Sky pulls Michael Jackson drama following backlash from late pop icon's family
A Sky Arts drama featuring Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson will not be broadcast following a backlash by the late pop superstar's family.
Fiennes was to portray the king of pop as part of the Urban Myths series starting on January 19.
Earlier this week Jackson's daughter, Paris, 18, said she wanted to "vomit" after seeing images and a teaser clip of the actor as her father.
Sky Arts said it is dropping the episode, titled Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, adding the decision was supported by Fiennes.
A spokesman said: "We have taken the decision not to broadcast Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, a half-hour episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series, in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson's immediate family.
"We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offence. Joseph Fiennes fully supports our decision."
After images were published online showing Shakespeare In Love star Fiennes as Jackson and Stockard Channing as her godmother, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Ms Jackson wrote on Twitter: "I'm so incredibly offended by it, as I'm sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit.
"It angers me to see how obviously intentional it was for them to be this insulting, not just towards my father, but my godmother Liz as well.
"Where is the respect? They worked through blood sweat and tears for ages to create such profound and remarkable legacies. Shameful portrayal."
She added: "He made a point of it plenty of times to express his pride in his roots. He would never have wanted this."
A petition had been signed by more than 20,000 people to boycott the upcoming TV movie.
Urban Myths tells a collection of fabled tales including one about Jackson - who died in 2009 aged 50 - taking a road trip from New York to Los Angeles with Dame Elizabeth and Marlon Brando following the September 11 terror attacks.
Ben Palmer, who directed four episodes of Urban Myths, had previously defended the casting of Fiennes as Jackson.
He told The Guardian: "We were casting Michael Jackson in 2001 and that obviously is a challenge in terms of the physical resemblance.
"We were really looking for the performance that could unlock the spirit, and we really think Joe Fiennes has done that. He's given a really sweet, nuanced, characterful performance."
The petition against the movie, which also stars Brian Cox as The Godfather star Brando, was set up on the website Care 2.
It reads: "It's easy to see why the story would make a compelling film - but it's harder to understand why the actor best known for his role in Shakespeare In Love was the first choice to play one of the world's most iconic black musicians."
The petition describes how Jackson suffered with skin condition vitiligo throughout his life, thereby causing the lightening of his skin.
The author of the petition, Julie Rodriguez, wrote: "This casting is an insult to the very real professional struggles and health issues Jackson dealt with during his lifetime.
"It's bad enough when actors of colour are denied opportunities to play fictional characters of their own ethnicity due to the preferential treatment of white actors.
"But it's absolutely inexcusable for a film to whitewash a movie based on an actual human being, whether his appearance was typical of what we expect a black man to look like or not."