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John Landis on Michael Jackson

Michael’s true superstardom began with “Thriller,” produced by Quincy Jones in 1982, which became the biggest-selling record album of all time. Michael had seen my film “An American Werewolf in London” and was fascinated by Rick Baker’s groundbreaking makeup effects. Michael told me he “wanted to turn into a monster.” I proposed making a short film for theatrical release, instead of a standard musicvideo. Walter Yetnikoff of CBS Records politely told us to “fuck off” when we asked for financing. Regardless, we were able to raise the money from two television presales. I wrote a script, and production was painless and fun. Michael’s celebrity was incredible. Everyone famous, from Jackie Onassis to Marlon Brando, visited the set. The “Michael Jackson’s Thriller” short was booked with “Walt Disney’s Fantasia” at the Avco Cinema in Westwood, and the response was so gigantic that Yetnikoff insisted that it be pulled from theaters and broadcast on television. It quickly aired on Showtime and then MTV, and the “Thriller Album” doubled its already record-breaking sales.

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