It's absolutely inevitable. Only hours after the King of Pop's unexpected demise, Hollywood's major television networks were scrambling to fill their airwaves with Michael Jackson related programming. Tonight for instance, TV Land is dragging out the old made for TV movie The Jacksons: The American Dream. It's only a matter of time before the movie industry gets in on the act. The Michael Jackson biopic is coming, it's not a question of when, it’s only a question of how badly they'll screw it up.
Will they focus on his earlier life, his brilliance as a musician, his success in spite of an abusive father… while glossing over all the really weird stuff at the end? Whose version of the truth will Hollywood subscribe to? Michael's hazy fantasy of never-ending youth or the world we saw from the outside, of inappropriate behavior and spiraling excess? Or perhaps most importantly, who will they cast to play him?
Before Tinsel Town botches it, we're stepping in preemptively to give them a little friendly advice. If you have to make a Michael Jackson movie Hollywood, then consider these casting choices before you do it.
Free Willy & Final Years Michael
Casting late-life Michael Jackson is all at once easy and complex. There's no shortage of talented, high-profile, proven, age-appropriate African American actors who might be willing to take on the role (assuming you want to cast a black actor that is). Some of them can even sing and dance. A few like Chris Tucker have, in fact, actually built their entire life around doing some sort of Thriller-era Michael Jackson impersonation but sorry Chris, we can do better. Whoever lands it will have to be able to play Free Willy Michael right on through creepy guy who engages in inappropriate contact with minors on national television Michael.
LIKELY TO GET THE PART: Eddie Murphy
It has to be Eddie Murphy, doesn't it? Sure they'll have to slather him in freakish prosthetics but if Robert Downey Jr. can get away with blackface then Eddie can certainly pull off whiteface. He has the right build (or close enough), he can sing (sort of), he can dance (or at least simulate it), and by the time they start casting this thing he'll be ready for another one of his twice a decade dips into serious movie making. Eddie will smell Oscar and lobby for this part hard knowing that his usual competition, the likes of Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, and Will Smith lack either the physical build or the musical chops to pull off the part. Plus Eddie's no stranger to prosthetics. If he wants to play MJ, he'll land it. It just makes sense.
BETTER CHOICE: Crispin Glover
Sure he's white but so was Michael, sort of, by the end. Nobody captures freakish insanity better than Crispin and in the last decade, in the public eye at least, that seemed to be all that was left of the man. Jackson's journey is almost Howard Hughes' like in nature and there's nobody better than Crispin for walking around with Kleenex boxes for shoes. Would he do it? Probably not, he's more interested in bizarre filmmaking projects that no one wants to see, and of course there's no way Hollywood hires anyone who's not a big name, bankable star for this part. Still, if you've seen Willard or even paid attention to the few moments he shows up on screen in the Charlie's Angels movies, then you know there's no one more perfect than Crispin Glover to portray Michael Jackson at his lowest of lows. Insanity is Crispin's reality.
This is the tough one. The temptation here will be to cast someone who can play both Thriller era Michael and late-life, crazy Michael. Yet they're such completely different people, it's hard to imagine that working. Sure you could digitally de-age Eddie Murphy and dress him up like Captain EO and yeah, maybe you can spray paint Crispin Glover and teach him to moonwalk, but I say you're better off going with someone else entirely and I feel certain (for no particular reason) that Hollywood will agree with me.
LIKELY TO GET THE PART: Damon Wayans Jr.
You've probably got a bad feeling about this. Me too. Damon Wayans Jr. is the son of Damon Wayans Classic and he's already started climbing the Hollywood ladder as the one of the leads in the early year parody flop Dance Flick. He's a comic, which means he probably already has an MJ impersonation (don't all comedians?), he's a martial artist, snowboarder, and apparently he can dance. He's one of a dozen names which could easily end up with the role (and if Denzel Washington is somehow involved in producing then get ready for Derek Luke) but to me, he seems like exactly the kind of talent sleazy Hollywood producers might go for.
BETTER CHOICE: Andre 3000
Sure he's getting a little long in the tooth, but shave off his beard and Andre will instantly lose a few years. He's got the build, he's got the moves, and even though he's yet to really prove it I've long had this sneaking suspicion that Andre could, if he really put his mind to it, actually act. Look it was either Andre 3000 or My Name is Earl's Crabman. Andre is the right decision.
Little Jackson 5 Michael
This is the easiest Michael to cast. Throw a net over Los Angeles, scoop it up, and then pick out the cutest black kids at your leisure. If they can sing that's a bonus, but you're probably better off casting for cute factor and then hiring a eunuch to do voice over. Or better yet, just play MJ's old tracks. It's not like you're going to find someone who can sing “ABC” better.
LIKELY TO GET THE PART: Jaden Smith
He's Hollywood's official cute kid poster boy and even though he doesn't exactly look the part, at least he’s already halfway to the hair. Plus his dad's Will Smith who, if you play your cards right might sign on as a producer or, whatever it is he does whenever Jaden's got a new project.
BETTER CHOICE: Bobbe J. Thompson
I really have no good excuse for casting the foul mouthed, trash-talking kid from Role Models in this movie, or in any movie. I'm pretty sure he can't sing and he definitely looks nothing like Michael. I wouldn't however bet against him having awesome dance moves but mostly I'm casting him for my own amusement and because he's probably not going to take any of that shit from his Dad. Let's rewrite history a bit. Have Michael kick Joe Jackson in the nads. That asshole has it coming for what he did to him.
Other Genius Casting Decisions
Joe Jackson played by Samuel L. Jackson
Macaulay Culkin played by Dakota Fanning
Paul McCartney played by Dame Judi Dench
The Rest Of The Jackson 5 played by Cash Money Millionaires With Lil' Wayne As Tito
Oprah played by Oprah
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