dorothysnarker) January 26, 2016
Charlie Hunnam to play a Mexican druglord? Joseph Fiennes to play Michael Jackson? This is what's wrong with Hollywood. #whitewashing— Stacey O'Neale (@StaceyONeale) January 27, 2016
Charlie Hunnam can play Mexican-American Edgar Valdez & Joseph Fiennes can play Michael Jackosn, but Idris Elba can't play Bond?— LaToya Allen (@HashtagLaToya) January 27, 2016
Soooo I'm adding Joseph Fiennes to my "You have ZERO ethics" list. Emma Stone & Charlie Hunnam welcome you!— Carmen Santos (@revealingmia) January 27, 2016
So Joseph Fiennes (A WHITE DUDE!) is gunna play Michael Jackson... I say Denzel Washington plays Elvis in the next movie just to be fair.????????— Nico Madden (@_nicomadden) January 27, 2016
Congratulations to noted African-American actor Joseph Fiennes on being cast as Michael Jackson...— Scott Mendelson (@ScottMendelson) January 27, 2016
I'm TOTALLY on board with Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson IF AND ONLY IF Angela Bassett is cast as Elizabeth Taylor— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) January 27, 2016
Now, Orlando Jones may be onto something...