Sky axes controversial Michael Jackson comedy following family criticism

Paris Jackson said on Twitter that Joseph Fiennes' portrayal of her father "honestly made me want to vomit".

Sky has pulled its controversial Michael Jackson-based comedy after it was heavily criticised by the late pop icon’s daughter, Paris Jackson.

The first glimpse of Shakespeare In Love actor Joseph 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 was cast as 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.

After the trailer launched, Paris Jackson said on Twitter that Fiennes’ portrayal of her father “honestly made me want to vomit”. Meanwhile, a fan launched an online petition urging viewers to boycott the programme because a white actor had been cast as  Jackson.

Sky said in a statement today (January 13): “We have taken the decision not to broadcast Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, a half hour episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series, in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson’s immediate family.

“We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offence. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision.”

Michael Jackson, Joseph Fiennes – via Getty, Sky Arts

The programme’s director, Ben Palmer, had defended the decision to cast Fiennes as Jackson yesterday (January 12). “We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance,” Palmer said.

Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon was 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.

Sky Arts’ Urban Myths series is set to debut on January 19. 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”.