There was backlash about a year ago when it was announced that actor Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) would be portraying the late pop superstar Michael Jackson in a British project called Urban Myths. Many debated the casting of Fiennes, a white actor, to play the King of Pop, a Black man who suffered from the melanin-depleting disease vitiligo. The casting brought up the topics of whitewashing in Hollywood – casting white actors as characters who are historically non-white – as well as the lack of diversity on film and in television.
Urban Myths: A Brand New Collection of Comedies is actually, it appears, an anthology of comedy shorts, all featuring “true…ish stories” involving famous historical figures (hence the “urban myths”) in the vein of Drunk History. The Michael Jackson part follows a road trip, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, that was taken by a trio of legends: Jackson (Fiennes), Marlon Brando (Brian Cox) and Elizabeth Taylor (Stockard Channing). Now we have our first look at the show.
Sky Arts released a 50-second trailer for Urban Myths, giving us the first look at Fiennes as Michael Jackson, as well as the other stories is the TV special. Also on board the series for the other comedy shorts are Eddie Marsan as Bob Dylan, Ben Chaplin as Cary Grant, and a pair of Game of Thrones actors – Aidan Gillen as Dr. Timothy Leary and Iwan Rheon as Adolf Hitler. Rupert Grint is on board as well, introduced in the trailer as a friend of Hitler.
Viewers can drawn their own opinions based on the trailer, but it appears Fiennes may be wearing a heavy amount of facial prosthetics that make him look not particularly like either himself or Jackson. Otherwise, the Ben Palmer-directed series looks offbeat, and somewhat weird. Cox, in particular, looks to be having a fun time playing Marlon Brando, and Rheon certainly has plenty of experience playing a hateful, genocidal tyrant following his turn as Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones.
This does raise another question – when will we have a definitive biopic of Michael Jackson? There hasn’t been an attempt at one yet, but considering Jackson led arguably one of the most unique and important public lives of any entertainer in history, that’s probably inevitable. Might Jackson someday get the O.J. Simpson treatment, with a 10-hour mini-series and an eight-hour documentary, both highly acclaimed and in the same year? We can only hope.
Urban Myths: A Brand New Collection of Comedies has no announced release date yet.
Source: Sky Arts