Joseph Fiennes to Play Michael Jackson in 9/11 Road Trip Comedy

LONDON — Joseph Fiennes, who was BAFTA nominated for “Shakespeare in Love,” is set to play the late singer Michael Jackson in “Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon,” a one-off, half-hour comedy ordered by U.K. pay TV network Sky, the company confirmed Wednesday.

Stockard Channing will play Elizabeth Taylor and Brian Cox will take the part of Marlon Brando in the show, which re-enacts a road trip the three friends allegedly made following the New York terrorist attacks in September 2001. In an attempt to get home to the West Coast, the trio are said to have driven from New York to Ohio, with frequent stops at fast-food restaurants, at Brando’s insistence. The trip was written about in an article in Vanity Fair. Some of Taylor’s friends claim she did not make the trip.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Fiennes conceded the incongruity of a white actor being asked to play an African American singer. “I’m a white, middle-class guy from London … I’m as shocked as you may be,” he said. “[Jackson] definitely had an issue — a pigmentation issue — and that’s something I do believe. He was probably closer to my color than his original color.”

Fiennes also recently told WENN: “It’s a lovely thing about Michael’s relationship with Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando. It’s a fun, light-hearted tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like. But also it’s rather beautiful and poignant about their relationships as well.”

“Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon” was written by Neil Forsyth, and is directed by Ben Palmer, whose credits include “The Inbetweeners Movie” and “Man Up.” It is being produced by LittleRock Pictures, which was founded by Ralf Little and Zoë Rocha. Little is best known as an actor in the comedy “The Royle Family.” Rocha was previously chief operating officer of Stephen Fry’s Sprout Pictures. She produced “Moone Boy,” directed by and starring Chris O’Dowd.

“Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon” will air later this year on the Sky Arts channel. Phil Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts, wrote about the upcoming show in a blog post for Huffington Post last month (see link).

In a statement, a Sky spokesperson said: “‘Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon’ is a Sky Arts comedy which takes a light-hearted look at a reportedly true event; Joseph Fiennes is cast as Michael Jackson. It is part of a series of comedies about unlikely stories from arts and cultural history. Sky Arts gives producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set.”

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