After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, a celebrity road trip allegedly took place involving Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson leaving New York City. At least, this is the subject matter of an upcoming British made-for-TV movie produced for the Sky Arts network. Whether or not this story is true is beside the point because the project is moving forward and will embellish on the situation rather than take from actual facts. It's a comedy, after all. The cast reportedly includes Brian Cox as Brand, Stockard Channing as Taylor and Joseph Fiennes, a white actor, as Jackson, an African-American music icon. This last casting news should stand out, especially considering the trending controversy of the lack of diversity in the list of nominees for the 2016 Oscars.
This special is based on a 2011 Vanity Fair piece that reported on what could've been a true story about this road trip taken by the celebrity icons to escape the targeting city. Though a former assistant has discredited the rumors about this story, claiming the entertainer stayed in New York City after the attacks and even visited ground zero, it's too interesting to pass up the opportunity of turning into a TV special (via CNN).
But why was a white actor cast as Michael Jackson? We understand that Jackson's skin tone changed over the years, and that Fiennes is an acting talent, but it still seems a bit ... wrong?
The world's reaction to Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson pic.twitter.com/EGLKYSETIO
— AL (@MissSchliez) January 27, 2016
In an official statement from the network, the casting news and title of the special were revealed with an explanation of why Fiennes was cast as Jackson.
"Marlon, Michael & Elizabeth is a Sky Arts comedy which takes a light hearted look at a reportedly true event; Joseph Fiennes is cast as Michael Jackson. It is part of a series of comedies about unlikely stories from arts and cultural history," the statement explained, according to Entertainment Weekly. "Sky Arts puts the integrity of the creative vision at the heart of all its original commissions and we believe in giving producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set."
We'll have to wait and see how Fiennes performs, it seems! A premiere date has yet to be set.