Director defends casting Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson

Fiennes will play the King of Pop in Sky Arts series 'Urban Myths'

Filmmaker Ben Palmer has defended casting white actor Joseph Fiennes as the late Michael Jackson in a new comedy series.

The first glimpse of Shakespeare In Love actor Fiennes as the King of Pop was revealed this week in a trailer for Urban Myths, Sky Arts’ upcoming comedy series recreating rumoured tales about celebrities.

Fiennes plays Jackson in Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon, an episode in which Stockard Channing co-stars as the late Elizabeth Taylor and veteran Scottish actor Brian Cox (Rushmore, Troy) portrays the late Marlon Brando. The series also includes Game Of Thrones actor Iwan Rheon in an episode as Hitler alongside Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint as “Hitler’s friend”.

Defending his casting of Fiennes to The Guardian, Palmer said: “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.”

“It’s a really lovely, sweet film. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react once they’ve actually seen it,” he added. Last year, Fiennes defended his casting by described the role as a “wonderful part”.

Meanwhile, Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris has criticised Fiennes’ portrayal of her father and said that it “honestly makes me want to vomit”.

Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon is is based on an urban legend, documented in a 2011 Vanity Fair article, which claims Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando fled New York City together in a rental car in the wake of 9/11.