Nov 23 2011

“What I really want to do more than anything is film. Film will last forever”

Category: Dreams,MJ Quotes,Photos,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 11:50 pm

I’ve written about this subject before – how Michael’s huge desire to do films went back many years and how it seemed he was thwarted every time he started to more fully realize this dream. Rolling Stone has also written about the same subject, though not as in-depth.

For me, this has been one of the saddest things about the loss of Michael from our world: that we will never be able to see what else he would have done creatively. It’s such a huge loss when the dreams of a genius are snuffed out by premature death. I don’t mean a monetary loss, though I’m sure that is how the estate, Sony, AEG, Hollywood, et al likely see it. I mean a huge loss to our culture and our humanity. No one talks about that much because it’s hard to speak of in quantitative terms. In other words, it’s an immeasurable loss.

Besides his incredible short film/music videos, Michael did do some regular film work but he apparently wanted to do much more because he considered it a more permanent, indelible artform. Most people know Michael starred in ‘The Wiz‘, and there is the unforgettable ‘Moonwalker‘ film, and Ghosts‘ (whose gouls are better than Thriller, IMO) and his cameos in ‘Men in Black‘ and ‘Men in Black II‘.  And, though Michael did not appear in ‘Free Willy‘ or ‘Free Willy II‘, his music certainly did, and his well-suited voice narrated the ‘ET Storybook‘ whose related film was a huge hit in its day.

Three months before his death, Bryan Michael Stoller said that Michael had committed to produce and co-direct an independent film called ‘They Cage the Animals at Night‘. That film would have been based on Jennings Michael Burch’s 1985 book of the same name, which describes his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes. This film, like other films and projects Michael dreamed of, was stopped dead in its tracks by salacious allegations against him. Michael had made an appearance in ‘Miss Castaway and the Island Girls‘, also by Stoller, but ‘Cage‘ was never created.

And then there’s the fabulous ‘Caption EO‘ which after Michael’s death is still playing at Disneyland again, and is said to continue as long as it’s popular.  Rusty Lemorade produced and co-wrote Captain EO. Rusty recounts how in the early ’90s, Michael came to sign on for a remake of ‘Angels With Dirty Faces‘ (a James Cagney film) and a re-make of a 1964 Tony Randall film. But once again, Michael’s dreams were halted by allegations:

Michael was pretty pleased with our relationship, and he had just set up his film company at Sony-Columbia. And the problem was, with all the development people, etc. – and it was a pretty thick company with people – he wasn’t committing to anything. I think people didn’t understand how to relate to him. I used to say to him, ‘You’re a little like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can’t do any part. The part has to be tailored to you. He became a star because of Terminator.‘ Well, Michael said, ‘You come up with some ideas.’ And I came up with two fairly quickly.

Jimmy [Cagney] was the screen idol Michael hoped to emulate in ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’. One was to remake an old film called ‘7 Faces of Dr. Lao’, which was a [1964] Tony Randall film that involved a child protagonist, and the other was to remake the film Angels with Dirty Faces, which is a James Cagney film. Michael was a huge James Cagney fan.

Michael loved both projects. Part of it was the way I explained it to him, talked him through it. We had sketches done and creatures made – you really had to turn it into the toy version. On Dr. Lao, we had the set miniatures built of the circus and he committed to both, which was a major event at the time. One was set up at Warners. And the other was set up at Turner – who owned the remake rights. And everything was going great. Fantastic!

And then the first scandal hit.

I remember it as vividly as I remember when I heard President Kennedy was shot. I was in my car driving to this studio where we were building these miniatures, where people were going to come and see them. And someone called me and said, ‘Did you see what’s on the news? Michael Jackson’s ranch has been raided.

The truth of the matter is, very simply – and in fairness to Hollywood and the big studios – they have huge investment obligations to their shareholders. So they got very nervous. They didn’t know if the audience would still be there for Michael. Suddenly, nobody wanted to touch him… It was quite sad that it never happened, because it was very important for Michael to be in movies.

During the 30-minute interview, Rusty also reveals how he came to earn Michael’s trust while he and ‘The Godfather‘ director [Francis Ford Coppola] were working on Captain EO:

The secret of working with Michael Jackson was to think, how would you, literally, deal with a 10-year-old boy?

Francis got it. At one point, he was having trouble directing Michael. Michael didn’t seem to respond to the kind of word dialogue that a director largely uses.

So [Francis] sent out for some masks: happy masks – like clown masks – and scary masks. And when he wanted to elicit an emotion from Michael, he would put on those masks and it would be as if a child were reacting to a mask. And it was effective!

Michael loved to go toy shopping. But the adult in him wanted to drive his car. And he drove like a maniac. I was always grippin’ my seat. He loved masks. He had masks in his glove compartment, which he would put on as he drove. His explanation was, ‘If I don’t put it on, people will see it’s me and they’ll chase me.’ Then we’d go into a toy store. Then it was funny, because the mask he’d wear into the store would usually be like a woman’s harem mask kind of thing, with a veil across his face.

You can hear part of the interview with Rusty Lemorade here:

You can also read the rest of the interview here:

Notice Lemorade’s comments above about Michael’s driving. I’ve written before on MJ-777 about that subject as well. One account from Sam L. Parity says that back during the ‘Bad‘ tour, Michael hit everyone’s car in the studio lot at least once. And there’s another account in his mother Katherine’s book which mentions sister LaToya’s fear of Michaels hair-raising driving habits. I’m told he also terrified Karen Faye, his make-up artist, with his wild driving.

Zippity Doo Da

Michael was a terrible driver. Everyone who has ever been in a car with him behind the wheel says so.

Back to the subject at hand, Michael apparently very much wanted to star in or direct films because he felt ‘he would have been lost to the world’ otherwise. Below is an excerpt from an interview Lisa Robinson did with Michael by phone from Encino, California on September 4, 1979:

L.R. – How was it filming The Wiz?

M.J. – I had the time of my life. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m just dying to do the next film. It’s really killing me—and when I say killing me, I really mean it. Sometimes I could just scream, but I’m so busy with other things, and what I really want to do more than anything is film. Film will last forever. I can go on tour and it’s exciting, but when it’s done, it’ll be lost to the world. But if I do a movie, it’ll be there forever, that’s what I love about film: it’s something captured, a moment captured that’ll be there for eternity. The stars die, like Charlie Chaplin—he’s gone, but his films will be here forever. If he did Broadway and plays while he was alive, he would have been lost to the world. I’d have to set time aside to do films, but I always do things through force and feeling, and I always follow my instincts. If it’s meant to be, it’ll come, it’ll happen. It will make itself known.

MORE about Michael and films:

Film Critic Praises Michael Jackson’s Filmmaking Artistry:

“After this, we’re doing films”

Thriller First Music Video Named to the US National Film Registry:

'Thriller' film can

'Thriller' film can

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4 Responses to ““What I really want to do more than anything is film. Film will last forever””

  1. cjg says:

    Thank you Max for giving voice to exactly what I was thinking and feeling at reading this anecdote about Michael filming Captain EO. Michael was a highly intelligent (intellectually and emotionally) individual who had conducted himself as an adult professional since the age of five. He knew how to proceed and perform even if something was amiss or wrong without letting on – therefore he had a great “performance poker face”. It did not mean he was unable to comprehend what was being asked of him but perhaps it meant there was something lacking in the DIRECTOR’S ability in conveying it. (Just had to add my two cents)

  2. Sina says:

    You dont want to be oversensitive and respond to each and everything people say . But statements like these are exactly how they sound ,offensive and belittleing.
    Michael had an incredible innocence about him and often explained that he was raised like that. To be childlike, like Jesus had tought his apostles. Not childish.
    A shame it distracts from the real story.
    Michaels interest in film was obvious from an early age. He didnt just refer to his videoclips as short films.
    So sad we will never know what he had in store for us.
    Indeed a great loss that is felt every day.

  3. BG says:

    It’s impossible to put into words how great a loss it is. It’s obvious film was Michael’s goal. Every now and again you come across snippets of information which makes it clear that this is what Michael wanted to do. There was an old report where someone commented that the reason why Michael switched management was because of the opportunity to be involved in film – that was years ago. There is something in Frank Cascio’s book too (yes, I’ve read it) about Marvel Comics (Spiderman) and how Michael “had been led to believe that the company was his” when in fact the Marvel deal “had fallen through”. And I believe wholeheartedly that right to the end the promise of film was a big factor…

    What a contribution Michael would have made to ‘long-form’ film. The one Bryan Stoller spoke about from Jennings Michael Burch’s book would have had Michael’s humanity stamped all over it. Ever since that short clip of Michael’s interview with Burch, I’ve been hoping Brian Stoller would show us more. If I had three wishes, one of them would be to see that whole interview.

    I agree Seven, an immeasurable loss.

    @ Max – Agree with everything you said too.

  4. Max says:

    Yes, one of my first emotions on hearing of Michael’s premature death was a profound sense of loss and outrage because this man had so much more to contribute. As he said himself, “I haven’t even started yet.” But I am getting very tired of hearing that Michael had the emotional and mental age of a ten-year-old. Just because he would not allow himself to become closed off to the wonder and beauty of the universe did not make him an emotional moron. In fact, his emotional IQ was much higher than that of his detractors AND so-called friends and acquaintenances who can’t even admit that he was a complete human being. As far as his love I.Q. goes, he had no equal. His worst enemies are those “friends” who good-naturedly belittle him even after his death. I, for one, have had enough of their slanted “memories.”