Fiennes' casting caused controversy when it was announced last year
When Sky Arts announced last year that it had cast British actor Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson in a road-trip comedy, its Urban Myths series was met with immediate backlash online, amid claims of whitewashing. Now the first footage of Fiennes as the late prince of pop has emerged, and it has to be seen to be believed.
Directed by British comedian Ben Palmer, best known for Bo’ Selecta!, Star Stories and The Inbetweeners, the series will explore “true-ish stories” involving celebrities. Fiennes appears in a story set in the aftermath of 9/11, when Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor rented a car and attempted to flee New York for the west coast.
Stockard Channing stars as Taylor, while Brian Cox takes on the role of Brando.
Michael Jackson, whose cosmetic changes to his appearance were undeniable, once told American TV star Oprah Winfrey in a much-publicised interview that the idea of white man playing him was “horrifying.”
Other celebrity tales set to be told in the series include Hitler (played by Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon) and his friend (Rupert Grint) and Shameless actor David Threlfall playing Irish Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett, when he allegedly gave lifts to André the Giant in France.
Other episodes feature Bob Dylan (Eddie Marsan) on the hunt for “Dave”, while Cary Grant (Ben Chaplin) and Dr Timothy Leary (Aidan Gillen) explore the limits of their consciousness through LSD.
In the wake of the online scandal over the casting of Fiennes as Jackson, the Shakespeare in Love actor stirred up controversy by saying Jackson was “probably closer to my colour than his original colour,” adding: “I’m a white, middle-class guy from London... I’m as shocked as you may be.”
Take a look at the trailer for Urban Myths below: