Joseph Fiennes portrayal of Michael Jackson pulled

Article by The Skinny | 13 Jan 2017
  • Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in Urban Myths

After much controversy, the episode of Sky comedy Urban Myths featuring Joseph Fiennes as Michael jackson has been pulled 

We won’t be seeing Joseph Fiennes’ controversial portrayal of Michael Jackson anytime soon, as Sky Arts have announced that the episode of Urban Myths – the channel’s new satirical series exploring unlikely celebrity stories – centred on Jackson has been pulled from the schedule due to the offense Fiennes’ portrayal has cause to Jackson’s family.

"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,” reads the channel’s statement.

“Sky is not in the habit of pulling programmes but we felt that this was the right decision to take. Sky Arts puts the integrity of the creative vision at the heart of all of its original commissions, and casting decisions are made within the overall diversity framework which we have set.”

Earlier in the week, Ben Palmer, the series' director, had asked that people don’t jump to conclusions about the nature of the show, describing Fiennes’ take on Jackson as a “really sweet, nuanced, characterful performance”. The brief snippet showing Fiennes' portrayal was too much to take for Jackson's family.

Paris Jackson, the daughter of the late singer, responded to the trailer on Twitter, saying "I'm so incredibly offended by it, as i'm sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit.”

"It angers me to see how obviously intentional it was for them to be this insulting,” she wrote in a second tweet, “not just towards my father, but my godmother Liz as well"

"Where is the respect?" she asked in a third tweet. "They worked through blood sweat and tears for ages to create such profound and remarkable legacies. Shameful portrayal."

The offending episode imagines the reported story that Jackson, along with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, took a road trip out of New York following the 9/11 attacks. Stockard Channing played Taylor and Brian Cox played Brando.

Other urban myths featured in the series, such as the time Muhammad Ali reportedly talked a suicidal man off a ledge in Los Angeles or the period when Samuel Beckett would take a young Andre the Giant to school, will screen as planned on Sky Arts from 19 Jan.

Original story, published 11 Jan

So Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando are in a car fleeing New York on the morning of the 9/11 terror attacks. This isn’t the beginning of a particularly distasteful joke, but the plot synopsis for an episode of Urban Myths, Sky Arts’ anthology comedy series based on unlikely celebrity stories.

Episode one, which airs on 19 Jan, imagines the road trip the three eccentric stars took on that fateful day. Jackson is played by an unrecognisable Joseph Fiennes, Stockard Channing is a spot-on Taylor and Brian Cox (the Manhunter star, not the physicist) channels Brando.

Other, possibly apocryphal, celebrity stories in the series include the incident when Cary Grant took LSD with Timothy Leary; when Salvador Dalí hung out with Alice Cooper; when Samuel Beckett took a young Andre the Giant to school; when Adolf Hitler was knocked-back from art college; and when Muhammad Ali talked a man out of killing himself. The trailer also features a glimpse of Eddie Marsden’s delightful portrayal of Bob Dylan.

And if you need another reason to watch the Jackson-Taylor-Brando episode, the late Carrie Fisher has a small role. The first episode of Urban Myths screens on Sky Arts on 19 Jan.