Joseph Fiennes Discusses Playing Michael Jackson; Twitter Reacts to Casting News

Joseph Fiennes has signed on to play Michael Jackson — yes, you read correctly — in Elizabeth, Michael, and Marlon, a British one-off comedy show about that time Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando went on a cross-country road trip just after September 11, 2001.You remember that time, right?

According to The Wrap, Fiennes will play Jackson, Stockard Channing will play Elizabeth Taylor, and Brian Cox will play Marlon Brando on the special, which will air on British network Sky TV. Bob Servant writer Neil Forsyth wrote the script.

Speaking of which, the show will be a presumably creative interpretation of a 2011 Vanity Fair article, which reported that Jackson attempted to help Brando and Taylor get back to California after he invited the pair to his September 10, 2001, concert in New York. Assuming the story is true — the article notes that the trio’s former friends and entourage disagree on how it happened — Jackson rented a car and the three got to Ohio before parting ways.

Fiennes said of the show in an interview with ET Canada:

It’s a tongue-in-cheek, fun, light look at three wonderful characters that we know — Michael Jackson, Liz Taylor, and Marlon Brando — and they go on a road trip together. Some say it’s an urban legend, and our story basically says, ‘If it happened, maybe it happened like this.’ They’re stuck in a car for 500 miles as they drive to Pennsylvania, and we get to hear some of the shtick that goes on.

Given discussion surrounding the Oscars and Hollywood’s history of exclusion of people of color, and given Michael Jackson’s own complex history with race and the perception thereof, casting the guy who played Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love to play Michael Jackson has already begun to stir discomfort and controversy:

According to Deadline, Elizabeth, Michael, and Marlon is on track to air later this year.