First look: Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer
Jacko… Joseph Fiennes as the King of Pop – Credit: Sky

Here it is… the first look at Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson in new comedy series ‘Urban Myths’.

And it’s easily as weird as it sounded on paper.

News of the planned show was revealed last year, with not a little controversy surrounding the choice of casting Fiennes, brother of Ralph, as Jackson.

However, the weirdness – and potential brilliance – of the concept had to be applauded.

(Credit: Sky)

As one episode in a series of dramatised ‘urban myths’, it will tell the oft-rumoured story of a road trip that occurred after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

It was Tim Mendelson, Elizabeth Taylor’s former personal assistant, who first told the story, claiming that Jackson invited Taylor and the actor Marlon Brando to join him as his guests at a show at Madison Square Garden in early September, 2001.

However, following the attacks on the World Trade Center, all internal flights were grounded, so Jackson, Taylor and Brando are said to have hired a car – a modest rental – and driven over 500 miles to Ohio.

(Credit: Sky)

Mendelson revealed the story to Vanity Fair magazine, adding that Brando became a bane to his co-travellers, insisting on stopping ‘at every KFC and Burger King they passed along the highway’.

In this episode of the series, which will air on Sky Arts, joining Fiennes is Brian Cox as Brando and Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor.

Sadly, the veracity of Mendelson’s story cannot be verified – with Jackson dying in 2009, Brando in 2004 and Taylor in 2011, however Taylor’s reps have always denied that it happened.

(Credit: Sky)

In defence of accusations of ‘whitewashing’, director Ben Palmer told The Guardian: “We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance.

“We were really looking for the performance that could unlock the spirit, and we really think Joe Fiennes has done that. He’s given a really sweet, nuanced, characterful performance.”

Also featured in the series is the urban myth of Bob Dylan – played by Eddie Marsan – accidentally arriving at the wrong address in North London one day, while seeking Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics’ studio in Crouch End.

Asking for ‘Dave’, he was invited in because the woman who lived there’s husband also happened to be called Dave, so Dylan waited while he returned from the shops.

The series starts on January 19.

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