A SKY TV drama featuring Joseph Fiennes as the pop star Michael Jackson has been scrapped, following a backlash by the late singer’s family.
Fiennes, an English actor best known for playing William Shakespeare in the film, Shakespeare in Love, was to portray Jackson as part of a series exploring Urban Myths, starting next week.
Earlier this week Jackson’s daughter, Paris, 18, said she wanted to “vomit” after seeing images and a teaser clip of the actor as her father.
Sky Arts said it is dropping the episode, titled Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, adding the decision was supported by Fiennes.
It was to have been a dramatisation of a supposed road trip from New York to Los Angeles with Jackson, his close friend Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and actor Marlon Brando following the September 11 terror attacks.
A spokesman said: “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.”
After images were published online showing Fiennes with Stockard Channing as her godmother, Dame Elizabeth, Ms Jackson wrote on Twitter: “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, not just towards my father, but my godmother Liz as well.”
The show’s director, Ben Palmer, had defended the casting of Fiennes as Jackson.
He 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.”
An online petition against the episode, which also stars Brian Cox as Brando, was set up by Julie Rodriguez, who wrote: “It’s bad enough when actors of colour are denied opportunities to play fictional characters of their own ethnicity due to the preferential treatment of white actors.
“But it’s absolutely inexcusable for a film to whitewash a movie based on an actual human being, whether his appearance was typical of what we expect a black man to look like or not.”