‘Leaving Neverland’ director says Michael Jackson biopic “will glorify a man who raped children”

"The message is: if a paedophile is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him"

The director of Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland has criticised the making of a new biopic about the singer’s life.

Last month, it was confirmed that a new film called Michael was in the works, with Antoine Fuqua set to direct and Jackson’s nephew Jaafar Jackson cast as the late singer. The film is also produced by Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Graham King, and is co-produced by the co-executors of Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain.

Dan Reed directed the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland, which explored child sex abuse allegations against Jackson, and has written in a new piece for The Guardian that the biopic “will glorify a man who raped children”.


The director notes the “gentle raising of eyebrows” by the press in their reaction to the biopic, with The Hollywood Reporter‘s original report claiming that it is “unclear how the film will address the many controversies involving the late music icon, given that the film is made in conjunction with his estate, which has defended him against accusations of sexually abusing children”.

‘Leaving Neverland’ director Dan Reed

“In an era when full-throated outrage accompanies anything that smells of delegitimisation or insensitivity against a vulnerable group, it amounts to a deafening silence,” he says. “No one is talking about ‘cancelling’ this movie, which will glorify a man who raped children.”

“What the total absence of outrage accompanying the announcement of this movie tells us is that Jackson’s seduction is still a living force, operating from beyond the grave,” he continues.

“It seems that the press, his fans and the vast older demographic who grew up loving Jackson are willing to set aside his unhealthy relationship with children and just go along with the music.

“To them I say this: even if you do not believe a word of what his many accusers have said; even if you are not concerned by the police investigations and the massive payouts to halt legal proceedings, how do you explain the completely uncontested fact that for years Jackson spent innumerable nights alone in bed with young boys? What was he doing with them, alone in his Neverland bedroom, with alarm bells in the corridor? That cannot be acceptable by any measure.”


Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson in 1988. CREDIT: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Reed concludes: “To the film-makers, I say: how will you represent the moment when Jackson, a grown man in his 30s, takes a child by the hand and leads him into that bedroom? How will you depict what happens next?

“By sidestepping the question of Jackson’s predilection for sleeping with young boys, you are broadcasting a message to millions of survivors of child sexual abuse. That message is: if a paedophile is rich and popular enough, society will forgive him.”

Leaving Neverland, which was broadcast in 2019 on HBO, focused on interviews with Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who alleged that they were sexually abused as children by Jackson.

NME has reached out to Antoine Fuqua and Lionsgate for response on Reed’s op-ed.

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