Universal looks to be starting something, as they will distribute “Michael” in theaters overseas. The Antoine Fuqua-directed Michael Jackson biopic, starring Jaafar Jackson as the King of Pop, is set to begin production after the end of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Lionsgate is producing the picture and will distribute in North America.
The movie will be produced by Graham King (producer of the $911 million-grossing and Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody”) and penned by John Logan (“Gladiator,” “The Aviator,” and many other acclaimed, Oscar-friendly titles). King will coproduce the film alongside John Branca and John McClain. The picture will have the participation of the coexecutors of Jackson’s estate.
King has accumulated a strong track record for producing awards-friendly, commercially successful true-life tales. He has helped usher the likes of “Argo” and “Ali” to the silver screen. He is currently working on an in-development Bee Gees biopic for Paramount.
The film is positioned as an in-depth portrayal of a complicated man who became the King of Pop, while also bringing Jackson’s iconic performances to life. How complicated, specifically in regard to the allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors that followed him for the last 16 years of his life, remains to be seen. Jackson stood trial and was acquitted in at least one such circumstance in 2005.
Acting as an international distributor save for Japan, the Comcast-owned studio hopes that “Michael” will join a handful of successful music-focused biopics — think “Ray,” “Walk the Line” and “Straight Outta Compton.” These films were genuine box office successes in pre-COVID times alongside the popular superhero flicks and horror movies.
Even as recently as summer 2022, Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster “Elvis” ($285 million global on an $85 million budget) showed that the right real-life rock star could still qualify as a butts-in-seats marquee character. Alas, the recent Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” didn’t quite take off.