Controversy over white actor as Jackson

Joseph Fiennes will play Michael Jackson in a comedy about a mythical road trip the singer took.
Joseph Fiennes will play Michael Jackson in a comedy about a mythical road trip the singer took.

LONDON, England – The casting of white British actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in an upcoming U.K. film has left fans of the late King of Pop in a state of bewilderment and shock, with many airing their grievances on social media.
Fiennes will co-star as Jackson in a movie titled Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon set to premiere later this year.
The film is a comedic retelling of a fabled story involving Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando on a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001.
Acclaimed actors Stockard Channing and Brian Cox as Taylor and Brando, respectively, are so pitch-perfectly cast that neither requires much if any further explanation. But Fiennes as Jackson is a whole different story altogether.
Fiennes spoke about the bizarre project and acknowledged that playing the megastar Jackson would be “a challenge.” The Shakespeare In Love actor also discussed the tone of this bizarre comedy based on a disputed Vanity Fair story about the trio of legends who, unable to secure a flight out of New York on the day of the 9/11 attacks, took their show on the road.
“I got the script the other day,” Fiennes explained. “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!”
Fiennes didn’t say much, however, to address the 500-pound elephant (no, not Brando) in the room: Why was a white actor cast to play an African American entertainer?
Even with Jackson’s specific physical attributes at that point in his life – he suffered from vitiligo, which causes the skin to lose its pigment – it’s not beyond reason to consider that there are qualified Black actors out there that could convincingly portray Michael Jackson.
This latest bit of questionable casting comes in the midst of a highly visible dialogue on race in mainstream cinema. The lack of diversity among this year’s Academy Award nominees has led to a revamp of the voting system and of the Academy itself, as well as a much larger conversation on opportunities in front of and behind the camera throughout the many tiers of Hollywood.