Michael Jackson’s 14-minute movie short for ‘Thriller’ has been called the greatest, most influential music video of all time. The behind-the-scenes transition from popstar to werewolf was captured in photographs, now available to view in Douglas Kirkland’s new book, Michael Jackson: The Making Of ‘Thriller’. Click through for a preview of these remarkable images.
In 2006, ‘Thriller’ was listed in the Guinness World Records as the most successful music video, selling over 1 million units. In December 2009, ‘Thriller’ was chosen by the Library Of Congress to be in the US National Film Registry, being the first ever music video to be selected.
The big-haired love interest in ‘Thriller’ was Ola Ray, Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in June 1980. A bit of a dispute ensued between the two, as Ray filed a lawsuit against Jackson in 2009 for unpaid royalties from the video. However, she told NY’s Daily News, “I didn’t know that I was going to be part of history…But that’s the way it turned out, and I’m thankful.”
Jackson sips a soda during make-up, in werewolf guise. Photographer Douglas Kirkland and journalist Nancy Griffin were the only members of the press allowed on set during the filming of the video. Not only can you see backstage photos in the book, you can also read about their extraordinary experience.
The red jacket that Jackson wore in this video was designed by its director John Landis’ wife Deborah. She said that it was a challenge making the star appear more “virile”, as at the time, he weighed only 99 lbs. She worked with him again on the 1991 video for ‘Black Or White’.
Because Jackson was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time the video was created, the first scene includes a disclaimer from him, stating that, “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.”
There are also interviews with musicians and celebrities in Michael Jackson: The Making Of ‘Thriller’ – including Sir Paul McCartney, Beyoncé, Steven Spielberg, Diddy, Quincy Jones, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys – discussing how the popstar and his epic music video impacted their lives.
The video was co-choreographed by Jackson and Michael Peters, who had worked with the star on his prior hit ‘Beat It’. (He can be seen in that video playing one of the gang leaders, dressed in all white).
‘Thriller’ was full of horror film veterans. The spoken word performance in the middle of the song/video was performed by horror film actor Vincent Price, and the incidental music was composed by Elmer Bernstein (who also worked on An American Werewolf In London).
Rick Baker, a now six-time Academy Award-winning special makeup effects artist, assisted in the prosthetics and makeup for the production of ‘Thriller’ and created the werewolf-like creature that Jackson turns into.
All of these images and more can be seen in the new book, Michael Jackson: The Making Of ‘Thriller’, by Douglas Kirkland and Nancy Griffin. There are also 100 deluxe limited editions available, including an 8 x 10 inch signed and numbered photographic print and a copy of the book, encased in a custom Lucite case (which you can special order by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org).