'The King Of Pop', 'Wacko Jacko', 'MJ' or just 'Jacko' - whatever you called him, it's undeniable that Michael Jackson was one of the greatest performers to ever grace the stage.
But having conquored the world of music, the Dirty Diana singer invested a hell of a lot of time in making it onto the big screen too. From badgering directors to attempts to buy out entire companies in a bid to land his dream roles, the story of Michael Jackson's struggle to break into the world of film is inspiring, bizarre and sorta upsetting in equal measure.
Here's seven roles the late singer tried his damned hardest to get a hold of...
Jar Jar Binks, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Can’t help but think The King Of Pop dodged a bullet with this one. Jacko pretty much begged George Lucas to give him the role that went on to become the most hated character in all of the Star Wars universe, going so far as to send the director a big long petition. In an interview with Vice last year, motion-capture actor Ahmed Best recalled the episode: “[Lucas] said, ‘Well, Michael wanted to do the part but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like Thriller,” Best said. “George wanted to do it in CGI. My guess is ultimately Michael Jackson would have been bigger than the movie, and I don't think [Lucas] wanted that."
Quasimodo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
So enamoured with the French tale was our Michael that he apparently screened the 1939 adaptation countless times. He was borderline obsessed with the idea of playing the deformed bell tower dweller according to screenwriter Tom Hedley (the guy behind Flashdance), that they spent many an evening discussing the possibility. The project never got off the ground.
Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Even after recording an entire soundtrack for the studio execs making the 2005 version of the film, Jackson still lost out to the role of the zany chocolate factory proprietor to Johnny Depp. Depp’s character was so similar to real-life Jacko that he had to openly deny he’d based his role on the Thriller singer. "Michael Jackson was not a sort of ingredient or inspiration for the character at all,” he said.
Peter Pan, Hook
As well as saying he was “Peter Pan in my heart” Jackson named his 2,700-acre Californian property after Peter Pan’s ‘Neverland’ in a bid to live out the childhood he never had. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to fly around in a green hat and tights (on screen, at least). “Michael had always wanted to play Peter Pan, and we were very close friends in those days,” director Steven Spielberg once told Entertainment Weekly. “But I called Michael and said, ‘This is about a lawyer that is brought back to save his kids and discovers that he was once, when he was younger, Peter Pan.’ So Michael understood at that point it wasn’t the same Peter Pan he wanted to make.” Instead, the role went to the late great Robin Williams. Amazingly, a 2003 Vanity Fair article claimed Jackson was so angry with Spielberg that he paid a witch doctor $150,000 to put a voodoo curse on the director in revenge.
If you really, really want to don the mask of everyone’s favourite web-slinger in film, what do you do? Write the director a grovelling letter? Send him a few Tweets? Film yourself swinging down the streets? If you’re Michael Jackson, you try and buy Marvel comics. Yes, buy the whole damn thing. EVEN THAT didn’t work, and the honour went to Tobey Maguire instead.
A car, Hot Rod (unreleased)
Back in 2004, Clerks star Kevin Smith told Playboy that the weirdest script he’d even been asked to direct was one in which Michael Jackson plays a man that morphs into a car that gets driven around by a young boy. It was destined to be called ‘Hot Rod’, but never made it to the big screen. Or the small screen, for that matter. “In retrospect, I’d love to make that movie,” Smith said. “But it wouldn’t be anything like the version Jackson or the studio wanted to see.”
Edgar Allan Poe, The Nightmares of Edgar Allan Poe
A pure vanity project for Jackson, this. Apparently, Michael was a huge Poe devotee and had dreamed of playing him the horror writer in this spooky screenplay. According to producer Gary Pudney, calls were made to Spielberg (pre-voodoo curse, we’re thinking), and there were even plans for a bit of a sing-song at the end, even though the film wasn’t destined to be a musical. In fact, it wasn’t destined for anything. It never saw the light of day.