Director Of Leaving Neverland Blasts New Michael Jackson Biopic, Asks Where The Outrage Is

Michael Jackson smiling in a movie theater lobby in Thriller.
(Image credit: Optimum Productions)

Much was made earlier this week about the casting of Michael Jackson’s nephew to play the late singer in Lionsgate’s upcoming biopic. Fans and members of the media, as well as various celebrities, offered their thoughts on the choice, but if you ask the director of Leaving Neverland, that’s not the conversation we should be having. Filmmaker Dan Reed wants to know why more people aren’t outraged about the movie even being made.

Dan Reed rose to prominence as a Michael Jackson critic back in 2019 when he released the documentary Leaving Neverland. It chronicled the pop star’s long history of strange public behavior with young boys. It also explored the public accusations against him for child molestation, as well as the various settlements and deals he reportedly worked out with the families of additional alleged victims. It also featured extensive interviews with Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom spent significant time with Jackson and said they were sexually abused. 

At the time, the documentary was given a lot of exposure. It ran on HBO and led many to ask questions about Jackson’s behavior and legacy, but in the four years since, the allegations against Jackson have gotten quieter and the focus on his music has returned to prominence. Reed doesn’t understand why. He published a first person editorial in The Guardian this week and asked fans to reconsider what’s happening around the movie. Here’s a portion of his quote…

What the total absence of outrage accompanying the announcement of this movie tells us is that Jackson’s seduction is still a living force, operating from beyond the grave. It seems that the press, his fans and the vast older demographic who grew up loving Jackson are willing to set aside his unhealthy relationship with children and just go along with the music. To them I say this: even if you do not believe a word of what his many accusers have said; even if you are not concerned by the police investigations and the massive payouts to halt legal proceedings, how do you explain the completely uncontested fact that for years Jackson spent innumerable nights alone in bed with young boys? What was he doing with them, alone in his Neverland bedroom, with alarm bells in the corridor? That cannot be acceptable by any measure.

Since the start of his career as a child in The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson sold more than 400 million albums. He won 15 Grammy Awards, had a top 10 single in five different decades and sold out concerts all over the world. He's widely considered to be one of the most famous and popular musicians in history, and when he died of an overdose, his funeral was watched by a reported two billion people.

He also turned his house into an amusement park, had many close relationships with boys decades younger than himself and was accused in 1993 and 2005 of child sexual abuse. Charges were never brought in the first case, and it was settled out of court. He was acquitted during the second trial. In the years since, several other victims have come forward with their own allegations. 

His defenders claim he was a strange child-like person who was victimized by false allegations and people trying to exploit his naivety. Those defenders also point to previous statements Robson and Safechuck made as kids and young adults in which they said they were never molested by the singer. 

In his editorial, Dan Reed called the lack of outrage around the project "a deafening silence." He asked why "in an era" of "full-throated outrage" about projects that are perceived as demeaning vulnerable groups that no one is talking about the problems with this one. He also asked the filmmakers directly in his op-ed how they will address Jackson's behavior with children in the movie. 

At this point, It’s unclear how the movie, which is being produced by Bohemian Rhapsody’s Graham King and directed by Antoine Fuqua, will address either those allegations or his close relationships with various children. The late singer’s estate is involved, which has led many to believe it won’t, but we likely won’t know until the movie finally comes out. No release date has been set, but it’s likely we’ll see it sometime in 2024.

Mack Rawden
Editor In Chief

Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.